Albania: The Cost Of Albanian Judicial Reform

Last Updated: 20 January 2017
Article by Perparim Kalo

Now we hear every day about the political side of the judicial reform, it is worth going back in time and look at the history of the assistance of donors and lending institutions or aid agencies and hundreds of millions in foreign currency engaged in this big effort and think what are Albanians expecting to happen this time. Major international agencies like World Bank, DFID, USAID, COUNCIL OF EUROPE, EU, OSCE, DANIDA, SIDA, EBRD, SECO, etc. contributed on various aspects of the reform, which sometimes inevitably underwent overlapping.

WORLD BANK

The World Bank provided a facility to the Albanian Government in 2002 (about 9,5 Million USD in the form of a loan, to be repaid in 40 years, so 25-30 years are yet to come) for the initiation and completion of a legal and judicial reform project. The project aimed at the strengthening of the system of legal and judicial education; creation of a more accessible, transparent (less-corrupt), and effective judicial system, including improvement of enforcement of court judgments; introduction of mediation and arbitration as alternative means to resolve commercial disputes outside courts; and improvement of access by government officials, judges, members of the Parliament, legal professionals, the business community, and the public at large to more reliable, comprehensive, and up-to-date legal information.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE

terms of technical assistance in law drafting. COE has been particularly active in the efforts to draft the law on the organization of the judiciary, the draft law on the organization and functioning of the High Court and the development of the Magistrates School.

The COE has also assisted in the drafting of the Civil Code, the Civil Procedure Code and penitentiary reform. During 1997 - 1999 COE has worked closely with the Minister of State for Legislative Reform and the Relations with the Parliament in drafting almost 22 pieces of legislation of Administrative Procedures, Government Tort Liability Law, Privacy Act, Freedom of Information Act, Law on People's Advocate, Law on Asylum, Law on Citizenship, etc.

EUROPEAN UNION PHARE PROGRAM

Through its PHARE Program EU was involved in legal assistance, including approximation of legislation to EU Acquis. The focus of the Approximation of Legislation Project is the Development and revision of Albanian legislation to prepare Albania for accession to the EU. In October 1999, within the Council of Ministers a Department for the Approximation of Legislation with the EU was created. EU PHARE has given a much larger material assistance especially in building or rehabilitation several court houses all over Albania. EU PHARE program has funded the renovation of about 6 courts.

OSCE

The Office of the Legal Counselor within the OSCE Presence in Tirana was created to analyze and help address serious legal conflicts arising regularly in Albania, with the purpose of promoting democratization through the development of democratic institutions, legal culture, and the rule of law, and promoting the protection of human rights. The LCO worked in the following six areas: (1) legislative reform; (2) legal education reform, focusing on developing institution-building capacity and providing technical legal assistance; (3) constitutional civic education work; (4) human rights; (5) legal system reform, including the Office of the People's Advocate and the General Prosecutor's Office; and (6) internal technical assistance to various units within the Presence, including the OSCE field offices.

USAID

From 2000 to 2015, USAID invested $60 million in Albania's justice sector. These efforts have helped to modernize Albania's court and legal education systems, strengthen civil society's watchdog role, and reduce opportunities for corruption.

American Bar Association and Central Eastern Europe Legal Initiative (ABA CEELI) was active in Legal education through seminars and lecturing at Tirana Faculty of Law and magistrates School, assistance in the organizing the National Judicial Conference; training for judges on Criminal law, etc.

USAID contracted IRIS to deal with the Albanian collateral law reform. The Law On Securing Charges was approved by the Albanian Parliament in 1999 and it was followed by training of judges and students at magistrates School and also lawyers followed the enactment of the law which helped functioning of the registry of moveable properties thus giving Banks security over them.

USAID funded a project aiming at Judicial Strengthening. This program was designed to update the judges' current knowledge in Albanian commercial law and prepare them for more sophisticated commercial law litigation they would try in the future. The project delivered seminar series providing an overview of basic principles in Albanian commercial law, covering Company Law, Bankruptcy and Secured Transactions.

USAID funded another project namely Court Administration Improvement, which included the Chief Judges, the court secretaries, chancellors, archive personnel, budget sta. and execution officers. The project team worked with School of Magistrates on the training of District Court Chief Judges (in their management task), Chief Secretaries (Chancellors) and court secretaries.

USAID assisted the Government of Albania to benefit from the Millennium Challenge threshold Program funded by the US Government. Albania's weak legal and judicial system and other negative phenomena excluded it from list of beneficiaries. US Government decided to assist Albania, to improve three areas and become eligible and benefit from the program in question, respectively: Improvement of the Tax System, Introduction of Electronic systems in Courts and Establishment of Administrative Courts. Chemonics International was contracted by the USAID to assist the respective Albanian structures to work and complete the gaps. While all the three components have been exhausted, we do not know if Albania is now eligible or if it has benefited from the MCTP. Approximately 15 Million USD have been spent for the assistance in the areas of intervention.

USAID approved the project: Upgrading of the justice system in Albania and restoring the confidence of citizens in the judiciary. This new 5-year USAID project (2016-2021) Justice for All (USD 9 mln) will assist the judiciary heads in improving the court performance in Albania, introducing all-embracing court standards for efficacy, transparency, access and accountability. USAID will also provide support to organizations of civil society, investigative journalism and media to strengthen their roles as important stakeholders in the projects of justice overhaul as well as supervisors of reform implementation.

From the above facts, we should only hope that the money to be spent again for the implementation of the judicial reform will solve the problem – give back to people the well-deserved justice they are looking for.

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