The Venice Commission has continued its work despite the Coronavirus epidemic, thus raising doubts on reasons for delaying the publication of opinion on Albania.
The Commission 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 last Friday, March 20.
The official cause given was for the removal was that the Coronavirus crisis had made Venice Commission meetings impossible.
On Friday, however, the Commission adopted and published at least three opinions on Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova.
It should be noted that in the official notice the Commission states that, because of the Coronavirus, opinions were adopted by a written procedure, different from the usual plenary sessions.
But the Commission has not clarified why it did not use the same procedure in Albania’s case, but decided to postpone its opinion to June.
This seems to confirm the Exit News’ report that the real reason for delaying the final opinion has been the pressure from the Albanian government to change the draft opinion and tone down its criticism regarding procedures for appointing members of the Albanian Constitutional Court.
Faced with the authors’ refusal to change the draft opinion, the Commission decided to postpone the final opinion in a possible attempt to gain time and act in accordance with new circumstances that might be created.
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.
Its 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.
The Albanian government and the European Commission, who both drafted the justice reform, have so far shown 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.