#Albania – Parliament in recess after failing to approve crucial magistrate school amendment

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Empty seats left by opposition parties at the Albanian Parliament are expected to fill up in coming weeks.

Tirana, Albania | July 25 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s Parliament has closed its doors until September as its 140 members failed to agree on approving a special amendment which would allow the School of Magistrates to take in new students during the next year.

The amendment proposed by the ruling socialists was seen as a last minute attempt to unblock the deadlock created by the lack of new justice institutions which would have the duty to decide on annual quotas for the school of magistrates.

The unanimously approved constitutional changes which kick started a milestone  reform of Albania’s highly corrupt justice system two years ago, demand the establishment of the High Council of Justice and the High Council of Prosecution, two crucial bodies which would eventually determine annual qutas of acceptance for the School of Magistrates.

However, a slow vetting process which is currently scanning all judges and prosecutors of Albania’s highly corrupt justice system, means neither of these two high level justice bodies can be erected, without which the School of Magistrates cannot accept new entries.

According to the socialist proposed amendment, the law would grant the school authorization to accept 25 new entries this year and 50 more next year independent from the functioning of the HCJ and HCP which could take much longer than previously thought to be established.

The opposition democrats boycotted the last plenary session this week accusing ruling socialists of seeking to capture the justice system indefinitely.

Students at the School of Magistrates are people with strong historic links to the Socialist party and with its predecessor the Communist Party. The socialists want to capture the school in order to turn it into a party type of training school which would select new candidates according to Edi Rama’s personal preferences,” – said Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha.

The amendment needed 84 out of a total of 140 votes while the ruling socialists had only secured 79 votes in support of the temporary provisions, with a handful of opposition MPs from the Democratic Party (PD) and the Socialist movement for Integration (LSI) supporting the SP proposal.

The US Embassy in Tirana has criticized the failure to approve the special amendment by blaming all political parties in parliament, arguing that this was a simple amendment which would permit new students to enroll in the school.

Albania needs new judges and prosecutors who will protect the rule of law in the country. It seems like politicians are afraid of the rule of law and this is why they refused to cooperate in support of the School of Magistrates and the Justice Reform,” read a statement for the Voice of America from the US Charge d’Affaires in Tirana David Muniz.

The failure to agree in parliament, means the school will not accept new entries in September while the vetting process is ongoing.

As a result of a slow vetting process, Albania is currently the only country in Europe not to have a functioning Constitutional Court and High Court as most of their members have been dismissed from the system. Analysts say that the Court of Appeals may also seize to function when its member are scanned by the vetting structures.

The small Balkan country hopes to formally open EU membership talks next year, as the European Union has conditioned its negotiations on tangible results of the justice reform and credible efforts to strengthen the rule of law and fight pervasive corruption.


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