Yesterday, the EU Embassy in Tirana tweeted out a new development in the election of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution SPAK. According to the EU, the “SPAK candidates [have been] ranked.”
#Albania celebrates the 3rd anniversary of #JusticeReform: Constitution changed, 40 new laws adopted, 181 judges and prosecutors vetted, HPC and HJC established, JAC functioning, and SPAK candidates ranked. Justice reform is delivering and is irreversible! #EU4Albania🇪🇺🇦🇱
— EU in Albania (@EUinAlbania) July 22, 2019
The ranking of the candidates is an essential part of the process of establishing SPAK, and is done by the High Prosecutorial Council (KLP). Early July, the KLP interviewed 22 candidates for 15 positions. Only a small minority of these candidates have so far received a final verdict from the vetting institutions.
On July 21, KLP chair Gent Ibrahimi announced that the KLP had selected 15 from the 22 candidates, and that SPAK will be established once 7–8 qualifying prosecutors have received a final positive verdict from the vetting institutions. Apart from the fact that this is unconstitutional – SPAK needs at least 10 prosecutors – this announcement also seems to ignore the KLP’s own ranking of the candidates.
In a proper process, the vetting of all 22 candidates would be finished before those ranked highest who passed the vetting would be nominated to SPAK. SPAK would then be created with the best possible candidates. The highest ranked candidate then also becomes the likely person to lead SPAK as Chief Special Prosecutor. The problem is that this means that SPAK can only be established when all candidates have received a final verdict, which likely will take months.
But the KLP chairman claims that SPAK will be operational in September or the beginning of October. How can this be accomplished?
By proposing to establish SPAK as soon as 7–8 qualifying candidates have passed the vetting, the KLP has decided to turn this proper procedure around. Rather than the ranking of candidates determining the composition of SPAK, the order of vetting will dictate SPAK’s initial composition and, most likely, Chief Special Prosecutor. Not the highest ranked candidate of all 15 candidates would then become Chief Special Prosecutor, but simply the best one among the first 7 or 8 to pass the vetting – even if all these were ranked lowest by the KLP.
The number of 7–8 prosecutors, moreover, seems to hedge the KLP from falling short of candidates. If the KLP currently already selected 15 candidates, the current trend in the vetting suggests that about 50% of those will be dismissed. This would leave us potentially with less than 10 candidates as demanded by the Constitution, but would precisely be the 7–8 candidates suggested by Ibrahimi as sufficient for the establishment of SPAK. This, in turn, of course creates a pressure on the vetting institutions to let enough SPAK candidates pass.
So once again we see here the pressure of time (a pressure ramped up by the EU and US embassies, as well as the Albanian government) leading to a violation of the Constitution, resulting in a mangled implementation of the justice reform. Nevertheless, the EU is throwing an anniversary party!