Ranko Pelicaric is a practicing lawyer based in Zagreb, Croatia. He is a former President of the Croatian Bar Association (from 2000 to 2006). Since February 2015, he has been chairman of the CCBE PECO Committee. He is also member of the Board of CBA, past President of the Local Bar of Zagreb and past representative of the CBA to the UIA.
1.What does PECO stand for?
PECO is an abbreviation of the French ‘Pays de l’Europe centrale et orientale’ which simply means ‘Countries of Central and Eastern Europe’.
2. What is the main role of the PECO Committee?
The PECO Committee aims to promote the Rule of Law and support the law reform process in Central and Eastern Europe. It has 38 members. The PECO Bars and Law Societies meet on a regular basis – around four times a year – in order to discuss developments concerning the legal profession in their countries or to voice any concerns. On these occasions, a Bar or Law Society might, for instance, simply report about reforms which are being carried out in its country but it may also ask the CCBE to intervene in a national matter or provide assistance, for example, when it believes that lawyers’ rights are being violated or the core values of the profession are at stake. The CCBE – through its PECO Committee – will look into the concerns raised by Bars and may provide assistance by issuing expert views and letters of support, or by carrying out surveys on national rules, or by sending expert lawyers to meetings and conferences in PECO countries, or by organising conferences and seminars on professional issues such as training of lawyers, ethics or mediation. The type of assistance will very much depend on the specific needs of the relevant PECO Bar/Law Society.
3. Which were the main concerns of the PECO Committee in the past? Which are the main concerns nowadays?
The main concerns of the PECO Committee in the past remain the same as nowadays, in my view. Our main concern is the situation of legal profession in PECO countries, where lawyers’ rights are continuously violated as a result of their professional work (e.g. harassment, imprisonment, disbarment). The Committee has also been dealing with a number of other issues of different nature – I would like to give two examples of recurrent matters:
– Rights of audience: for example, in Moldova, in 2014 and 2015, a number of members of the Moldovan Parliament promoted an initiative to amend the Code of Civil Procedure in order to expand the list of persons to be allowed to appear as representatives in proceedings before civil courts. The CCBE wrote to the Parliament to raise its concerns with these initiatives. The matter is also under discussion in Ukraine. Under current Ukrainian legislation, any person in Ukraine – without legal education – can provide legal advice to clients and represent them in courts in civil proceedings. Again, the CCBE intervened with a letter. It also participated in a conference on this theme in Kiev in June 2015.
– Legal aid: national legal aid regimes have caused some problems and concerns, for instance in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine. For example, in Ukraine, legal aid is provided by Legal Aid Centers. Lawyers working in these Centers have to pass a competition organized by the Ministry of Justice. Many say that these centers are not independent. The CCBE has started looking into the problems and concerns raised by the various Bars.
4. What are the plans of the PECO Committee for 2016?
- In May 2016, the CCBE Plenary will decide on the membership application of the Ukrainian National Bar Association. This is an important moment. The CCBE has already developed close relations with the Bar over the past two years, and in particular this year, when it organised together with the International Bar Association and the European Lawyers Foundation a conference in Kiev in June, in support of the Ukrainian National Bar Association and their plead for lawyers’ representation in civil court proceedings.
- The Committee is planning to organise a seminar on legal aid together with the Bar Association of Albania. The date and the details of the programme are to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
- The Committee will continue to follow very closely developments in Georgia. The physical violations which lawyers have been subject to over past years, as well as the violation of lawyers’ rights have caused particular concern in the CCBE. The CCBE wrote about it to the Georgian authorities in February 2014, June 2014 and 2015 and it has also taken up the issue at a European level. There have been improvements, but more needs to be done.
- Turkey has been in the centre of a number of discussions in the PECO Committee. The overall situation for lawyers in Turkey has been very difficult over the past years. The PECO Committee will continue to monitor this situation.
- The Committee will continue strengthening its contacts with the Bars in Belarus and Azerbaijan.
5. Can you tell us about the current challenges for lawyers in Croatia?
There are many, I could write an essay on the topic but, if I am to mention the two most important ones, it would be strengthening the professional and the social image of the lawyers and of the Bar. I am aware that it is very wide statement, but I really believe that with professional and with social image in our métier everything begins and everything ends. These two prerogatives are sine qua non for changing the lawyer’s position to better.