Commission communication on the Western Balkans

March 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

On 6 February, 2018 the European Commission adopted a strategy “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans” (COM(2018) 65 and Annex).

The Strategy confirms the European future of the region as a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe based on common values. It spells out the priorities and areas of joint reinforced cooperation, addressing the specific challenges the Western Balkans face, in particular the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations. A credible enlargement perspective requires sustained efforts and irreversible reforms. Progress along the European path is an objective and merit-based process which depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country.

The European Commission also announced six flagship initiatives – specific actions that the EU will take over the next years to support the transformation efforts of the Western Balkans in areas of mutual interest. In particular:

  • strengthen the rule of law,
  • reinforce engagement on security and migration;
  • enhance support for socio-economic development;
  • increase transport ad energy connectivity;
  • develop digital agenda for the Western Balkans;
  • support reconciliations and good neighbourly relations.

As regards the rule of law – the existing tools, such as detailed action plans, will be expanded to all Western Balkans countries. Assessment of reform implementation will be enhanced, including through new advisory missions. Greater use will be made of leverage provided in the negotiating frameworks with Montenegro and Serbia.

General information about the enlargement process and the provisional timeline for 2018 is also provided by the European Commission.

9 March 2018 in Yerevan, Armenia – CONFERENCE “Current challenges and opportunities of the bars and law societies of the Council of Europe member states”

February 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The Conference “Current challenges and opportunities of the bars and law societies of the Council of Europe member states” is organised by the Council of Europe Project “Support to the implementation of judicial reform in Armenia”, the CCBE and the Chamber of Advocates of Armenia on 9 March 2018 in Yerevan, Armenia.

The aim of the conference is to provide a platform for sharing information and experience on the current challenges of the bars and law societies, explore detrimental issues in the bar associations and propose concrete steps for strengthening the cooperation and ties amongst the bar associations and law societies of the Council of Europe member states.

The main objective of the Conference is to facilitate a dialogue and exchange of the best practice between the bars and law societies of different Council of Europe member states. The exchange that will take place between professionals from different countries shall create a solid platform for argumentation and it seeks to generate and contribute to a wider debate about the potential improvements in the bar associations and for the profession of an advocate. Even if the directions and the policies of the bar reforms may differ from country to country, discussion on the primary concepts and challenges unites different Council of Europe member states.

The discussions and debates will be held on the following topics:

  1. Advocacy ethics

1.1    The relations between the attorney and court, respectful behaviour towards the court.

1.2    Data protection.

1.3    The scope of rules of ethics: personal, social and professional aspects

  1. Creation of cooperation network between attorneys of different Council of Europe member states — this session is aimed at discussing the possibility of the creation of a platform for more effective cooperation.

Registration deadline: 28 February 2018.

E-mail for registration and additional information regarding the conference:

Program of the conferenceAdditional information. 

CCBE: Human Rights Award 2017 is granted to Georgian lawyer Zaza Khatiashvili

November 27th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


On 24 November 2017, during the Plenary Session in Brussels, the CCBE granted its 2017 Human Rights Award to the Chairman of the Georgian Bar Association Zaza Khatiashvili.
Mr. Zaza Khatiashvili has been active in the defence of human rights in the international area and at the national stage.
Read more.

EU report: Evaluation of Ukrainian reforms shows considerable progress but need to accelerate implementation to reap full benefits

November 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The report, which was published yesterday, provides in section 2.3 ‘Justice, Freedom and Security’, amongst others: “The implementation of justice reforms continued. The perceived level of judicial independence remains very low but is increasing according to the latest survey by the World Economic Forum of businesses’ perceptions.”

The report is available here (see pages 6-8 for section 2.3 ‘Justice, Freedom and Security’).

Joint UNBA-CCBE conference on Advocates’ Rights and Obligations in Investigative Proceedings

October 31st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


Date: 10 November 2017

Place: Kiev, Ukraine

Programme: click here to access the programme.

ICJ: Russian Federation – authorities must repudiate intimidation of lawyer

October 31st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The full press release of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) can be downloaded here.

Poland: Preliminary observations by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

October 31st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Preliminary observations on the official visit to Poland (23-27 October 2017) by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Diego  García-Sayán,Warsaw, 27 October 2017:

Preliminary conclusions and recommendations

The independence of justice is under serious threat in Poland today.

I acknowledge that the reform and modernization of judicial institutions is a legitimate objective for any Government to pursue. However, I cannot but stress that the judicial reform that the Polish Government is putting in place to address the shortcomings currently affecting the Polish judicial system will, in the long run, have a long-lasting, adverse effect on the independence of its judicial system.

The current reform, undertaken by the governing majority in haste, and without proper consultation with the opposition, the judiciary and civil society actors, including the Office of the Ombudsman, risks hampering the capacity of judicial authorities to ensure checks and balances and protect and promote human rights.

The first victim of this unilateral approach is the Constitutional Tribunal, whose authority has been seriously undermined by the dispute currently underway relating to its composition and the legality of the some of its ruling. In such circumstances, the Tribunal is actually in no position to ensure an effective constitutional review of the acts adopted by the legislative authorities.

It is high time that all political forces commit to sit at the negotiating table and engage in good faith in a constructive dialogue aimed at restoring the authority of the Tribunal and its role as guarantor of the supremacy of the Constitution.

Any long-lasting solution to the constitutional situation that Poland is facing today should be firmly rooted on the principles of the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers, and take into account previous rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal, such as those of 3 and 9 December 2015.

The same principles apply to the reform of the ordinary court system, the Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary. The independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the Polish Constitution, and it is the duty of the Government and legislative authority to respect and protect this essential principle of rule of law. In accordance with the principle of separation of powers, the Government and the Parliament must refrain from any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process, particularly in relation to the appointment, dismissal and promotion of members of the judiciary.

They must also ensure that any modification of the mandatory retirement age does not adversely impact the security of tenure of judges.

The way out of this critical moment is to promote a fair, open and transparent process involving not only the parliamentary majority and the opposition, but also the judiciary, the Office of the Ombudsman and civil society actors. Any reform of the judiciary should aim at strengthening, not at undermining, the independence of the justice system and its actors. The independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers must constitute the guiding principles of any such reform.


You can read the full preliminary observations here.

Poland: CCJE Bureau publishes opinion on the Draft Act of September 2017

October 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Click here to read the Opinion of the Bureau of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) re Draft Act of September 2017 presented by the President of Poland amending the Act on the Polish National Council of the Judiciary and certain other acts.

Poland: UN expert to assess independence of justice system during visit

October 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Poland: UN expert to assess independence of justice system during visit

GENEVA (19 October 2017) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Diego García-Sayán will carry out an official visit to Poland from 23-27 October 2017, to assess the impact of the constitutional crisis on the composition and functioning of the country’s constitutional tribunal and the implications of the Government’s extensive reform of the judicial system….continue to read here (press rlease of the UN Special Rapporteur).

Council of Europe: Outcome of the Parliamentary Assembly session on 10-13 October 2017

October 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


PACE, 10-13 October 2017, Strasbourg

Amongst others, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) concluded as follows at its session:

New threats to the rule of law in Council of Europe member States: selected examples: Resolution 2188 (2017) of the Parliamentary Assembly

“The Assembly has thoroughly examined the situation in five member States: Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Turkey. Although the list of problems found in those States does not include all of those to be found in Council of Europe member States, the Assembly is concerned about some recent developments which put at risk respect for the rule of law, and, in particular, the independence of the judiciary and the principle of the separation of powers. This is mainly due to tendencies to limit the independence of the judiciary made though attempts to politicise the judicial councils and the courts (mainly in Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey), massive revocation of judges and prosecutors (Turkey) or attempts to do so (Poland) and tendencies to limit the legislative power of the parliament (the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Turkey). Moreover, corruption, which is a major challenge to the rule of law, remains a widespread phenomenon in Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova and Romania.” (To read the entire Resolution, click here.)

Venice Commission’s “Rule of Law Checklist”

The Assembly decides to:

6.1. endorse the Venice Commission’s Rule of Law Checklist;
6.2. use it systematically in its work, particularly in the preparation of reports of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee), in order to accurately identify any structural and systemic problems in the Council of Europe’s member States;
6.3. invite the national parliaments and government bodies, including the relevant ministries, when assessing the need for and the content of legislative reform, to refer systematically to the Rule of Law Checklist;
6.4. invite international and regional organisations, including the Council of Europe as a whole and the European Union, to refer regularly to the Rule of Law Checklist in their relevant work. In this connection, the Assembly congratulates the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on having taken the Rule of Law Checklist into account in his 2017 annual report on the situation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, and urges him to do so systematically in all his future annual reports;
6.5. encourage civil society to use the Rule of Law Checklist to objectively assess respect for the rule of law.
(To read the entire document, click here.)
Please click here for more information on the results of the PACE session.