The Venice Commission has removed from its work calendar the approval of the final opinion on the appointments of members of the Albanian Constitutional Court that was scheduled for review on March 20.
The official cause given for the removal is that the Coronavirus crisis has made Venice Commission meetings impossible.
But a credible source, with direct knowledge of the situation, told Exit News that the real reason for the delay was pressure from the Albanian government on the Commission. Since parts of the draft opinion were leaked to the media, the government has embarked on a campaign to defuse the criticisms of the Socialist Party majority’s actions.
Faced with the authors’ refusal to change the draft opinion, the Commission has decided to postpone the final opinion in an attempt to gain time and act in accordance with new circumstances that might be created. The source claimed that “it is not excluded that the Commission completely withdraws from its opinion.”
In its draft opinion issued two weeks ago, the Commission had concluded that President Ilir Meta’s actions in appointing members of the Constitutional Court comply with the Constitution, and there is no basis for his impeachment.
It also questioned the actions of the Justice Appointment Council (KED) chaired by Ardian Dvorani, in relation to the appointments.
The Commission’s draft opinion directly criticized a number of decisions and procedures followed during the vetting process for judges and prosecutors.
In particular, the Commission noted that the lack of reasonable deadlines for vetting subjects to present evidence of asset ownership, and the selective implementation of procedures according to political interests. This, they said may create space for political manipulation of the vetting process.
The Commission also stated that in some cases these problems may have created serious consequences and suggested the reopening of the vetting for certain magistrates excluded from the system.
A few days ago, Albanian judges asked the Venice Commission to retain in its Final Opinion all findings and recommendations made in the draft opinion.
They expressed concern that the final draft could change as a result of pressure from the Albanian government or the European Commission.
The Albanian government and the European Commission, who both drafted the justice reform, have so far shown a total lack of willingness to accept criticism and make improvements, despite some serious reform failures, including leaving the country without a High and Constitutional Court for more than two years.
Magistrates dismissed by the vetting, and who have brought the case to the Strasbourg Court told Exit News that the Albanian government and the European Commission are pressuring the Strasbourg Court directly to influence its decisions in favour of the government.