In an interview with News 24 a few days ago, High Prosecutorial Council (KLP) Chairman Gent Ibrahimi explained that the processing of the dossiers of the 27 applicants to the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK) will take “several months”:
“Considering the large volume, 10 dossiers for each candidate, so 270 dossiers and the fact that we don’t have administrative and financial support, so that will take time. We will take several months.”
Earlier this month, the EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca claimed that the European Union would invest €34 million to support the justice reform, suggesting that the new institutions would receive ample support.
But reality is slightly different. Soreca’s number comes from Action 3 under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II), the system through which the European Commission supports the Albanian government, where €34 million is allocated for budget support and another €8 million for “complementary technical assistance” (i.e., support with public procurement). This budget will be transferred to the Albanian state over the fiscal years 2019–2022, which means that it has not arrived yet.
Moreover, when compared to the cost estimate provided by the European Commission on the justice reform, the EU’s support accounts for only a third of the entire cost of the justice reform 2017–2021, estimated at €98 million in total. The main issue is the increase in personnel costs, which have more than doubled from €5,3 million in 2018 to €12 million in 2019. How the Albanian state is going to pay for the justice system after 2021 is anyone’s guess.
And therefore we have seen a repeat in Parliament of the scenes from 2017 and 2018. In September 2017, the Socialist majority in Parliament slashed 40% of the employees requested by the vetting institutions, even though the estimates were provided with the help of international experts. The result has been a vetting process that has slowed down to a crawl, which will take anther 8 years to be completed at the current pace. In October 2018, the vetting institutions once again begged Parliament for a few more employees, which this time they received. Nevertheless, the Independent Qualification Commission (KPK) continues to struggle to fill the vacancies.
In September 2018, the government proposed further cuts to the budget reserved for the new justice institutions, including the KLP and High Judicial Council (KLGj), reducing it with 20%. And only recently the Legal Affairs Commission in Parliament, after hearing the plea of KLP Chair Ibrahimi, decided to cut his number of proposed employees from 75 to 65, and the personnel for the KLGj from 144 to 125.
In other words, every step of the way the Socialist majority has made sure that the essential institutions of the justice reform are underfunded and understaffed. In the end, the budget made available by the EU is irrelevant, because it is not directly given to the institutions, but to the government, which since 2017 has been making sure that those people leading them never get what they need to build a professional and independent justice system.