From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
EU Delegation Attacks President Meta over Justice Reform Critique

On Thursday, the EU Delegation in Tirana launched an unprecedented attack on the office of the Albanian President.

Earlier that day President Ilir Meta had voiced his concerns about the progress of the Justice Reform, which has led to a dysfunctional Constitutional Court with a single judge and a High Court where only two judges are left with a backlog of nearly 30,000 cases. President Meta also addressed the illegitimacy of EURALIUS’s famous “legal opinion” about the Temporary General Prosecutor and accused them of receiving “political instructions.”

“[In] the case of the Constitutional Court, I have made the greatest efforts to do everything in accordance with the Constitution. [I] requested in writing the engagement of the EU Delegation and EURALIUS, a mission that is paid with European taxpayers’ [money] to guarantee the implementation of the justice reform in Albania according to European standards and in respect of Albania’s prerogatives and laws.

EURALIUS answered the President that they could not attend the meeting because they were a technical mission, which means that they have received a political instruction. You are a mission, the President invites you regarding the Constitution of a country. The same EURALIUS certified to the chairman of the legal affairs [parliamentary] committee the election of an institution that does not exist in the Republic of Albania [the Temporary General Prosecutor]. This is not European justice.”

Within the day, the EU Delegation responded to Top Channel with a strongly worded statement:

We have noticed the criticism on the work of the technical assistance project financed by the EU for the justice sector, EURALIUS. The professionalism, dedication, great work, and integrity of EURALIUS are to be praised. Their help has proven necessary to the push the agenda of the reforms forward, while closely working with other partners such as OPDAT of the USA, experts from EU member states and the services of the European Commission. This support has been requested by the Albanian authorities and the monitoring role of the Commission and the US was univocally approved by the Parliament when the Constitutional amendments were adopted.

The justice reform is being implemented in full compliance with the Constitution of Albania and the relevant national legislation. This is a complex process but the reform is on track and it is of the utmost importance that all Albanian institutions support it. As regards specifically the formation of the Constitutional Court, it is of course crucial that, as soon as the selection and ranking by the Justice Appointment Council is completed, all competent institutions, including the Presidency of the Republic, make sure that candidates are elected with priority. We are convinced that such duty will be pursued thoroughly and timely.

First of all, it is remarkable that this statement was made at all. In the many cases that Exit has asked EURALIUS to respond to accusations made to it, they consistently responded that EURALIUS does not talk to the press. So apparently they do!

Second, the response was sent by the EU Delegation in Tirana. As the statement points out, EURALIUS is merely funded by the EU, but not part of the EU. It is in fact run by a consortium of private actors without any obligation of transparency toward the European tax payers whose many they spend. EURALIUS is not part of the EU Delegation, but merely an EU-funded project. Considering the many other failed projects in Albania that the EU funded, it is typical that they decided to defend this particular one.

Let’s first pause at the so-called “professionalism, dedication, great work, and integrity of EURALIUS.” President Meta correctly pointed out – we do not want to speculate on his political motivations to do so – that the EURALIUS legal opinion that led to the unilateral election of Arta Marku as “Temporary” General Prosecution was not only terribly misguided, it was also proven fundamentally flawed recently by Marku herself. Moreover, EURALIUS actively tried to hide this legal opinion, which violated its contract with the EU, from the Albanian public, and it is absent from its current website.

Furthermore, this legal opinion – the only one ever issued by EURALIUS – was written during the period in which the consortium leading EURALIUS IV was bidding on the tender to continue as EURALIUS V. Unsurprisingly, it won that contract as well. Following the transition to EURALIUS V, all personnel data were removed from the EURALIUS website, no doubt to hide the fact that the Rama government had positioned several of its preferred “technical specialists” in EURALIUS. Coincidentally, the new Albanian judge at the European Court of Human Rights, proposed by the Rama government, used to be senior legal expert at EURALIUS V.

EURALIUS V has also consistently blocked the Albanian public from understanding its mission or inner workings. Exit has requested several official reports pertaining to EURALIUS V which used to be freely available on its website, and has so far been denied access to these documents.

For EURALIUS IV, these documents revealed, among others, that there was a EURALIUS Steering Committee including figures such as former Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj, and lawyer of former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri, currently on trial for drug trafficking and corruption. It is understandable that the EU Commission wants to keep these facts hidden from the public, because they show EURALIUS precisely for what it is: an untransparent private consortium steered by the Albanian government and the EU Delegation – neither of which can be considered neutral or professional at this point in time.

The statement also claims that “the justice reform is being implemented in full compliance with the Constitution of Albania and the relevant national legislation.” This a very questionable proposition, not only because several parts of the “relevant national legislation,” passed unilaterally by the Socialists, are in conflict with the Constitution (including the definition of “vetting” itself, which has led to unvetted members taking place in the main justice institutions), and because there is no Constitutional Court to even adjudicate these most serious issues.

Then there is the open lie that “the reform is on track.” It is not – not by any standard the EU has ever set itself. Two different Heads of Delegation and a variety of Rama’s minister have claimed deadlines for any part of the reform you can imagine, which all of them were missed. There is no track for the justice reform, and now even those juridical specialists who had been involved in drafting the legislation claim it shows significant signs of failure.

A day later, Director for the Western Balkans at the European Commission and head of the International Monitoring Operation Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, released a separate statement further defending the justice reform:

The very tangible results achieved to date have allowed us to take stock of this first year of intense work and to address the challenges that lie ahead, considering that vetting is going to continue for some years to complete the evaluation of over 800 judges and prosecutors.

[…]  when reviewing the vetting results of the first year of operations, it is clear that the process has had a strong impact on existing institutions. […]. The lack of a quorum at the Constitutional Court has of course been a very high price to pay for the transition. One should not be surprised that the re-evaluation process has had implications and consequences in the judiciary at all levels. Nevertheless, the process of replacing the judges is ongoing and this transition will end soon.

The statement shows precisely the enormous problem underlying the justice reform. Its designers had never thought that the country would end up without Constitutional Court and High Court. Less than years ago, Ruiz Calavera even publicly claimed that she was “convinced that many judges and prosecutors will pass the vetting without difficulty,” while using the same metaphor as the EU Delegation: “the vetting on the right track.”

But now, suddenly, “the lack of quorum at the Constitutional Court has of course been a very high price to pay.” There is nothing “of course” or obvious about this statement, and no Eurocrat ever told the Albanian public that this was the “price.”

Instead, it is now time to “take stock” and “address the challenges ahead.” Not for any particular reason, or because this is a predefined moment in the process, but simply because President Meta, in fact, did “take stock,” but clearly not in the proper way. So Ruiz Calavera continues to display the ridiculous optimism that comes with the perceived superiority of her position, stating that the “transition will end soon.” This “transition” will, in fact, take 8 more years, and will for those 8 years and many years after thoroughly destabilize Albania.

What is so utterly miserable about these statements coming out of the EU, is the fact that they are made with an arrogance that can be easily felt by every Albanian citizen. Both Soreca and Ruiz Calavera speak as if Albanians don’t understand, that the vetting is a political process – as political as the show trials during the dictatorship. They act as if they don’t know that every single MP that voted for the justice reform did so out of the belief that their party could manipulate the process in their favor. They act as the Albania don’t know that the Eurocrats will disappear when their term is over, never turning back to the smouldering ruins they left in their wake.

The Eurocrats’ belief in the justice reform – an experiment with an unverifiable outcome, no benchmarks, and vague criteria – has turned into nothing but a religion, a religion with rituals, phrases, hierarchies, promises, Paradise and Hell. And, like all religions, it has made the Eurocrats blind and deaf to reality. From their offices, they preach this religion on a daily basis, completely forgetting where they are – the first atheist country in the world.