Following almost an entire day of debate, Albanian lawmakers have voted to extend the EU-backed judicial reform that includes the vetting of prosecutors and judges.
In the session, 118 MPs voted to extend the mandate out of 140. Just four abstained. The move will require amendments to the country’s constitution.
A part of Albania’s justice reform, two commissions were established in 2016 to vet more than 800 judicial staff. The mandate for this process expires in 2022, but less than 60% of judges and magistrates have been vetted.
Of those, half resigned or were fired, resulting in the collapse of the High Court and Constitutional Court for almost two years. While the two courts are now functioning again, case backlogs number tens of thousands.
Meanwhile, the vetting is progressing at a rate of around two per week, meaning that the two-year extension will likely not be sufficient.
In September last year, the Socialist majority requested the vetting bodies mandates be extended by two years. Representatives of countries supporting the reform – the United States, the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom – have since then repeatedly called on all political parties to vote in favour of the extension. A Venice Commission opinion also supports the extension.
The opposition has repeatedly asked that vetting include politicians, but the Socialist Party have flatly and repeatedly refused.
A plan to implement a similar reform in Kosovo was advised against by the EU, despite them funding and supporting the same scheme in Albania. Meanwhile, Albanians trust in the vetting process and judicial institutions continues to fall every year.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)