*Honorable Members of the High Court, the High Judicial Council, Court Chairs, Court Chancellors, Ranking Members from Albania’s School of Magistrates, partners, and dear friends. Thank you for sharing your time with us today and thank you for this opportunity to address you all. I greatly appreciate the insights you all have shared with us about the current state of justice reform in Albania.
U.S. investments in the justice sector are showing results. I am encouraged by how courts throughout the country have improved their overall performance, how the High Court organized itself to address its growing case backlog, and that the School of Magistrates established a program for educating future generations of legal professionals.
As I’ve said before: Justice reform is not quick, it’s not easy, nor is it perfect. This is a journey that will take time and sustained effort. There is no alternative: justice reform is vital to Albania’s success as a nation, vital to its success as an economy, and vital to its success as building opportunities for its bright, energetic, and industrious population. It is an important pillar to realizing its future in Europe, as a member of the family of European democracies. As with any comprehensive undertaking, the only way to get where we are going is one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
Let me be clear: the United States fully backs Albania’s justice reform and its EU accession aspirations. We are with you krah për krah. As the President’s representative of the United States, I am personally committed to do everything I can to promote this reform as a means for ensuring a just, democratic, and secure future for Albanians. The Justice for All project has been one of several U.S commitments to support Albania’s justice reform. Our support will continue.
We are committed to working with you to ensure the Albanian court system is fully constituted and functioning. We want what the Albanian people want: that the people who sit on the bench or represent the prosecution are women and men of integrity and good faith, and who serve the people and serve the rule of law – not parochial or criminal interests. We want laws and systems that are designed to limit opportunities for corruption, and institutions in place that can effectively deter high-level corruption, fight organized crime, and punish its perpetrators.
We will continue our assistance in reducing the High Court’s weighty backlog, carrying on the backlog reduction program begun under Justice for All. We will continue to work closely with SPAK to ensure its prosecutors and investigators are well trained, well equipped, and highly effective. We will continue to support the vetting process to build confidence that the Albanian justice system truly does provide justice for all.
Through the new U.S-Albania Transparency Academy, we will improve transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors, linking together stakeholders to further Albania on its path to EU integration. The Academy will promote ethics and the open conduct of business and politics, and will create the capacity to enhance standards in line with the European Union. In doing so, the Academy will provide the ability to conduct more transparent business, watchdog and oversight functions, and increased accountability tools.
While gains have been made toward improving the functionality and integrity of the justice system, we all know the job is not over. We continue with our ongoing support of the vetting institutions through the presence of our U.S. international observer and the U.S. Embassy’s role on the IMO Board as guarantors of the process. We monitor the progress of the new justice institutions and encourage them to stand strong against the extreme pressures to cave and engage in corruption and criminal activity that will surely cast shade on Albania’s bright future.
Justice reform needs to be effective, and it also needs champions; people who make sure that these efforts are successful. Albania needs people like yourselves to be its champions. To step up, make tough decisions, and to take action. To become dedicated public servants who earn your position of public trust through daily commitment and ethical actions.
So, today I ask for your renewed effort and commitment to ensure that progress to date does not flounder, and that we continue this effort together, krah për krah, to carry out justice reform. The next stepping stone on this progressive journey is in sight, and I anticipate a fully functional High Court and expedited, equal access to justice throughout the country.
Finally, I would like to thank Anne Trice and the whole Justice for All team for their outstanding work over the past five years. Thank you for your dedication and commitment. This event celebrates these achievements and is a tribute to your efforts. Despite so many challenges, we can say that justice reform in Albania has come a long way and that your country is in a better place now compared n to when we started out. We are proud to be on this journey with Albania.
*as prepared for delivery