Albanian parliament approves extension of justice vetting structures, amid falling support for the milestone justice reform

The Vetting Chamber of Appeals in Tirana

Tirana, 10 Feb (Tirana Echo) – The Albanian Parliament has approved the much debated extension of the vetting structures which are currently scanning its judges and prosecutors, by amending the country’s Constitution.

118 out of a total of 140 MPs voted in favor of the constitutional amendment, enabling vetting structures (KPK & KPA) to postpone their working mandate by another two years. The move allows the continuation of the vetting process for around 300 remaining judges and prosecutors who have not undergone the process yet.

The opposition Democratic Party chaired by Mr. Basha, now itself fractured into two opposing groups in parliament, joined its votes with the ruling socialists, under diplomatic pressure. 

The extraordinary measure has been supported by diplomatic representatives of the European Union and the US in Tirana, who had earlier issued a joint statement, asking MPs to vote in favor in order to ensure Albania’s European path.

The vetting process is part of a major reform approved in 2016, which overhauled the entire justice system in Albania, in the hope to clean up its highly corrupt justice system.

Although conceived and strongly supported by the EU and US, the reform has been marked by constant delays, paralysis of the country’s key Courts and very little results on the ground. Only 500 out of a total of 800 officials have been vetted so far, through a lengthy process which should have completed its constitutional task by now.

While almost 300 judges and prosecutors have been expelled from the justice system, the reform has failed to inspire the Albanian people and has struggled to gain credibility.

According to a recent survey conducted by Euronews Albania, nearly one-third of respondents (31.7%) have now lost their faith that the system will ever be freed from corruption and less than half of respondents (45.1%) believe that the corrupted politicians might be convicted.

EU, US and OSCE representatives in the country, frustrated with the delays and eager to strike a note of optimism, applauded the constitutional amendment.

This was a vote for the future of Albania in the EU,” tweeted Luigi Soreca, the EU’s Ambassador in Tirana.

The United States applauds the passage of the vetting mandate extension in Parliament. This is an important step forward for all Albanians – towards a stronger, more credible justice system and towards European integration”, said US Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim.

However, others have voiced concern regarding the slow pace of the justice reform and the lack of results on the ground.

Ylli Manjani, a former Justice Minister of Albania, considered the vote in parliament as a “missed opportunity” and told Euronews that while it initially started as a great event, the reform of the justice system represents a spectacular failure for the country.

What has happened during these past five years? Why didn’t the vetting structures finish their job within constitutional provisions? Who guarantees us that it will not be postponed again in two years? Why are Albanians unhappy with the reform? Why has the reform stalled? This was a missed opportunity for a parliament which needed to address such questions. The reform of our justice system should not serve personal careers of diplomatic representatives in the country”, said Manjani.

Albania approved a milestone reform of its justice system in 2016, following direct pressure and assistance from the US and the EU. Its respective legal assistance bodies Opdat and Euralius have been involved in the drafting and monitoring of the reform while and International Monitoring Operation (IMO) has been overseeing the slow-paced vetting process.

The vetting process itself was delayed since its start in 2018 and has been under constant attack from opposition politicians. 

At the time of its inception, Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha, now supported by EU & US representatives, had accused western diplomats of helping the ‘mafia project’ of socialist PM Edi Rama. 

The Vetting Law is a mafia project which involves senior diplomats in Tirana on behalf of Edi Rama, who have hijacked the EU experts. By doing so they want to control the judicial system and free themselves from organized crime and corruption”- stated Basha back in 2017.

Albania hopes to start EU membership talks soon, but its aspirations are hampered by enlargement fatigue and growing skepticism by member states that the small Balkan country can improve its rule of law credentials and fight endemic corruption. The EU decision to start negotiations has been on a ‘chronic delay‘ for the past 5 years, with no clear perspective ahead. 


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