By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
EU Ambassador Soreca Intervenes in the “Independent” Judiciary

In November 2018, a group of representatives from the Alliance for the Protection of the Theater met with EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca, discussing the unconstitutionality of the Special Law passed by Parliament, which would tender out the reconstruction of the National Theater without any public procurement procedure.

During that meeting, the EU Ambassador Soreca stated that justice reform had been an initiative of the Albanian institutions, without international interference. He claimed that the EU had a facilitating role, supporting the government and the judiciary through the justice assistance mission EURALIUS and the International Monitoring Operation (ONM), which assists in the vetting.

In other words, Soreca took a position which at least on the surface is in line with EU policy, namely not to openly interfere into the affairs of foreign states. It was of course unfortunate that Soreca refused to see that the constitutional crisis in which Albania continues to exist is in part the responsibility of those “facilitating” EU officials, who displayed a remarkable incompetence while assisting the government in taking over or disabling essential parts of the judiciary – but still.

Now, when an ambassador makes such a principled claim, one would expect him to keep his word. But that would be a delusion! Yesterday, Soreca sent out a tweet demanding that the High Judicial Council (KLGj) reviewed the decision of the Appeals Court of Serious Crimes to lower the punishment of Dritan Dajti, who had killed four police officers, from life to 25 years.

Soreca tweeted on Sunday:

“The decision of Appeals Court reducing the sentence of the defendant convicted for murder of 4 police officers calls for urgent assessment by the HJC and by the General Prosecutor. is irreversible and will cover all levels of jurisdiction.”

Why would the EU ambassador refuse to openly intervene into actions of the government that violated the Constitution and the Stabilization and Association Agreement, but suddenly demand life imprisonment in a court case that had nothing to do with the EU?

The answer to this remarkable feat of bureaucratic hypocrisy is found in the article to which Soreca linked in his tweet. The article from media outlet Shqiptarja, which is owned by Carlo Bollino (who manages several lucrative government tenders), quoted Minister of Interior Sandër Lleshaj and Minister of Justice Etilda Gjonaj loudly denouncing the verdict of the Appeals Court of Serious Crimes, calling it “shocking” and “without precedent.”

So this explains – I must add, unfortunately but unsurprisingly – Soreca’s sudden zeal for intervention. Apparently the EU Ambassador only intervenes in matters in which the government attacks the judiciary. Then he is happy to add his own voice, advocating “urgent assessment.” But when it is a case in which the government violates the Constitution while the courts are paralyzed, Soreca withdraws to the comfortable cushions of diplomatic decorum.

The result of Soreca’s most recent social media outburst (he is a much more prolific tweeter than former EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin) is that when the KLGj would actually decide to investigate the verdict, it will seem that it did so at the insistence of the government and the EU. This would further politicize an institution that was designed to be impartial. If the KLGj does not act, this will “show” that the entire justice reform has been for nothing, because in spite of the new governing institutions, corruption continues to fester within the courts.

Both outcomes are equally undesirable, and by tweeting – or should we say, parroting – the government, Soreca has only made it worse.