Tirana, Albania (Tirana Echo) – An international mission sponsored by the European Union begun today the difficult task of monitoring the implementation of the crucial reform of the justice system in Albania.
While there are still few people interested to apply for the new justice structures and one day to go before Thursday’s deadline for applications, the International Monitoring Operation (IMO) Management Board met today in Tirana to begin monitoring the vetting of members of Albania’s judiciary. The meeting was chaired by Ms. Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission. The IMO Management Board is composed of representatives of the European Commission, and of the United States government.
The EU has said that while the IMO Management Board will perform a monitoring role, it will not make any executive decision as all final decisions lie with the national Albanian authorities. However, according to the latest constitutional changes approved last July in Parliament, the IMO role has been included in a special constitutional annex outlining the duties and responsibilities of this international body.
While many from the opposition argued that it is unprecedented to include internationals and their role in a constitutional package, the EU and US insisted that some leverage needed to be guaranteed for the newly created IMO which will act as the ‘eyes and mouth’ of the US and the European Union during the very sensitive process of vetting judges and prosecutors getting into Albania’s new justice institutions.
The fully consensual 140 vote in Parliament for the constitutional changes gives the IMO an extra political leverage to raise concerns during the quality of scanning of any corrupt officials wishing to penetrate the justice system.
The US and EU are keen to show that the smooth and successful completion of the vetting process helps Albania address shortcomings in the justice sector and push Albania faster towards EU membership.
During a press conference today in Tirana, the IMO Chief Genoveva Ruiz Calavera reminded Albanian authorities of the November 2016 European Commission’s conditional recommendation to open accession negotiations, recognizing Albania’s progress on 5 key priority areas imposed by the EU.
However, the new IMO chief added that “the Commission’s recommendation also highlighted the need to responsibly follow up on these reform processes through, and I quote, ‘credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the justice reform, in particular the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors (vetting)”.
“I believe our message is clear. This is a vital process to open the door to the accession negotiations of Albania with the EU” – said Calavera, hinting that any shortcomings in the next phases of justice reform will impact Albania’s bid to join the European Union.
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