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.

Publicity work by courts and public prosecutor's offices

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ
North Macedonia

On 22 June 2020, the closing event was held for a series of online seminars on “Justice and the media in North Macedonia”. The series of seminars was organised by the Academy of Judges and Public Prosecutors for North Macedonia in partnership with the IRZ. Whilst the first seminars were aimed at presiding judges, the target group for the closing event was public prosecutors in management positions.

Once the event had been opened by the Director of the Academy, Prof. Dr. Natasha Gaber-Damjanovksa, and the IRZ Head of Section, lawyer Dr. Stefan Pürner, Otto Graf, the German Ambassador’s permanent representative, welcomed the participants. In his welcome speech, he emphasised the importance of the rule of law in North Macedonia’s preparations for EU entry. Otto Graf underlined the particularly positive fact that the cooperation between the Academy and IRZ is continuing during the current pandemic.

The first lecture at the online seminar was given by Prof. Dr. Jasna Bachovska-Nedic, who teaches media law at the “Saints Cyril and Methodius” University in Skopje. She started by painting a rather negative picture of the publicity work currently being carried out by courts and public prosecutor's offices in North Macedonia, before going on to present some positive examples, which she used to provide some specific recommendations for the future.

This was followed by a lecture by former Chief Public Prosecutor, Winfried Schubert, President of the Constitutional Court of the State of Saxony-Anhalt and of the Higher Regional Court of Naumberg, on the media work carried out by public prosecutors in ongoing investigation processes and in connection with indictments. He presented examples of media work by German public prosecutors, including some negative examples and breakdowns in communication. Winfried Schubert emphasised the fact that, in Germany's view, publicity work carried out by public prosecutors should carefully weigh up the interests of informing the public against the rights of suspects, the accused and defendants.

The series of events was met with a great deal of interest from the participants, who already knew each other from various events previously held in person by IRZ in North Macedonia. This meant that there was a good working atmosphere during the webinar.