The Institute for Political Studies, a civil society organization headed by Afrim Krasniqi, has released a report on the justice reform, covering the period 2018–2019. The report blames the Albanian political system for undermining the justice reform, whilst it also points out the slow pace, poor quality and double standards of vetting, as some of the main reasons for reform failures.
The report has reached to the conclusion that the opposition’s criticism and majority’s attempts to sell the justice reform as its own achievement have both contributed to undermining it.
It covers legal, political, personal issues that have been slowly eating away at the credibility and viability of the reform, despite constant efforts of the Rama government and international representatives to sell the reform that appears to be constantly at a “critical stage.”
The ISP report opens with the “unforgivable difficulties” encountered by the justice reform, which its authors failed to envision when the reform was drafted:
Two years after the start of the vetting process, the country is still without functional Constitutional Court and High Court, with a Temporary General Prosecutor, lacking a High Justice Inspector and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution. (5)
The authors also point out a problem utterly ignored by the internationals in their appraisals of the reform, namely its complete politicization:
The main political parties are de facto against a quality implementation of the reform, considering the new justice a potential risk for everything they have administrated and administer in the state and society. […]
The conflict between the president and the government, the president’s criticism of the international factor in the justice reform, the attempt of the majority to dismiss the head of state at the moment he has to nominate members of the Constitutional Court, as well as the denigrating rhetoric against the reform by the opposition or the abuse of the successes of the reform as political accomplishments by the majority, are and remain indicators of the fact the political elite is and remains the strongest opposition against the new, honest, independent justice system with integrity and professional. (5–6)
There have been political officials, especially those who have power in the majority, which have seen the justice reform as a tool for exerting pressure and blackmailing political rivals in the opposition, without realizing that a true reform in the future would also hold them accountable. (10)
In fact, an impassive analysis of the relations between the majority and the justice reform offers convincing arguments that it has a mistaken perception of the reform and a real absence of political will for its success. For example, the Prime Minister states that he strongly supports the reform, despite the fact that he says that he didn’t read the legal package of the reform or the constitutional amendments. He says that he supports the reform, trusting in the internationals. On the other hand, he doesn’t let a moment pass without denigrating judges or prosecutors who take decisions that may threaten his party’s interests. The most recent case was the decision of two judges in Tirana and Durrës related to the mandates of local elected officials. The judges were publicly denigrated and their removal by the justice reform was announced – a decision that under no circumstance belongs to the prime minister, government, parliament, or the Socialist Party in power. (12)
At the same time, the vetting, which so far is basically the only broadly visible effect of the implementation of the justice reform, has failed to accomplish its expected impact on the justice system and society:
The functioning of the vetting hasn’t increased the functioning of the level of justice in Albania, in the broader civil sense – in the increase of justice against corruption scandals, dossiers of abuse, and flagrant cases of violations of the law by powerful people in the government, parliament, municipalities, police, institutions, and at the head of political parties. (6)
Moreover, the standards followed by the vetting commissions have turned them into mainly institutions that “check whether you’ve got your papers in order,” rather than an evaluation of actual professional capacities. Overall, the vetting has led to brain drain at the highest levels of the justice system that risks remaining unmitigated:
The departure from the system of several figures known in the academic world or with positive decision-making experience, especially at the Constitutional Court, can only be considered reasonable if their replacements are of the same level or more professional – an expectation that is much more optimistic than realistic in the current circumstances. (6)
The portrait of the justice reform and the vetting sketched out in the remainder of the report maintains some level of criticism, based on what the justice reform was expected to accomplish: the establishment of an independent, non-corrupt, and professional justice system.