North Macedonia – annual report 2020

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU entered into force in April 2004. North Macedonia experienced its deepest political crisis since the beginning of the millennium from 2015 to May 2017, when tens of thousands of wiretap transcripts of government officials surfaced. This led to fresh elections, and a new, reform-minded coalition took office in 2017 after a protracted period of negotiations. Once the dispute with Greece over the name of the state had been settled – which resulted in the new name of North Macedonia – the country hoped for the long-awaited start of accession negotiations with the EU (it has possessed candidate status since 2005) – but so far without success. North Macedonia has been a NATO member since March 2020. New elections were held in July 2020 – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – which confirmed the existing reform government, albeit with losses. When the new Minister of Justice Bojan Maricˇic´ took office, he agreed with IRZ to broaden advisory support for legislation projects in 2021.

Overall Concept 

IRZ commenced its activities in the partner state in 2000 within the framework of the Stability Pact and increased them considerably over the second half of the decade. The IRZ partners in North Macedonia are the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court, the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors “Pavel Shatev”, the Government Agent before the ECHR, the non-governmental organisation Institute for Democracy as well as academics from the Faculty of Law in Skopje. During the reporting year, IRZ replaced its physical events with virtual formats in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and complemented its programme with publications.

The European Commission’s country report that was published in October 2020 described a positive development overall – but with indications of a continued need for reform within the judicial system. IRZ is responding to this analysis by intensifying the promotion of young legal professionals through measures that focus on judicial independence and effective trial management, as well as activities in the area of constitutional law.

Focus of Activity in 2020

Constitutional Law, Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Online expert talks with the Constitutional Court on the content, as well as legal procedures and organisational requirements for the introduction of a constitutional complaint in North Macedonia
  • Participation by judges of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia in a virtual, regional constitutional court conference co-hosted by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the topic of “dissenting votes in the practice of the constitutional courts”
  • Bilateral advice to the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia, in particular on COVID-19 decisions of the German Federal Constitutional Court
  • Distribution of translated decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court on constitutional matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other constitutional issues
  • Publication of the ninth newsletter “Current information on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to North Macedonia” in Macedonian and Albanian in cooperation with the Government Agent of North Macedonia before the ECHR
  • Online events on the topic of “Reform of the Constitutional Court” with the non-governmental organisation “Institute for Democracy”

Civil and Commercial Law 

  • Two online training seminars on “Conducting trials in civil cases” and “Judicial promotion of settlements” with the Academy “Pavel Shatev”

Administration of Justice

  • Operation and expansion of the website www.evropsko-pravo.info with publications co-edited by IRZ in Macedonian and other regional languages
  • Dissemination to selected project partners of specialist journals on IRZ project work in related languages

Criminal and Penitentiary Law

  • Preparation of expert opinions on the reform of the Criminal Code of North Macedonia in the areas of:
    • artificial parenthood and cloning
    • computer criminality
    • insolvency offences
    • protection of elections
    • counter terrorism
    • white collar crime
  • Advice on the further development of the regulatory framework as the basis for a functioning probation system in North Macedonia through the provision of translations and analyses Advice to the Ministry of Justice in North Macedonia on media and press freedom

Basic and Further Training

  • Online seminar series on “Judiciary and the Media” for court presidents and heads of public prosecutor’s offices
  • Involvement of participants from North Macedonia in a regional online workshop series for German-speaking IRZ alumni from the partner states Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia on the topics of:
    • developments in German law regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on German law and the legal system of states in the region
    • labour law in Germany
    • arbitration in Germany, based on the example of the German Arbitration Institute (DIS)
  • Popularisation of German and European law as a general roadmap for legal transformation by providing relevant literature to various partner institutions

Projects funded by the European Union 

EU Twinning Project: “Building of the institutional capacity of the Investigative Centres” 

IRZ has been in charge of the project to establish investigative centres in the public prosecutor’s offices of North Macedonia since May 2019. The Croatian Ministry of Justice is the junior partner in this project, which is endowed with a budget of € 1 million and is scheduled to run for 24 months. In line with current reform efforts by the government of North Macedonia, the national authorities are receiving support in the fight against organised crime and corruption. Their competencies are also being strengthened through the establishment of joint investigation centres at the public prosecutor’s offices in Skopje, Kumanovo and Tetovo. The key components are:

  • Improvement of organisation structures and workflows
  • Further training for public prosecutors, police officers, customs officers and tax investigators
  • Establishment of inter-agency networks
  • Intensification of cooperation between the agencies at national and international level
The IRZ experts were able to support the investigation centres by improving the regulatory framework for organisational structure and working methodologies together with their Macedonian partners. This was achieved, among other things, by establishing standard operating procedures and improving cooperation between public prosecutor’s offices and criminal prosecution agencies, with a focus on investigative centres. Regulations were also developed for the sharing of information between, and access to databases by, institutions such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Customs Administration and the Financial Police.

In addition, the experts will provide specific training to build the investigative competences of the participating agencies and in doing so promote effective and sustainable cooperation at national and international level. Implementation of the project had to be suspended in May 2020 due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and will resume in January 2021. This will mainly involve the preparation and hosting of training courses. Their aim is to optimise the capabilities of investigators, public prosecutors and legal personnel in the criminal prosecution authorities.

EU Twinning Project: “Strengthening of the penitentiary system and the probation service”

This Twinning Project aims to strengthen the penitentiary system by improving the capacity of the Directorate for Execution of Sanctions at the Ministry of Justice of North Macedonia and other relevant stakeholders, as well as by providing advice on the maintenance of existing and new correctional facilities. Other objectives include the development of a probation system and the improvement of cooperation between state institutions and non-governmental organisations. IRZ has been implementing the project since August 2018 together with its Dutch junior partner, the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), in close cooperation with the Directorate for Execution of Sanctions (DES) at the Ministry of Justice of North Macedonia.

The further training events for managers at DES and the correctional institutions were continued in 2020 based on the training programmes created last year; these include an introduction to applying the OSRA risk analysis system in the penitentiary system. In regard to probation services, seminars were held to present the preconditions for imposing suspended sentences and the practical experiences acquired in the EU partner states. Material was also compiled for a PR strategy to raise awareness among the general population and legal personnel for the possibility of alternative sentencing measures and to establish the probation system as an important pillar within the penal system.

The project was suspended from May until early December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting inability to hold the events. A project extension of three months was agreed in order to complete the outstanding measures and to ensure that the results achieved so far are preserved in the long term.

Outlook

IRZ intends to become more involved in the planned judicial reform in the future, especially in the provision of legislative advice. Its intention in this regard is to provide even stronger support for the EU’s Western Balkans Strategy. Moreover, the proven measures of basic and further training are scheduled to continue in order to bolster application of the law. Cooperation with the Constitutional Court will also be expanded to promote the creation of a Constitutional Court Act and the introduction of a constitutional complaint.

North Macedonia - annual report 2019

EU Twinning Project: “Building of the Institutional Capacity of the Investigative Centres“: Ljubomir Joveski, Chief Prosecutor of North Macedonia, giving his speech during the project kick-off event in Skopje (Photo: Tomislay Georgiev)
EU Twinning Project: “Building of the Institutional Capacity of the Investigative Centres“: Ljubomir Joveski, Chief Prosecutor of North Macedonia, giving his speech during the project kick-off event in Skopje (Photo: Tomislay Georgiev)

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between North Macedonia and the EU entered into force in April 2004 and the country has possessed the status of an EU accession candidate since December 2005. Between 2015 and May 2017, North Macedonia experienced a major political crisis after tens of thousands of wire-tapping protocols surfaced, leading to a wave of mass protests. After a change of government and the settlement of the name dispute with Greece in 2019, the country hoped to start accession negotiations with the EU soon, but this was thwarted by France‘s veto. In response, the current governing coalition announced early elections to be held in the course of 2020.

Overall Concept

IRZ commenced its activities in North Macedonia in 2000 in the context of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe and increased them considerably in the second half of the decade. Partners to IRZ in North Macedonia are the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court, the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors, the Government‘s Agent for the ECHR, the non-governmental organisation “Institute for Democracy“ and academics from the Faculty of Law in Skopje. In recent years, IRZ has also expanded the target group of its activities on the ground and their sustainability by means of law publications in the country’s language. It has also been possible to resume legislative advice measures, as contacts with the Ministry of Justice, which had experienced staff reorganisation, were quickly established after the formation of the government in 2017.

IRZ reacted immediately to the second critical EU-analysis of the Macedonian legal system. Since then, it has increasingly promoted the next generation of legal professionals with measures that focus on judicial independence and effective case management. These events were financed with project funding from the Federal Foreign Office.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Expert meeting at the Constitutional Court on the possible content of a constitutional court law that does not yet exist in North Macedonia
  • Workshop on the significance of the constitutional complaint as well as on the legal procedures and organisational requirements for its introduction into the law of North Macedonia
  • Participation of two judges of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia in the conference organised with the Montenegrin Constitutional Court “Separation of powers and balance between the powers“ in Podgorica
  • Participation of judges at the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia in the regional Constitutional Court Conference on “Freedom of religion in case-law before the Constitutional Court“ in Teslić, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Publication of the eighth newsletter entitled “Current information on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to North Macedonia” in the Macedonian and Albanian languages, in cooperation with the Macedonian Government Agent for the ECHR
  • Workshop “Introduction of constitutional complaint in Macedonia“ with the non-governmental organisation “Institute for Democracy“
  • Co-publication of a policy paper on constitutional complaints together with the non-governmental organisation „Institute for Democracy“
  • Expert discussion and exchange of experience between a former Macedonian judge at the European Court of Human Rights with the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, the Federal Foreign Office and the Institute for Eastern Law in Regensburg

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Further training seminars at the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors “Pavel Shatev“ in Skopje:
    • “Application of the Law on Protection against Harassment at Work/Mobbing and the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination“
    • “The civil liability of lawyers from the perspective of German jurisdiction“

Administration of Justice

  • Preparation of expert reports for the Ministry of Justice
    • on the draft law on administrative procedures
    • on the draft law on regulatory offences
    • on the question of requirements for the introduction of a comprehensive constitutional complaint within Macedonian law
  • Further training seminars at the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors “Pavel Shatev“ in Skopje:
    • “The role of the Presidents of the Courts as heads of authorities in administration, management, organisation and staff management“
    • “Management and organisation of the work of public prosecutors and staff“
  • Operation and expansion of the website on European law www.evropsko-pravo.info
  • Dissemination of specialist journals on IRZ project work in relevant languages

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Start of consultations by the newly established expert group on reform of the Criminal Code
  • Publication of a translation of the German Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO) as a book with a professional introduction

Basic and Further Training

  • Working visit to Germany by young judges and public prosecutors on judicial practice in Germany as part of the project “Promotion of young legal professionals in North Macedonia“
  • Participation of legal professionals from North Macedonia in the second regional workshop “News from German law“ for German-speaking alumni from the states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in Belgrade
  • Popularisation of German and European law by supporting the Skopje faculty of law, the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors “Pavel Shatev“ and the Institute for Democracy in Skopje with relevant literature

Projects funded by the European Union

EU Twinning Project: Building of the Institutional Capacity of the Investigative Centres

Since May 2019, IRZ has been heading the EU Twinning Project for the establishment of Investigative Centres at the Public Prosecutor‘s Offices in North Macedonia. The junior partner in the 24-month project with a budget of €1 million is the Croatian Ministry of Justice. In line with current reform efforts by the Government of North Macedonia, the project aims to support the national authorities in the fight against organised crime and corruption and to strengthen their competencies by establishing joint Investigative Centres at the Public Prosecutor‘s Offices in Skopje, Kumanovo and Tetovo. Here, the key components are:

  • improvement of organisational structures and workflows,
  • further training of the staff at the Public Prosecutor‘s Offices, the police, customs authorities and the financial police,
  • networking between government authorities,
  • intensification of cooperation between government authorities at national and international level.

Over the first six months, project experts were able to collaborate with their Macedonian partners to conduct preliminary analyses of the situation on the ground and to outline the legal framework for the future centres. Cooperation agreements were prepared with the national authorities and ministries involved and consultations were held on the staffing and technical equipment for the Investigative Centres. Procedural rules for the establishment and operation of these centres will be developed as the project proceeds. The project experts are also expected to use specific further training measures to develop the investigative skills in relevant fields and hence to promote effective national and international cooperation in the long term.

The project is thematically connected to the EU Twinning Light Project “Strengthening the capacities of the authorised bodies for fight against crime“ (see below), which was also carried out by IRZ in 2019. It draws on the results of this project and will continue the successful cooperation with the trained investigators.

EU Twinning Light Project: Strengthening the capacities of the authorised bodies for fight against crime

IRZ brought the EU Twinning Light Project to a successful conclusion on 22 November 2019. The project was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor‘s Office of North Macedonia and completed in just eight months. All key objectives in the area of the application of special investigation measures were achieved, including an assessment and analysis of the criminal procedural law, the Criminal Code and the Law on Classified Information. In several meetings and roundtable discussions, German experts exchanged views on the existing problems with Macedonian representatives of the Public Prosecutor‘s Office, the financial police, customs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and developed recommendations for legislative amendments.

The second pillar in the project focused on training the staff of the beneficiary institutions. Two German public prosecutors developed a training programme for this purpose, which was subsequently applied by Macedonian trainers in ten two-day training seminars. Over 100 representatives of Macedonian Public Prosecutor‘s Offices were trained in this way, with the support of public prosecutors from Germany and Austria.

A group of investigators from North Macedonia travelled to Germany in October 2019 to acquire insight into the practical side to applying specific investigation measures, during which they met for discussions with the Public Prosecutors‘ Office in Düsseldorf (Department for Organised Crime and White-collar Crime), the Local Court and Regional Court and the State Office of Criminal Investigations in North RhineWestphalia. The project therefore made a significant contribution to North Macedonia‘s reform efforts in view of possible EU accession negotiations.

EU Twinning Project: Strengthening of the penitentiary system and the probation service

IRZ has been carrying out this project with its Dutch junior partner, the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), since the end of August 2018. The plan is to develop a probation system within 21 months and to improve cooperation between state institutions and nongovernmental organisations in the area of probation and resocialisation. Proposals are also being developed to strengthen the capacities of the DES (Directorate for Execution of Sanctions) and other relevant actors in the penitentiary system, as well as criteria and procedures for the maintenance of existing and newly constructed correctional facilities.

Cooperating closely with the DES in the Ministry of Justice of North Macedonia, training programmes for managers in the DES as well as in penitentiary institutions were drawn up and applied in training seminars during 2019. In addition, the project experts and their Macedonian partners developed appropriate standard operating procedures and monitoring methods in line with international standards and European practice.

A high-ranking delegation from the Ministry of Justice, the DES and penitentiary institutions in North Macedonia visited judicial institutions in Berlin. The priority of the study trip was to visit a variety of penitentiary institutions and to exchange information and experience with senior management within the Berlin penitentiary system, judicial administration and various specialist services. There are plans for another study visit to Berlin and to continue the training measures for the staff of the Macedonian penitentiary system until the end of the project in May 2020. In addition, new treatment programmes for juvenile detainees are being drafted and programmes revised so that they can then be introduced in practice.

Outlook

In North Macedonia, IRZ will become more involved in the planned judicial reform, particularly in the area of legislative advice, in order to strengthen the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans. Moreover, IRZ will remain committed to the country within the framework of EU projects. The established measures of basic and further training to improve application of the law are scheduled to continue. Moreover, IRZ intends to strengthen its cooperation with the Constitutional Court.

 

North Macedonia - annual report 2018

Participants of the working visit by the Special Public Prosecutor on the roof terrace of the Federal Foreign Office (in the centre: Special Public Prosecutor Katica Janeva)
Participants of the working visit by the Special Public Prosecutor on the roof terrace of the Federal Foreign Office (in the centre: Special Public Prosecutor Katica Janeva)

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

The Stabilization and Association Agreement between North Macedonia and the EU entered into force in April 2004. The country has held the status of an EU accession candidate since December 2005. From 2015 to May 2017, the country experienced its deepest post-millennial political crisis, which involved the discovery of tens of thousands of wiretap protocols. There were also mass protests. Following the election at the end of 2016, it took until June 2017 for a new coalition government to enter office. An EU Senior Experts’ Group, headed by the German lawyer Reinhard Priebe, submitted a detailed and highly critical analysis of the situation of the legal system of North Macedonia in September 2017, which simultaneously highlights tasks that need to be dealt with in the future. After the failed referendum on the issue of the country‘s name, parliament returned a majority for the future state name of “North Macedonia“, so that it appears that the risk of new elections, which seemed possible for some time, has now been averted.

Overall Concept

The IRZ commenced its activities in North Macedonia in 2000 in the context of the Stability Pact and increased them considerably in the second half of the decade, also with the support of the Federal Foreign Office as part of the project “Promoting the rule-of-law principles of a constitutional state in South-East Europe“.

Partners to the IRZ in North Macedonia are the Ministry of Justice, the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors, the Government‘s Agent for the ECHR, the non-governmental organisation “Institute for Democracy“ and academics from the Faculty of Law in Skopje. Regular joint events have been held with the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors of North Macedonia since 2007, the year in which the institution was established. In recent years, the IRZ has also expanded the target group of its activities on the ground and their sustainability by means of law publications in the country’s language.

In each case they emphasise the influence of European law on national law and the necessity of developing a legal system that is consistent with the traditional principles of continental European law. Furthermore, the aim is to improve the quality of application of the law. Contact with the Ministry of Justice was quickly re-established after the new government came to power, leading to initial measures in the area of legislative advice.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Constitutional Court / Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Expert talks at the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia on legal procedures and organisational requirements for the introduction of comprehensive individual constitutional complaint within the law of North Macedonia
  • Participation of a judge of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia of the regional conference organised with the Montenegro Constitutional Court in Budva, Montenegro, on the relationship between constitutional court jurisdiction and the supreme courts
  • Participation of the President and a judge of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia of the regional conference organised by the IRZ in cooperation with the Serbian Constitutional Court in Belgrade, Serbia, on the topic of “Decisions by the constitutional courts in the area of abstract judicial review as a contribution to promoting the rule-of-law principles of a constitutional state“
  • Participation of the judges of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia of the regional Constitutional Court Conference in the Brčko District, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the topic of “Tax law in the case-law of constitutional courts“
  • Publication of the sixth and seventh newsletters entitled “Current information on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to (then) Macedonia” in the Macedonian and Albanian languages, in cooperation with the Government Agent for the ECHR
  • Workshop on the topic “Introduction of constitutional complaint in (then) Macedonia“ with the non-governmental organisation “Institute for Democracy“

Administration of Justice

  • Preparation of expert reports for the Ministry of Justice
    • on the draft law on administrative procedures
    • on the draft law on regulatory offences
    • on the question of requirements for the introduction of a comprehensive constitutional complaint within the law of North Macedonia
  • Publication of the European Law Journal “Evropsko pravo“, in cooperation with academics at the Faculty of Law in Skopje
  • Operation and enlargement of the website www.evropsko-pravo.info, at which “Evropsko pravo“ and other publications co-authored by the IRZ are available as downloads in the Macedonian and other regional languages
  • Conference marking the 20th anniversary of ECHR reform and North Macedonia‘s membership in the Council of Europe, including public presentation of a special edition of the Law Journal “Evropsko pravo“ on these topics
  • Distribution of specialist journals on the IRZ project work in relevant languages to selected project partners

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Working visit to Berlin by the Special Public Prosecutor of North Macedonia and some of her staff on the issue of the fight against organised crime and corruption among high-level officials

Basic and Further Training

  • Working visit to Germany by young judges and public prosecutors as part of the project “Promotion of young legal professionals in (then) Macedonia“
  • Participation by lawyers from North Macedonia in the first regional workshop “News from German law and the regional legal systems“ during the inaugural event for German-speaking alumni from the states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in Belgrade
  • Participation of two Macedonian lawyers of the eighth “IRZ Summer School on German Law“ in Bonn

Criminal law and Criminal Procedure Law

  • Translation of the German Criminal Code (StGB)
  • Publication of this translation as a book with a technical introduction by Macedonian and German experts
  • Translation of the German Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO)

Projects funded by the European Union

EU Twinning Project: Strengthening of the penitentiary system and the probation service

The EU Twinning Project to support reform of the penitentiary system and probation in North Macedonia started at the end of August 2018 under the leadership of the IRZ. The junior partner in the 24-month project is the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) from the Netherlands. Equipped with a budget of €950,000, the project is part of the “National Strategy for the Development of the Penitentiary System of North Macedonia“ (2015–2019) and aims to provide support in two key areas:

  • preparation of proposals to strengthen institutional and administrative capacities within the penitentiary system, prioritising improvements in the management and operation of penitentiary systems as a guarantee for human rights in regard to the treatment of inmates;
  • development of a probation system for the implementation of probation measures and alternative sanctions, as well as improvement in the cooperation between relevant organisations and institutions in this area.

Implementation of the project began on 31 August 2018 with the arrival of the Resident Twinning Adviser (RTA) in Skopje and was launched with an official ceremony on 21 November 2018. The preliminary working plan, which will serve as the basis for ongoing implementation of the project, was adopted and signed during the opening ceremony. Moreover, the first measures to develop procedures and criteria for the maintenance of penitentiaries were carried out during the initial three months of the project.

In the coming months, the relevant legislation will be analysed, proposed improvements prepared, and sustainable further training measures developed for strengthening the management and monitoring capacities at penitentiaries and within the probation system, in each case in close cooperation with the Directorate for Enforcement of Sanctions within the Ministry of Justice of North Macedonia. In addition, a large number of workshops, seminars and study trips in Germany and the Netherlands will communicate established practices and recognised principles of the probation system.

Outlook

The IRZ aims to increase its contribution to the planned judicial reform, especially in the area of legislative advice, and hence to strengthen its support for the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans. In addition, the established activities in basic and further training will continue as a means of ensuring greater quality in the application of the law.