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.

Round table on a possible constitutional court law

Participants in the conference
Participants in the conference
North Macedonia

On 5 December 2019, the IRZ and the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia held a joint Round Table to discuss the possibility of a future constitutional court law for the country.

The event, which was financed by funds from the German Foreign Office, began on 4 December with a reception at the residence of the German Ambassador, Thomas Gerberich. The participants in the Round Table made the most of the opportunity to discuss the many outstanding issues as a small group and during bilateral talks.

On the following day, Sali Murati, President of the Constitutional Court of Macedonia, and Dr. Stefan Pürner, representing the IRZ as Head of Section, opened the Round Table discussions. This was followed by a lecture by the former President of the Constitutional Court of the State of Saxony-Anhalt, Winfried Schubert, who presented the German Federal Constitutional Court law and the corresponding regulations at federal state (Bundesländer) level and also talked about the significance of the issues governed by these regulations. He also provided some guidance on practical application.

Winfried Schubert’s lecture provided a starting point for lively discussions, during which the Macedonian participants put forward their own ideas about the content of this type of law.

The focus of discussions was on the following topics in particular:

  • Organisation of the court
  • Distribution of internal court responsibilities
  • Mechanisms for the preliminary assessment of claims
  • Budget issues
  • Procedure for the engagement of staff members who are not judges
  • Rules of conduct for constitutional court judges
  • Court processes for dealing with the media, particularly when it comes to critical or even non-objective reporting

Most of the participants in the Round Table were judges and scientific staff from the Constitutional Court. Other legal experts were also invited to ensure the transparency of the event and to enrich the discussions with an outside view of the court (in alphabetical order):

  • Margarita Caca Nokolovska, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights,
  • Prof. Dr. Gabler Damjanovska, Director of the Judicial Academy of North Macedonia,
  • Dr. Denis Prešova, Faculty of Law at the Skopje State University,
  • Dr. Jeton Shasivari, Faculty of Law at the South-East European University in Tetovo, and
  • Prof. Dr. Jusuf Zejneli, Faculty of Law at the Tetovo State University.
Following on from the discussions, they gave short speeches, commenting on various aspects of the work of the Constitutional Court of Macedonia. These also included some critical comments. They did, however, all agree that North Macedonia needs a constitutional court law, which should in particular cover regulations for a comprehensive constitutional complaint. The presence of the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Faton Selami, proved that these considerations are also of interest to the Ministry of Justice.