European Commission Shields EURALIUS from Public Scrutiny

The European Commission is stepping up its efforts to shield the justice assistance mission EURALIUS V, tendered out to a consortium consisting of the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation, the Agency for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Center for International Legal Co-operation, and the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura.

EURALIUS V is a continuation under the same consortium of the previous mission EURALIUS IV, which was in its final days responsible for a controversial and potentially unconstitutional legal advice that no qualified majority was necessary to elected “Temporary” General Prosecutor Arta Marku.

As both the EU Delegation in Tirana and EURALIUS openly aligned with the Rama government, they became also increasingly opaque to public scrutiny. Different from their previous website, the new website of EURALIUS no longer features an organigram including the names of those working on the different aspects of justice reform. That EURALIUS is used by the government as a breeding ground can be inferred from the recent nomination of Darian Pavli as Albanian judge at the European Court for Human Rights. Pavli was a senior legal expert at EURALIUS V. Because it is a private consortium, hiring practices are not transparent or open, in spite of the outsized influence of EURALIUS on the Albanian legislative process. EURALIUS representatives moreover regularly attend the meetings of the independent judiciary governance institutions without it being clear how they influence their proceedings.

Furthermore, the website no longer hosts the Inception Report of the project, thus preventing public scrutiny of the parameters under which EURALIUS takes place. As my previous reporting has shown, EURALIUS IV fell under a steering committee which included, among others, then Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj; Maksim Haxhia, Chairman of the National Chamber of Notaries and lawyer of then Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri and then Constitutional Judge Bashkim Dedja, who were both observers. Xhafaj was forced to resign, while Tahiri has recently been indicted for corruption and drug trafficking. Dedja was dismissed by the vetting institutions.

Considering the fact that the publication of this information has no doubt harmed the “independent” and “neutral pretensions” of EURALIUS, it is no surprise that in response to a recent Freedom of Information request that I filed with the European Commission, they refused to release the Inception Report of EURALIUS V after consultation with “the members of the project team of the consortium awarded the grant.”

But this was not the only document they refused under the guise of “protection of the commercial interests, including intellectual property.” They also refused to release the annex to the contract, which specifies the specific activities that EURALIUS V will undertake. Again, I readily received these documents, albeit heavily redacted, for EURALIUS IV. Apparently, then their “commercial interests, including intellectual property” didn’t need to be protected!

Therefore, not only is the European Commission inconsistent in the documents that it chooses to “protect,” they also damage the public interest. Albanian citizens deserve to know who is a member of the current steering committee of EURALIUS V, what type of actions EURALIUS V is allowed to undertake, and what are the specific parameters in which it advises the Albanian government.

EURALIUS is a major influence on Albanian legislation, which, in the name of democracy and the rule of law, ought to be a transparent process. By not releasing key documents pertaining to the functioning of EURALIUS, the European Commission itself is threatening democracy and the rule of law in Albania.

– Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei