Albania - annual report 2019

During the Steering Committee meeting for the EU project EURALIUS V.  Front centre: EURALIUS V Team Leader Dr Agnes Bernhard, to the right:  Dr Stephen Stork, EU Delegation Albania
During the Steering Committee meeting for the EU project EURALIUS V. Front centre: EURALIUS V Team Leader Dr Agnes Bernhard, to the right: Dr Stephen Stork, EU Delegation Albania

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Albania has been an official EU candidate country since mid-2014. The EU Commission recommended opening accession negotiations with Albania back in April 2018 to acknowledge the progress that had been made in many areas by then. Nevertheless, it was not possible to start accession negotiations in the reporting year, as not all of the EU Member States agreed to this step. This has been met with great disappointment in Albania, as the country‘s accession (and that of North Macedonia) is a centrepiece in the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans, which essentially envisages closer ties between Albania and the EU as a means of contributing to the ongoing stabilisation and reconciliation of the region. For years, Albania has made strenuous efforts to implement reforms – especially in the judicial field – to bring the country closer to possible EU membership.

Compounding this situation, the government under Prime Minister Edi Rama faced strong domestic pressure in 2019. Student protests in the first half of the year demanded, among other things, more say in the running of universities, halving of tuition fees and significant improvements in the housing situation. The protests were effective, causing the government to give in in some areas.

Moreover, the opposition resigned their parliamentary mandates at the beginning of 2019 in protesting – in their perspective – a corrupt government, which they accused of election rigging and having links to organised crime. The blockade led to violent riots in some places. The opposition also boycotted the local elections in summer. The government, which rules with an absolute parliamentary majority, did not react, and no new parliamentary elections took place.

Albania‘s legal and political situation is further exacerbated by the fact that key institutions such as the Constitutional Court and the High Court are currently not operational. As a result of the vetting procedure with its comprehensive review of judicial personnel, in particular judges and public prosecutors, in regard to their professional qualifications, financial circumstances and personal integrity, many posts in courts are vacant and filled only slowly.

Overall Concept

IRZ has advised Albania since 2000 both in direct bilateral cooperation with institutions such as the Constitutional Court, the High Court and the School of Magistrates, as well as in EU-funded projects. In many cases, bilateral cooperation has made it possible to address or deepen areas that could not be covered by EU-funded projects.

Unfortunately, IRZ was unable to continue its cooperation with its main partners, the High Court and the Constitutional Court, in 2019 due to the situation outlined above. Nonetheless, constitutional law was a priority of IRZ activities in Albania. For example, further training seminars for lawyers were held in the regions of Albania to introduce the constitutional complaint and its application.

At the same time, the cooperation with the School of Magistrates, which in the current situation plays a key role in the basic and further training of young legal professionals, has significantly intensified. For instance, IRZ jointly with the School of Magistrates offered continued training events on a variety of topics.

In addition, as part of a project funded by the Federal Foreign Office, an electronic commentary is being set up, which will provide for lowthreshold and free access to legal commentaries to all Albanian legal practitioners. The commentaries themselves will be written by Albanian authors and reviewed by German experts prior to publication to ensure a uniform quality standard. This project is carried out in cooperation with the EURALIUS V project.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Further training for judges and public prosecutors in cooperation with the School of Magistrates on the subject of “Constitutional vs. administrative court jurisdiction“ in Tirana
  • Further training courses for lawyers in cooperation with the Bar on the topic “Application of the constitutional complaint“ in Durres and Korca

Public Law

  • Seminar on administrative law in cooperation with the School of Magistrates in Tirana
  • Seminar on asylum law in cooperation with the School of Magistrates in Tirana

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Seminar for lawyers in cooperation with the Bar in Tirana on the topic of the Code of Criminal Procedure
  • Seminar on “Criminal law and ECHR case-law“ in cooperation with the School of Magistrates in Tirana

Basic and Further Training

  • Kick-off event for e-commentary in cooperation with the School of Magistrates in Tirana
  • Training courses for authors on writing e-commentaries in cooperation with the School of Magistrates in Tirana

Project funded by the European Union

EU Grant project: EURALIUS V “Consolidation of the Justice System in Albania“

Since April 2018, IRZ is implementing the EU-funded EURALIUS V project as a lead contractor, a follow-up of the EURALIUS IV project, which was also successfully implemented by IRZ.

EURALIUS V has a total volume of €7.5 million and will run for 36 months until March 2021. The consortium partners are the same as in the predecessor project, so the “Centre for International Legal Cooperation“ (CILC/the Netherlands) and the “Agency for Economic Development“ (aed/Austria). A new partner is the “Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura“ (CSM) from Italy.

Dr Agnes Bernhard from Austria is again the team leader on the ground. While the EURALIUS IV project focused on elaborating the legal basis for the ongoing judicial reform, EURALIUS V is strongly focused on the overall consolidation of the reform measures. The priorities here include:

  • capacity building measures for newly established self-administration institutions of the judiciary,
  • strategies to effectively reduce the substantial case backlog at the High Court,
  • support for the special prosecutors‘ offices and the anti-corruption courts, and
  • accompanying IT measures for the entire judicial sector.

Overall, work on the EURALIUS V project continuously covers more than ten beneficiary institutions: The Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the High Judicial Council, the High Prosecutorial Council, the Justice Appointment Council, the High Court, the School of Magistrates and the Chambers of Free Legal Professions, to name just a few.

The project is organised in a total of five teams, each of which looks after individual institutions. The teams are led by one or two international experts, with additional support from numerous national colleagues. The teams have the following responsibilities:

  • Team 1: Parliament and Ministry of Justice
  • Team 2: Governance Institutions, the High Judicial Council, the High Prosecutorial Council, the Justice Appointment Council and the Judicial Inspectorate
  • Team 3: Court Organisation, prosecution offices, Free Legal Professions
  • Team 4: IT in the judicial system, with the aim of introducing a standardised case management system
  • Team 5: Basic and continued training for judges, prosecutors and judicial staff

The following exemplarily listed measures constitute priorities for implementing the reform legislation co-developed within the framework of the predecessor project EURALIUS IV:

  • support in the preparation of regulations, directives, decrees, manuals and expert opinions on legal issues,
  • commentaries on draft legislation,
  • development of IT programs,
  • support in the maintenance of IT systems,
  • preparation of tender documents for a new IT case management system,
  • restructuring of the School of Magistrates,
  • revision of the curricula, among many other things.

A pleasing aspect is that IRZ is also able to support the School of Magistrates within the framework of its bilateral work through the provision of advisory services that are not contractually covered by EURALIUS V.

The EURALIUS V project reached a number of its objectives in 2019. On one hand, the remaining reform-laws co-developed under the predecessor project EURALIUS IV were adopted. In addition, the Justice Appointment Council and the Special Prosecutor‘s Office for Anti-Corruption were established. Additionally, progress was made in the appointment of constitutional judges.

For the upcoming final year of the project, the priorities include supporting the Constitutional Court and High Court in restoring their functionality. Moreover, the latter institution will receive support in the development and implementation of a strategy to effectively reduce the considerable backlog of cases. Another priority will be on advising the special public prosecutors‘ offices and the anti-corruption courts. In view of the ongoing vetting procedures resulting in the reduction of the number of judges and prosecutors, the above measures constitute a challenge for the entire Albanian judicial system.


IRZ will continue bilateral cooperation with the Constitutional Court and the High Court in 2020, as soon as they become operational. IRZ also intends to significantly expand its activities with the School of Magistrates over the coming year. Among other things, there are plans to further establish an e-commentary that will provide all members of the legal professions with free access to current case law and commentaries on laws. In addition, asset recovery will be a priority of advisory measures, and initial contacts have already been established with the relevant institutions in Albania.

Moreover, IRZ will remain highly committed in Albania within the framework of the EURALIUS V project.