After repeated inquiries by Exit since 2018 and a violation of legally established deadline, the European Commission has released the April 2018 Inception Report of the EURALIUS V mission. Different from EURALIUS IV, EURALIUS V refused to publish its Inception Report online, and has overall shown much more secrecy as regards the specialists working for it and the composition of its Steering Committee.
Like EURALIUS IV, EURALIUS V is a justice assistance mission financed by the European Commission to assist with the drafting of Albanian legislation and accompany the ongoing Justice Reform. As Exit has pointed out multiple times, EURALIUS is responsible for a series of questionable legal opinions that have undermined the core principles of the Justice Reform, by proposing the circumvention of vetting for key positions in the justice system.
Because of important role in the Justice Reform, EURALIUS has had an outsized influence on the Albanian legal framework, the societal effects of which will be felt for decades to come. It therefore seems logical that this organization, funded with public money, is as transparent as possible about the legal advice it provides to Albanian Parliament – to the Albanian people. Instead, the Inception Report has been heavily redacted to avoid any public accountability.
The European Commission justifies this censorship in part as a “protection of the public interest as regards to international relations”:
[The Albanian] justice reform is a key criterion in the accession negotiations […]. The justice reform is at a critical phase of implementation. Its objective to fight corruption and depoliticise the justice system is by its very nature of high sensitiveness both at national and European level.
[…] The inception report and its annexes contain analyses of ongoing issues on various levels of the justice reform design and implementation. They describe various issues related to the justice system and propose action, activities and steps to be taken in that regard. […] Public disclosure of the withheld parts of the EURALIUS report would be perceived by the Albanian authorities not only as a breach of trust but also as an action undermining their authority to make the final decision on the justice reform. In this context, it is to be underlined that EURALIUS, which is in constant contact with the Albanian authorities, repeatedly opposed disclosure of the withheld parts.
In other words, EURALIUS has argued on behalf of the Rama government to the European Commission that publicly releasing their own legal assessment, paid for with public EU money and affecting an entire society of a EU candidate member, would “undermine” the Albanian government? The only reason can be simply because the Albanian government, eager to capture the entire justice system, is doing anything but faithfully implementing the justice reform.
If it were the case that EURALIUS advises the Albanian government based on the principles of the justice reform and the Constitution, and the government would have a meaningful discussion with Parliament (including the opposition) about an implementation of the reform that would be best for the country, there would be nothing to hide. Apparently, there is so much to hide that EURALIUS “repeatedly opposed” releasing substantial parts of the report.
But let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that the assessment offered by EURALIUS of the implementation of the justice reform is sometimes critical of the Albanian government, and that it would therefore be undesirable to have these assessments out in the open. Then at least you would think that a simple description of the status quo of the justice reform in April 2018 would be something that could be released to the public. Wrong. It appears that even the bare facts concerning the state of the Albanian justice reform cannot see the light of day.
This is what an uncensored “Description of Status Quo” looks like:
Seems rather innocent right? It is simply description of the facts as they are in April 2018. So have a look at the following items, where the status quo is so “sensitive” that disclosure was “repeatedly opposed” by EURALIUS, lest the Rama government be “undermined.”
There could be only one reason why releasing this information to the public would “undermine the authority” of the Rama government: In April 2018, there was no zero-tolerance policy on corruption implemented at the Ministry of Justice, there was no peer review of court cases, and no progress on transitioning Serious Crimes Courts to SPAK Courts. There was no elaboration of the special structures of the Anti-Corruption Prosecution, nor was there anything close to a functioning National Investigation Bureau.
These grey bars of censorship speak perhaps louder than any text and they ought to undermine not only the Albanian government; they are an indictment of the secrecy with which EURALIUS has chosen to operate, fully outside the view of the Albanians, whose rule of law it has helped erode, and beyond the control of EU citizens, whose money they spend on liters and liters of grey ink.