Thank you very much! I am very glad that we found a way to do this meeting together even though COVID-19 is preventing us from meeting in person.
It is a very challenging time and so your willingness and ability to adapt is more important than ever. This is a difficult time for everyone. There is not a single area of life, public or private, unaffected by the current global pandemic. All over the world, leaders are finding their way through extraordinarily circumstances. And as in every crisis, leadership is being tested – but an essential truth remains: we continue to rely on clear and open communication, creativity, and resilience and adaptation to inspire and empower our teams to work smarter and remain unified in our vision and purpose, despite any of the challenges that we face.
By extension, we all understand that well-performing judicial systems are established on a strong foundation of building the bonds of public trust; focusing on accountability and transparency; and engaging in proactive communication.
To that end – as you face the challenges of COVID-19 and even some still recovering from the earthquake – I urge every Council Member, every Court Chair and Deputy Chair, to maintain your focus on the powers of responsibility and opportunity to stay on the right path. We all know that the right path is very often not the easy one. And this is particularly true in Albania. I ask that everyone of you communicate more, with each other and with the public, that you deploy creative and effective strategies to forge the justice system that the Albanian people both demand and deserve, and to do it in a transparent way. Your collective and successful leadership will leave a treasured legacy – for your children and your children’s children. To inherit a strong justice system that can serve as the foundation of economic progress, rule of law to protect human rights and dignity, and social stability grounded in a respect for the principal of equality.
Crisis management is not simply managing THE crisis. It is making it THROUGH the crisis to ensure that both extraordinary circumstances and day-to-day goals and objectives are met. The High Court is a perfect example of this. The Court now faces an extraordinary challenge with COVID-19 but that does not mean that the work stops. It does not mean that citizens are denied services or that the High Judicial Council pauses in the appointment of judges, legal advisors, or other support mechanisms. On the contrary, these additional resources become even more critical to the overall and ongoing functionality of the court.
Ensuring the High Court is functional – is at the heart of why we are here today. The High Court has many obligations. If the High Court is not functional, justice is not only delayed; it is denied. If it is not functional, lower courts suffer from a lack of guidance on standardization of practice, meaning citizens may not enjoy a balanced delivery of justice. If it is not functional, your Constitutional Court also cannot be functional, which further degrades citizen’s right to relief and hampers an important check and balance function in government. The lack of a functional High Court also delays Albania’s EU accession progress, which, again, affects every citizen in this country.
The U.S. supports Albania’s justice reform, as you know, and your accession goals, as well. Our support is strong and will remain so. And I am personally committed as the representative of the President of the United States do to everything I can to support the restoration of the High Court, in order to pave another stone to achieving broader democratic and security objectives.
I call on the High Judicial Council to energize your pledge of responsibility and commitment to restore the High Court. I am confident we will have a fruitful discussion today, one that outlines our mutual expectations. I look forward to discussions focused on proactive solutions, for example to ensure that the citizens who are party to the more than 35,000 cases sitting at the court will have both a restored court and a restored sense of hope. And, I look forward to sharing how both the EU and the United States can support you for these concrete solutions.
Let me just say that there’s no denying that judicial reform is at critical stage. you play a role that is extremely important. I remember when we met many months ago at the Embassy, when I first came to Albania. We had a good discussion and i think in that context, I might have called you the heroes of Albania. and it is true. But heroism is not free, is not easy, it requires sacrifice, it requires brave decisions, sometimes it requires being unliked and unpopular, and it requires the ability to stand up to pressure and assault. I know you are being attacked. I know it. I hope you stand strong. Because this is a really important moment. If you give in to pressure now, if you choose not to do the right thing because it is easier to avoid conflict, then you will not be a hero, you will not be honored. I can guarantee you this. But if you do the right thing at this very important moment, people will remember, I will remember, the US will remember what you have done in this very, very important moment.
Thank you again for the opportunity of this meeting and I am looking forward to our discussion.