Albania’s parliament has voted to extend the mandate of key justice-vetting bodies until December 31, 2024 – a move welcomed by the US embassy and EU delegations in Tirana.

Albania Parliament Extends Mandate of Justice-Vetting Bodies

Albanian parliament. Photo credits: parliament al

With 118 votes in favour, Albania’s parliament has voted to extend the five-year mandates of the Independent Qualification Commission, KPK, and Public Commissioners, to vet judges and prosecutors.

The Parliament also adopted the decision to establish two Special Commissions for electoral and territorial reform, initiated by Democratic Party.

The proposal came from the ruling Socialists but, in order to pass, needed the votes of the main opposition Democratic Party as well.

On 8 February, the US embassy in Tirana and EU Delegation issued a joint press statement welcoming the move. “The vetting of judges and prosecutors is a fundamental element of justice reform,” it said.

“In order to allow the vetting institutions to complete their mission, it is necessary to amend the constitution to extend their mandate for a limited period. The Venice Commission has confirmed that the proposed extension is in line with European standards, and is necessary to ensure equality in law and legal certainty,” it added.

The proposal to extend the vetters’ mandates went to the Venice Commission from the Legislative Council of parliament in November last year. Democratic Party MPs were not present in the chamber when it voted to seek an opinion from the Council of Europe’s advisory body.

Under current legislation, when the mandate of the Independent Qualification Commission ends, its powers in the re-evaluation process pass to the High Judicial Council for judges, and to the High Prosecution Council, HJC, fror prosecutors. The functions of the Public Commissioners are transferred to the Special Prosecution.

But the Venice Commission Opinion, issued in December last year, approved an extension of the current mandate for a few years.

“The Commission concludes that the proposed extension of the mandate until December 31, 2024, may be considered compatible with European standards, so long as the functioning of the judiciary as such is ensured,” it said.

The Democratic Party leader, Lulzim Basha, on Thursday, made it clear his party did not seek an interruption to the much-sought-after justice reform process in Albania.

“Today, we don’t have the justice we want, but it would be even worse if a process that started with the intention to end up with a justice [system] that does not protect but punish corrupt politicians and organized crime remained in the middle, and so the European integration of the country would be interrupted,” he said.

The vetting process examines judges and prosecutors using three criteria: the legality of their assets; their professional standing; their possible links to organized crime. The justice reform system was agreed in 2016 and is sponsored by the United States and European Union.

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