Training in advance of amendments to the mediation law

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ
North Macedonia

On 23 March 2021, the “Pavel Shatev” Academy of Judges and Public Prosecutors and IRZ organised their first joint online training session on “The stages and types of mediation”. The event was prompted by the upcoming amendments to the mediation law, which represent an important part of judicial reform. The target group was therefore made up of judges, as well as future and current mediators.

After the welcome speeches by Sonja Mojsovska from the Academy and Dr. Stefan Pürner representing IRZ, the following lectures took place:

  • Stevkova Nikolovska (Skopje): An introduction to mediation - present situation and future perspectives
  • Dr. Zoran Vuchev (Skopje): Mediation in labour, family and commercial disputes
  • Ingrid Hönlinger (Ludwigsburg): Mediation in Germany

During the lectures, it became clear that mediation in North Macedonia is not yet given the required level of priority. The amendments to the law along with training courses such as this one should help to achieve this. The common theme throughout all the lectures was that mediation enables the independent resolution of disputes, as well as saving costs.

Unlike in other judicial systems, mediation is permitted for family cases in North Macedonia only in the event of disputes over property, but not when it comes to rights of custody and access. Initiatives to try to change the provisions relating to this have not met with any success so far. From a German point of view, it is clear that the use of mediation for labour disputes is very widespread in North Macedonia and results in a settlement in over 90 percent of cases. During the discussions, it was revealed that the heavy use of mediation in this area is above all down to the high cost risk of settling labour disputes in court in North Macedonia.

IRZ expert Ingrid Hönlinger gave a lecture on the current situation in Germany for mediation, including the legal framework. A lawyer and certified mediator, she also presented the model for the five stages of mediation:

  1. Clarification of tasks
  2. Identification of issues
  3. Positions and interests / exploration of views and background
  4. Collection and assessment of possible solutions
  5. Concluding agreemen
As part of this presentation, she also gave plenty of practical tips on the soft skills required of mediators. The event was well-attended by almost forty participants, including the lawyer Dr. Veronika Horrer, who is Managing Director of the German Federal Bar Association (BRAK) and responsible for cooperation with IRZ, and who wanted to learn about the situation with regards to mediation in North Macedonia.

Seminars on “Conduct of court hearings by judges” and “Encouraging settlements in civil proceedings”

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ
North Macedonia

On 7 and 9 December 2020, IRZ, together with the “Training Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors” for North Macedonia held two online seminars on the subjects mentioned above.

Both events for judges from North Macedonia were opened by the Director of the Academy, Prof. Dr. Natasha Gabler Damjovska, and IRZ Head of Section Dr. Stefan Pürner. Once the 60 or so participants had been welcomed to the seminars, lectures were given from the points of view of both countries. The speakers at the seminars were:

"Conduct of court hearings by judges”

  • Keti Germanova, a judge at the Local Court of Skopje
  • Daniel Jung, a Regional Court judge and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences for the Administration of Justice of North Rhine-Westphalia

“Encouraging settlements in civil processes”

  • Katerina Goeorgievska, a judge at the Court of Appeal in Skopje
  • Dr. Ingo Werner, a judge at the Higher Regional Court of Cologne

Both events reflected the role of judges in civil law. The discussions focussed in particular on the question of the extent to which the relevant rules of procedure allow judges to negotiate actively with parties and their representatives on the likelihood of the success of a claim and to make definitive settlement proposals.

According to article 307, paragraph 3 of the code of civil procedure for North Macedonia, judges must point out the possibility of a settlement during proceedings and “help” (помогне) the parties to agree on such a settlement. Controversial discussions on this point of “helping” followed on from the lectures, since the Macedonian participants were worried that they might be seen as biased if they, for example, talked about the legal situation with the parties or made definitive suggestions for settlements. The judicial self-perception of judges often has a bigger influence here on the effectiveness of court proceedings than the written provisions of the law.

The judicial self-perception of German legal practice and their positive experiences with giving judicial advice could provide important momentum in this respect.

Exchange of experiences on constitutional issues in connection with the Coronavirus pandemic

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ
North Macedonia

On 8 October 2020, IRZ and the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia organised an exchange of experiences on constitutional court jurisdiction in connection with the Coronavirus pandemic.

The event was attended locally as well as online. Judges from the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia participated in person in the conference room at the Constitutional Court, under observance of healthcare guidelines. All other contributors and participants, including research staff at the court, joined the exchange of experiences online.

Sali Murati, President of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia, and Dr. Stefan Pürner from IRZ started by welcoming the participants to the event. The German Ambassador, Anke Holstein, then gave a welcome speech in which she expressed the hope that North Macedonia’s EU accession talks would start this year. She also referred to the great importance of IRZ activities in North Macedonia in view of the EU’s focus on the rule of law.

Sali Murati and Prof. Dr. Udo Steiner, a former judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court, gave speeches presenting their own national perspectives. The speeches provided an overview of case law in connection with restrictions to contain the pandemic. They both agreed that the proportionality test is central to constitutional courts in both countries, conceding relatively broad discretionary powers in their rulings, but they also emphasised the fact that restrictions must always be adapted to suit the current rate of infection. Unlike in Germany, the measures introduced to deal with the pandemic in North Macedonia are mostly introduced by way of decrees with the force of law and not through parliament.

The President of the Constitutional Court, Sali Murati, also referred in his lecture to the fact that the main challenge facing constitutional jurisdiction during the pandemic is not just about ruling on an increased number of cases of general importance within a short amount of time, but about maintaining the ability of the court to function. So, whilst the North Macedonian Parliament suspended its activities during the state of emergency, the Constitutional Court was able to continue to fulfil its responsibilities throughout. To conclude his lecture, Mr Murati emphasised the importance of constitutional courts maintaining active press and publicity work during the crisis.