The Dutch Embassy promotes European standards among judges in Albania and Kosovo

The Dutch embassy, also through our regional Rule of Law Network, actively tries to assist to increase the professional capacities in the Albanian justice system. That’s why, together with the European Center, Dutch ambassador Dewi van de Weerd presented today the launching of a comprehensive collection of translated court cases from the European Court of Human Rights. She told the crowd that: ‘Human rights are crucial for any society; they are the backbone of democracy.’ The collection provides judges, prosecutors, lawyers and students with easily accessible information regarding the main leading cases of the Strasbourg court. During her speech, the ambassador stated that while the justice reform should move forward, there are other measures that can already be taken by the Albanian government, especially in the field of anti-corruption that do not have to wait for the reform to be completed. You can find her speech below:

Dutch Support Case Law Publication European Court on Human Rights

I am pleased to assist in the launching of this comprehensive collection of translated court cases from the European Court of Human Rights. It is the final step of a successful project implemented by the European Center in Albania and Kosovo, funded by the Dutch Regional Rule of Law programme. Our embassies in Belgrade, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tirana have dedicated rule of law policy advisors to develop a more in-depth view on the rule of law situation in the region and to further regional cooperation and Dutch bilateral contributions. This regional network was formed in 2014, because the Netherlands finds progress in this field of the European acquis crucial. And it is the regional funding available to the network that has enabled today`s publication.

This case collection is a useful tool for legal professionals in Albania and Kosovo. It provides judges, prosecutors, lawyers and students easily accessible information regarding the main leading cases of the Strasbourg court. It also specifically focuses on cases of relevance for Albania and Kosovo, such as, most importantly, property rights and freedom of speech. The final aim of this project is to strengthen professionalism of decision-makers, as well as human rights defenders and to contribute in this way to an increased understanding and respect for human rights.

Human rights are crucial for any society; they are the backbone of democracy. But what is of course needed for properly respecting human rights is the place where they operate, a legal system where rule is established by law and laws are fully implemented. And that brings me to a topic which we all have been working on for several years now: the justice reform. The idea behind it was to strengthen justice, in all of its dimensions, from the law-on-the-books to the law-in-action.

We have achieved a lot in terms of legislation in Albania. We are now at a phase where implementation of the reform has started. More needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly. I am referring here to the set-up of the governing organs of the justice system, the High Judicial Council and the High Prosecutorial Council. Civil society itself has a role to play in the setting-up of these institutions and unfortunately one of the delayed processes is the selection of candidates coming exactly from civil society. The reasons behind this might be many, but I am certain that to Albanian people who believe in the reform, this sounds like an unwillingness to push the reform forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, Where there is a will, there is a way. To me, that might encapsulate perfectly the situation we are currently facing with regard to the set-up of the governing organs of the justice system. Unfortunately, we are talking about a process being re-opened for the fourth time in a row only on candidates of the High Prosecution Council. What civil society needs to do is not give up on its efforts and play its crucial watchdog role. We need the governing organs of the justice system to move beyond the current deadlock. I am wondering how we can encourage people to move forward and apply, even those candidates who have expressed a will to be members of the High Judicial Council could maybe be interested.

Progress in respecting human rights is one of the five key priorities for the EU integration of Albania. The opening of negotiations on accession requires that true and tangible progress in this field is established beforehand. With regard to how the Netherlands sees this: we insist on real reforms. And we realise that takes time. Our strict and fair policy means that we need the necessary reforms towards EU membership to be true and tangible, – and we are also fair – we offer our help and contribution in order to achieve such progress.

An example: We all know property rights are a continuing problem in Albania. Two cases such as Driza v. Albania, or Puto v. Albania from the European Court on Human Rights prove this too. We financed a rule of law project in Pogradec witht an Albanian NGO and IPRO. Within two years, the registration of property for all households and businesses in the district was facilitated, 40 percent of these properties were owned by women. This shows that concrete results are feasible. I do believe that progress does not have to be captured by our continued waiting for the justice reform. Let me give you some examples:

  • Concrete measures on anti-corruption can be taken by the executive, irrespective of the justice reform. It is crucial to show leadership by example to the Albanian people. That brings hope.
  • I hope qualified Albanian candidates for the European Court of Human Rights will soon come forward, in this way Albania also shows it attaches importance to the Court.
  • Improving the climate for foreign investors through more reliable and transparent institutional services is another example of work that does not need to wait. I regret to say that many foreign companies, including Dutch ones, continue to face problems.
  • Providing better education tools for legal professionals, just like the current project did, is also something that can and should be done right away.

Simultaneous progress on all five EU key priorities is necessary for Albania. In short, I am quite confident, more concrete work can and will be done in this field.

Coming back to the current book and its successful finalization, I want to congratulate the European Center and the main editors Ledi Bianku and Odeta Kumbaro for the truly valuable output they have provided. This project is a great example of successful cooperation in the region and I wish initiatives like this will continue in the future.