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On 25 November 2019, a group of German and foreign students, who are at the University of Bonn on a scholarship from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, visited the IRZ to learn about its activities as part of their programme for the semester.
IRZ Head of Section Dr. Stefan Pürner gave a lecture and presented practical examples of the activities of the IRZ to introduce the students to the international legal advice provided by Germany. Afterwards, the guests made the most of the opportunity to ask questions and discuss various aspects.
The visit had been initiated by a young Serbian lawyer, Peter Brudar, who is currently working on his MA thesis on competition law issues in connection with algorithms in Bonn, with a grant from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. During the round of introductions, Peter Brudar pointed out that he had predominantly acquired the necessary background knowledge to get his grant through the activities of the IRZ in his home country. Brudar graduated from the legal terminology course for German-speaking law professionals from Serbia, which has been organised jointly by the IRZ and the Law Faculty in Belgrade for more than a decade now. He has also attended the IRZ Summer School on German Law. As he emphasised during the visit, both measures allowed him to develop the ability to work on German law in the German language.
On 29 November 2019, a conference on “Legal Transplants – Lending Standards or the silent Fight for legal Domination?” took place in Belgrade. This conference was organised jointly by the IRZ, the Judicial Academy of Serbia and the non-governmental organisation Harmonius. Harmonius is a network of South-East European legal experts, who are working to ensure that their respective national laws are aligned with EU law.
The conference dealt with issues concerning the adoption of legal institutions from other laws and the resulting competition between the traditional continental European legal system and common law. It was aimed at law professionals in the region.
The event was opened by Dr. Nenad Tešić, Chairman of Harmonius, Nenad Vujić, Director of the Serbian Judicial Academy and lawyer Dr. Stefan Pürner, Head of the South-East Europe I section at the IRZ. Dr. Vujić used the opportunity to emphasise that one of the goals of this joint event held by the Judicial Academy and Harmonius is also for the academic world and practitioners to discuss legal innovations in more depth, which is not common practice.
The conference was made up of five panels with contributions by experts from various South-East European countries, who dealt with issues concerning substantive as well as adjective law.
Subjects ranged from property law to private international law and consumer protection. In terms of procedural law, one of the issues discussed was abridged procedures for the recovery of claims due to authenticated deeds. Other presentations covered the protection of human rights in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. The lectures presented plenty of opportunity for discussion and bilateral exchange, which the participants took advantage of even outside the actual agenda for the meeting.
Apart from individual legal transplants, the conference also covered the present general conditions, under which institutions from other laws are incorporated. In this respect, Dr. Nenad Tešić pointed out that legal transplants can also be a means for large countries to exercise political influence on smaller states. Following on from this, Dr. Christa Jessel Holst, a former Head of the South East Europe Unit at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, emphasised the regional nature of the conference and pointed out that exchanging ideas with colleagues from other countries with the same legal tradition also helps participants to recognise their own needs in the future development of the law in their own countries. This means that this dialogue also helps them to disengage from foreign influences, some of which are not very appropriate.
During the discussions, a new legal transplant in Serbian law was also mentioned, which is viewed with criticism by many participants. This is about a sentencing regulation, which was introduced to the penal code with the latest changes to the law in this area and is set out based on the American “three strikes law”. It means that compulsory sentences are increased for repeat offenders. However, some participants expressed reservations as far as the protection of human rights is concerned. They pointed out that this approach counteracts EU efforts to reduce prison populations in Europe.
The Danube Ministerial Conference on Justice was held in Ulm on 11 and 12 September 2019. This event covered the most important issues concerning the current status of the rule of law in the European Union and in the Danube countries, which are currently preparing to join the EU. The Danube Ministerial Conference on Justice, which was attended by Ministers of Justice and other representatives of the Danube countries, was organised by the Ministry of Justice for Baden-Württemberg with the involvement of the IRZ.
The Minister of Justice for Baden-Württemberg, Guido Wolf, opened the conference together with the Lord Mayor of the City of Ulm, Gunter Czich. Dr. Frauke Bachler, IRZ Managing Director, introduced the participants to the activities of the IRZ. The main themes of the conference were introduced by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Herbert Küpper, Director of the Institute for Eastern European Law at Munich / Regensburg, and Vice-President of the Southeast Europe Association.
Afterwards, the participants discussed various aspects of the rule of law during the two-day conference:
Panel I: Are we united by the rule of law in Europe?
Panel II: Influences of German Law in the Western Balkans as a contribution to EU rapprochement
Panel III: Law and legal certainty – jurisdiction, procedure, appeal
Panel IV: Independence of the judicial system, careers between politics and law.
The high-ranking speakers included:
Dr. Josip Grubeša, Minister of Justice for Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Georg Eisenreich, State Minister of Justice for the Free State of Bavaria,
Malte Graßhof, President of the Constitutional Court of Baden-Württemberg,
Dr. Janos Boka, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice of Hungary,
Tomaš Kafka, Head of the Central Europe Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and
Sebastian Weinzierl from the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers at the European Commission.
Panel II of the conference was moderated by Dr. Stefan Pürner, Head of Section at the IRZ. The influences of German Law in the Western Balkans as a contribution to EU rapprochement were discussed by Prof. Dr. Milan Škulić, a judge at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Serbia, Prof. Dr. Miloš Živković from the Law Faculty in Belgrade, Former State Secretary Michael Haußner, who was formerly appointed by the IRZ to advise the Ministry of Justice of Croatia and Montenegro, and the former notary and judicial advisor Richard Bock, former Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries (BNotK). They reported on their own experiences and provided an in-depth insight into the process of legal transformation. One critical point that was raised was the fact that various reform efforts unnecessarily abandon shared continental European heritage and that this leads to the creation of hybrid laws, whereas using German law, which is based on a shared legal tradition, as a point of reference would ensure greater sustainability and acceptance.
Dr. Margarita Popova, formerly Vice-President and Minister of Justice for the Republic of Bulgaria, underlined the fact that there is another way in the Panel IV discussions on the “Independence of the judicial system, careers between politics and law.” She highlighted her past cooperation with the Bavarian Ministry of Justice and the IRZ as a positive example of consultation on an equal footing, with respect for and knowledge of the traditions and culture of the partner country.