Minister Gjonaj, distinguished guests,
It is a pleasure to be here today to mark the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Justice Reform and the inauguration of this building that will house the High Prosecutorial Council, the High Judicial Council, and the School of Magistrates.
July 21, 2016 began with expectations of a morning vote in Parliament on the Constitutional reforms. These reforms had been in motion for almost two years. After all-day negotiations, the DP approved the draft. Then-Speaker Meta thanked Mr. Basha and Mr. Rama and praised them for their maturity during the negotiations, and said that the draft was ready to be approved.
The voting began after midnight on July 22. It was unanimous — everyone voted to make these historic changes. That vote shows what Albania’s leaders can do when they work together for the common good. By 1am, Albania had a new future, because Albanian politicians had the vision to tackle corruption together and move forward toward realizing EU accession dreams.
That was three years ago. Much has happened since.
Albania passed laws to implement the Constitution and then established a commission and appeals chamber for vetting. The European Union and United States established the International Monitoring Operation. This model of vetting judges and prosecutors has been the foundation for the rest of the reforms to take place.
Now, a large number – over 15% – of judges and prosecutors have been vetted. Some have passed and many have failed. That includes judges on the High Court and Constitutional Court. Some say that’s a problem, but we believe it shows that vetting is working and underscores why judicial reform was necessary: The old justice system had been captured long ago. It was captured by corruption and by those who operate in the shadows to hold Albania back. Judicial reform broke that illegitimate hold on the justice system and is returning it to the people.
Three years after that midnight vote, we now have a High Prosecutorial Council and a High Judicial Council. They consist of judges, prosecutors and lay members. The High Judicial Council is working to renew the High Court. The High Prosecutorial Council has been working on a crown jewel of the reforms: creating the SPAK. Both councils are busy building an effective governance system to improve efficiency, instill accountability and restore Albanians’ trust in the justice system. We stand in front of a new building that will soon give the High Prosecutorial Council, the High Judicial Council and the School of Magistrates a new, modern home.
This building will soon look upon an Albania with able, ethical judges and prosecutors. It will look upon an Albania with a SPAK and NBI doing their part to rid this country of corruption and organized crime. And Albanians will look upon this building as a symbol of the success of judicial reform. The young prosecutors being sworn in today will see great changes in Albania over their lifetime.
The United States has been standing with Albania, and we have encouraged these great changes. We stood with Albania when the reforms were unanimously approved three years ago. We have stood with Albania when vetting began and as it has cleansed the justice system. We stood with Albania during the creation of the judicial and prosecutorial councils. We are standing with Albania as the SPAK is being established. Rest assured, we will continue to stand with Albania as Justice Reform reshapes your future.
Thank you very much for this opportunity!