It is truly a sight to behold. Now, after nearly four years of Justice Reform, the head of the International Monitoring Operation (ONM), Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, manages to pick up a pen and write a veritable “op-ed,” proudly endorsed by EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca on his Twitter feed.
The reason for this momentous piece of argumentative writing is not the unconstitutional appointment of a General Prosecutor, nor is it a deadlock between the President and Justice Appointments Council over Constitutional Court candidates, nor is it about the Ministry of Interior trying to gain control over the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution (SPAK).
No, Calavera has written her text in order to absolve her own ONM – and by extension the European Commission – of any blame in a case that has shaken the fundaments of the Justice Reform: the suspension of the Special Appeal Chamber judge Luan Daci.
Faced with the inevitable damage that Daci’s suspension and possible criminal conviction will do to the credibility of the vetting and thus the Justice Reform, Calavera wants to turn this shameful fact into a triumph of justice. Arguing that the investigation of Daci “should not be an excuse to attack the judicial reform,” Calavera claims that “it should rather be seen as the most concrete evidence that the system has started to function effectively.”
Let me state this clearly. No, the investigation of Daci provides no evidence whatsoever that the justice system “has started to function effectively.” Issues with Daci’s qualifications were known at least since former High Prosecutorial Council (KLP) member Antoneta Sevdari’s initial complaint from February 2019. Her complaint was rejected by the Special Appeal Chamber (KPA). It was politely declined by the ONM. Sevdari went to Strasbourg instead.
Her complaint was only taken up by SPAK when her former colleague, Besnik Cani, relayed it. Daci’s investigation, if anything, is evidence that the justice system works despite itself.
At no point did Calavera or anyone else in the EU call for an investigation of Daci’s past, if only to clear the air of any confusion. At no point did Sevdari ever receive support for her concerns about the quality of the judges in the vetting commissions.
Only now when Daci has been suspended and conviction may be a real possibility, Calavera comes out cheering about the success of “her” reform.
Instead, Calavera would do well to reflect upon whether her ONM has been doing such a great job.
After all, the ONM was involved in the assessment of the candidates for the vetting institutions and in the confirmation of Daci as KPA judge. The Constitutional Annex states clearly in art. C(7) that “a commission composed of at least three representatives of the International Monitoring Operation shall assess the candidates, in accordance with the law.”
But this assessment, at least in Daci’s case, appears to have been mediocre at best. In a recent public statement, the ONM tried to defend itself by claiming it had only two weeks time to evaluate all dossiers:
The [ONM] observers had a period of fourteen days to review all the documentation submitted by candidates and then issued their reasoned assessment and recommendations (as per art. 7 para. 7 of Law 84/2016).
But the law does not represent reality.
On February 17, 2017, the National Ombudsman published the list of qualifying candidates for the vetting institutions. Luan Daci was not on this first list, but his dossier, together with all the others’, was forwarded to the ONM for evaluation.
As there were only 29 qualifying candidates, PS whip Gramoz Ruçi asked the National Ombudsman – without legal basis – to reopen applications so that applicants would have some more time to submit the relevant documents.
The ONM then received the dossiers of the applicants on March 30. This time, the National Ombudsman had evaluated Daci positively. It is unknown what additional documents he provided to prove his qualifications.
The ONM sent its final recommendations back to the Ombudsman on April 6th. At that point, the ONM had known Daci’s dossier for more than 6 weeks, but was unable to figure out that Daci had been fired.
In defense, the ONM argued:
On the specific issue related to Mr Daci’s alleged omission of being subject to a disciplinary action while serving as a judge, the [ONM] notes that in the documentation and curriculum vitae submitted by the applicant in 2017 and made available to the observers at that time, there was only reference to his professional experience as a lawyer and no record of his previous tenure as a judge.
Its defense here is a circular argument: We didn’t know he was fired because it was not on his CV! And these people were supposed to “assess” the candidates for one of the most important institutions in the Justice Reform…
Calavera claims that the Justice Reform has “solid foundations,” but how are we to believe that the ONM is truly able to competently evaluate the dossiers of hundreds of judges and prosecutors when they were unable, during the essential, initial phase of the Justice Reform, to spot a simple omission on a CV?
How are we to believe in these “solid foundations” when it is clear that the Constitution and pertinent legislation are full of loopholes, contradictions, and ambiguities?
The foundations of the Justice Reform are weak, and Calavera is trying to cover this up by urging us to move “forward, for the benefit of the Albanian citizens!”
If anything, Calavera’s op-ed once again reveals the deeply seated colonial attitude of the EU bureaucrats roaming the streets of Bllok – unwilling or unable to own up to their mistakes, they hide behind an empty rhetoric of “more determination and commitment.”
Calavera’s op-ed was neither a sign of determination nor of commitment. It shows that the EU still thinks they can get away with mediocrity without bearing its consequences.