Enlargement Package 2015

November 23rd, 2015 § 0 comments

On 10 November 2015, the European Commission released the 2015 Enlargement package – a set of documents explaining its policy on EU enlargement, including country reports.

Overall assessment:

“While there has been important progress over the past year, major challenges remain. With respect to the rule of law, judicial systems are not sufficiently independent, efficient or accountable. Serious efforts are still needed to tackle organised crime and corruption, in particular to establish track records of investigations, prosecutions and final convictions. While fundamental rights are often largely enshrined in law, shortcomings persist in practice. Ensuring freedom of expression is a particular challenge, with negative developments in a number of countries. Public administration reform needs to be pursued with vigour, to ensure the necessary administrative capacity as well as to tackle high politicisation and a lack of transparency. The functioning of democratic institutions also requires attention. There is a need to work even more closely with local civil society actors to anchor reforms across society”.

Country specific assessment of the state of the judiciary:

Albania‘s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. Substantial shortcomings in the judicial system remain regarding independence and accountability of judges and prosecutors, enforcement of decisions, inter-institutional cooperation, and the administration of justice which remains slow. The next crucial steps for a comprehensive reform of the judicial system are the adoption of a new strategic framework followed by the drafting of the relevant institutional, legislative and procedural measures. The performance of the State Commission for Legal Aid needs to be enhanced so as to cope with the pressing needs of a considerable number of vulnerable citizens. Six regional legal aid offices are yet to be set up.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation when it comes to consolidating a well-functioning judicial system. Following the adoption of the 2014-2018 Justice Reform Strategy, all activities relevant to its implementation need to be launched, including measures to improved judicial independence and efficiency. The country is still missing an effective free legal aid system to guarantee efficient access to justice.

• In Montenegro the judicial system is moderately prepared. Important steps were taken to align the legal framework with European standards, increasing professionalism and independence. A judicial reform strategy (2014-2018) and an accompanying action plan are in place. The full implementation of the new system of recruitment, professional assessment and promotion is now required.

Serbia’s judicial system has reached some level of preparation. The quality and efficiency of the judiciary and access to justice are, however, hampered by an uneven distribution of workload, a burdensome case backlog and the lack of a free legal aid system. Serbia is asked adopt, inter alia, a new law on free legal aid and enable smooth implementation in cooperation with main stakeholders.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The country’s judicial system has some level of preparation. The situation has been backsliding since 2014 because the achievements of the last decade’s reform process have been seriously undermined by actual and potential political interference in the work of the judiciary. The authorities now need to demonstrate real political will to ensure the full independence of the judicial system, including allowing the newly-appointed Special Prosecutor to work unhindered in investigating the wiretaps and their content. Legal aid is available under the 2009 Law on Free Legal Aid but its implementation is not yet widespread.

Turkey‘s judicial system has some level of preparation. There has been no progress since early 2014. The independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers have been undermined and judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure.

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