Vlahutin: Judicial Reform Key for the Opening of EU Negotiations
Albanian Daily News
Published January 14, 2016

Dear all, and please allow me to say in particular dear Euralius team, Ladies and gentlemen

I want to welcome you to the third Steering committee meeting of this very important project. I would suggest that we try to be very concrete and focused in our discussion, so that we can look at all that has been accomplished so far, but also what needs to be done so that this great facility is used in the best interest of our common goal, and that is approximation of the Albanian rule of law system to the standards of the EU.

But allow me to just remind ourselves on the basic principles of Euralius project, and I quote: While the project will work towards enhancing the capacities of the Albanian Authorities, the ultimate final beneficiary will be the Albanian population, who will benefit from a modern and more transparent and efficient justice administration, a more developed legislation closer to EU standards, a better functioning and more transparent judiciary system...Therefore the project will contribute to the restoring of people's confidence in their justice system and to the consolidation of democracy and rule of law in Albania.

So also in shaping all the future activities, we must always keep in mind this basic principle, that the EU tax payers money which is funding this project needs to be spent in a wise and responsible way that would ultimately benefit the trust of people into the system.

The list of institutional beneficiaries is rather long: The Albanian Ministry of Justice, the Office for the Administration of the Judiciary Budget, the High Council of Justice, the High Court, the General Prosecutor Office, the Courts, the National Judicial Conference, the School of Magistrates, the Ministry of Interior, the Albanian State Police, the National Chamber of Advocacy and the National Chamber of Notaries. At our last Steering Committee it was decided that the Ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee on Justice Reform will be one of the key beneficiaries given the central importance of the ongoing justice reform efforts.

For us the main point of reference in our work is the 2015 European Commission Report on Albania which considered Albania's judicial system at an early stage of preparation. The administration of justice is slow, professional training and independence of judges is inadequate, corruption is widely undermining the efficiency of the system. The report however praised the work undertaken to carry out a reform process, which has the potential to reshape Albania's justice system. The next crucial steps are the adoption of the judicial reform and of the necessary institutional legislative and procedural measures. Solid progress in this field is key for this country's European future and, more concretely, for the opening of accession negotiations.

This exceptional moment has required some exceptional measures and a degree of flexibility from the side of the European Union assistance to Albanian institutions. Energy and resources from originally planned activities were, in agreement with Albanian institutions, re-directed in order to support priorities set by our Albanian partners. Over the course of the latest months, EURALIUS IV team has worked very diligently to provide its technical expertise to the work of the Ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee and its Technical Secretariat.

But of course, Justice Reform will not end with the adoption of the constitutional package, it will just start there. The implementation of the reform will be a major challenge and an impressive number of legislative acts are in the process of being amended or drafted. EURALIUS IV is already assisting this process and is ready to support the implementation phase.

Besides technical expertise to the work of the Ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee, EURALIUS IV has also supported the finalization of the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code in coordination with the Ministry of Justice. EURALIUS team has worked on the draft sectorial Strategy for the Justice sector 2016 - 2020 and its Action Plan. The strategy will be a fundamental document for planning future assistance to the Albanian judiciary and also for the implementation of the ongoing reform. EURALIUS has also continuously supported the School of Magistrate, the work of the High Council of Justice and provided expertise in the drafting of other relevant pieces of legislations.

The meeting today is a good opportunity to encourage all stakeholders to express their priorities for the coming months and to make full use of this project, bearing in mind the need to ensure coordination of activities and avoid overlapping. Justice Reform is the guiding framework of this assistance and in this regard we need to ensure that there is a harmonised approach and coordination of activities among all stakeholders.

I would also encourage you all to take part in the discussion since we are trying to alternate speakers for the opening at every meeting, and I would personally be grateful if the representatives of the opposition parties in the Ad Hoc Committee, especially deputy chairman, would take the floor. Dialogue and discussion are of critical importance for the success of the reform, nobody expects there should be full agreement on everything, but it is pivotal in a democracy to exchange views in search for the best solutions.

The purpose of this project is to shape a better functional justice system which will improve the lives of Albanian citizens, country's economy and its future in the EU. Please join in a discussion how we can best benefit from this great facility and all assistance that EU is ready to provide.

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