Norbert Koster, a judge at the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, during his lecture
Norbert Koster, a judge at the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, during his lecture

“Legal transformation in South-East Europe using former Yugoslavia as an example: prerequisites, parties involved, failures and successes – a preliminary review” was the title given to the first event to be organised jointly by the IRZ and the South-East Europe association (SOG), which took place in Berlin on 16 November.

Once the international symposium had been opened by IRZ Managing Director Veronika Keller-Engels and SOG Vice-President and Managing Director of the Munich Institute for Eastern European Law, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Herbert Küpper, who also moderated the event, a series of experts from South-East Europe and Germany shed light on various aspects of the legal transformation.

The first of these was former ambassador Gudrun Steinacker, who presented legal transformation from the point of view of an ambassador, drawing on her rich experiences in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro. This was followed by a lecture on “The framework conditions for transformation from the point of view of a consultant: starting situation, parties involved and external influencing factors” by Dr. Stefan Pürner from the IRZ.

The event focussed on reports about the legal transformation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia, which were provided in German by

  • Prof. Dr. Zlatan Meskic, Zenica,
  • Lecturer Dr. Alexander Spasov, Skopje, and
  • Professor Dr. Milo Zivkovic, Belgrade.

They called for more respect for continental European legal traditions, since this is the only way of guaranteeing lasting and practical legal development.

The wide spectrum of lectures was rounded off by a contribution from the judge at the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, Norbert Foster, a former international judge in Kosovo and Head of the Rule of Law Mission in Afghanistan, who covered the issue of hybrid codes of criminal procedure in transition states.

Representatives from various institutions took part in the interdisciplinary event:

Academics and members of the justice system also took part in the symposium, as well as experts appointed by the IRZ.

During the second part of the interdisciplinary event, the participants had plenty of opportunity to address their questions to the experts and discuss these with them.

Using many practical examples, the progress of legal transformation and the various issues relating to this matter were brought to light. For example, it became clear that, whilst there are similarities between the various South-East European states, there are also particularities specific to each country. One of the things they have in common is an increasing influence from US law, which leads to extremely problematical laws.

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is particularly complex due to the distribution of responsibilities between the state and individual entities set out in the Dayton agreement. A key factor shared by all the succession states of former Yugoslavia is that the law is now more heterogeneous than it was at the end of the socialist era.

International legal advice from Germany has been credited with a great deal of effectiveness and expertise. It has, however, been established that it appears to be rather reticent compared with other foreign organisations offering legal advice.

The speeches from the event and the results of the discussions will be available for those who are interested in a special edition of the “Südosteuropa Mitteilungen” journal published by the SOG.

Thanks to the huge success of this pilot event, the IRZ and SOG have decided to continue their cooperation by organising other similar public events.