by Dr. Arta Vorpsi
Albania’s parliament early on Friday adopted long-awaited judicial reforms, after 18 months of technical and political work and days of tense negotiations. All 140 members of parliament voted in favour of the reform, after negotiations between the three main political leaders led by US ambassador and EU head of delegation.
Changing 46 articles of the constitution, the judicial reform package adopted by Albania’s parliament on Friday is one of the most radical changes in legislation that the country has seen in 25 years. The judicial package, which is considered crucial for the fight against corruption and political influence, amended almost 1/3 of the constitution and passed several laws creating new justice institutions. The reform was hailed by party leaders as marking a new beginning that will also open the way towards closer ties to the European Union.
More concretely apart of the changes related to reformation of justice institutions in long term, this reform represents two very important measures against corruption in justice system in short terms: the first one is the reevaluation process (known as vetting process) of all judges and prosecutors in duty with its three components: professional, assets and background assessment. To realize this process, it is foreseen the establishment of two special institutions: a first instance commission and an appeal chamber, which means that this process will not go through existing ordinary court system, since the judges are subject of assessment. These institutions will be monitored by an International Monitoring Operation, composed by judges and prosecutors selected by different EU sates members.
The second major change has to do with the establishment of a special court and prosecution office who will judge, investigate and prosecute high officials in cases of corruption and organized crime criminal charges. These structures are established under the model of Croatian USCOC, which faced the same difficulties in fighting corruption in the justice system and also among high ranked politician with existing legal measures and institutions.
In September, Albanian parliament is expected to pass seven laws that will make possible for constitutional changes to be implemented. Others are expected to follow in the next months.
The first step toward a deep reform in Albanian justice system is done, now begins the real challenge.