Unilateral approval of vetting law brings back political deadlock

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 31, 2016 10:28

Unilateral approval of vetting law brings back political deadlock

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  • The opposition has warned it will take the new law to Constitutional Court and could also address the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe advisory body which helped draft the constitutional changes

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TIRANA, Aug. 30 - The ruling coalition showed unity on Tuesday when it approved on its own a vetting law requiring a qualified majority of three-fifths of votes, paving the way to the implementation of newly adopted justice reform, while the opposition Democrats boycotted the vote claiming the majority targets capturing the justice system through the law that will scan all judges and prosecutors.

In a special session called on August 30, almost a month after the unanimous vote on the constitutional changes to the justice reform, the Socialist Party-led majority approved by 88 votes a vetting law that   will scan all judges and prosecutors for their professional proficiency, moral integrity and independence from the influence of the organized crime, corruption and political power.

The unilateral approval breaks the historic July 22 unanimous approval of the justice reform and brings back a political deadlock which could put its implementation into risk.

The opposition has warned it will take the new law to Constitutional Court and could also address the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe advisory body which helped draft the constitutional changes.

The opposition Democratic Party, which attended the session but walked out of Parliament just before the vote, said the new law runs counter to the constitutional changes.

Opposition MPs claim that under the approved changes the vetting process will be monitored by government controlled institutions such as the Directorate of Money Laundering Prevention and the High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets and that judges risk being fired even through compromising pictures with people previously convicted or facing criminal charges or witnesses testifying this.

"The Prime Minister is seeking to clean the justice system and vet judges and prosecutors on his own, with his ministers and political directors and the country's opposition as every opposition in a Democratic country cannot accept the political capture of this process," said opposition Democratic Party MP Eduard Halimi.

"The opposition will not vote a draft law without consensus that violates the Constitution and European standards. The opposition will follow every path to protect the July 22 Constitution for a justice reform based only on this Constitution and the best Euro-Atlantic standards," said Halimi.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the majority paved the way for the implementation of the reform that will make it impossible for judges to continue their job if they don't meet standards and put an end to politicians escaping justice.

"Today the caste of corrupt people got a clear message. Albanians received another confirmation of the unwavering will by the majority to give the country denied justice for so many years. We approved the basic law of a series of laws that will be built step by step. This historic process will take years," said Rama, accusing the opposition of not wanting the reform.

The United States embassy in Tirana, one of the key supporters of the reform, welcomed the vote, saying  "We look forward to the full and timely approval of the remaining implementing laws for this critical reform which enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of Albanians."

Albania's political leaders needed 18 months of talks and mediation by U.S. and EU diplomats to reach a last-minute deal on a long-awaited justice reform to tackle the country's highly perceived corrupt judiciary and pave the way for the country to launch EU accession talks.

While the constitutional changes unanimously approved last July have already entered into force, the justice reform implementation requires the approval of sixth other  organic laws, the first of which was the vetting law.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 31, 2016 10:28