The agenda for the Independent Qualification Commission (KPK) for the coming weeks remains empty. After a month of holiday, and an already large backlog of verdicts that failed to meet the legal deadline, it now appears that the vetting mechanism has come to a screeching halt.
And when we take some time to look around and survey the field, things look even more desperate. The Constitutional Court has been paralyzed for months, with only two of its judges left, while the Public Commissioner has filed an appeal against the confirmation of the remaining President of the Court, Bashkim Dedja. Meanwhile, Parliament has started to look for new candidates, but none of them will become even close to being elected unless the Justice Appointments Council is fully vetted and confirmed, which has little chance of happening this year.
In violation of Law 115/2016 on Governance Institutions of the Justice System, which was unilaterally passed by the Socialist majority, the High Court has started a last-ditch attempt to find additional candidates for the High Judicial Council (KLGj), while it most certainly looks like such a reopening of applications is also necessary for the High Prosecutorial Council (KLP). This search would probably be initiated by the General Prosecutor, who herself was elected through an unconstitutional procedure by the Socialist majority. With no Constitutional Court to adjudicate any of these grave legal issues, the credibility of the entire post-vetting judicial system is already severely undermined.
Meanwhile, the KPK has processed only 63 of the 176 it has opened since December 1, 2017, and it is to be expected that any new candidates, be that for the KLGj, KLP. Constitutional Court, or any other “emergency” application procedure, will have to wait until 2019 to be vetted. Meanwhile, the backlog at the High Court, and the laws passed without possible scrutiny by the Constitutional Court continue to accrue at rapid speed. The state of the country can therefore increasingly appropriately be described as “lawless.”
Furthermore, the government has recently passed a budget cut of 20% to the new judicial institutions, to make sure that even when they will be installed, they will not have all the resources they need.
Meanwhile, US and EU diplomats – who are co-responsible for the mess – continue to bury their heads in the sand. In a farewell interview that was characteristic for the delusions that haunted her during her entire tenure, former EU ambassador Vlahutin claimed that “within the year, all new institutions can start operating.” Meanwhile, outgoing US ambassador Donald Lu suggested that “democracy” will solve all of Albania’s issues:
Democracy is one thing that binds us all together as Americans and Albanians. It is messy. It is complicated. And, often filled with conflict and controversy but in the end, democracy guarantees us the freedoms we hold so dear.
Without the rule of law and respect of the government for the fundamental rights of every Albanian citizen, including those of a fair trial and equal protection under the law, Lu’s comment is worthless.