Judicial Reform ‘Will Help Business in Albania’

The proposed judicial reform will help to improve the business environment because local and foreign investors often face corrupt or politically-influenced judges in property disputes, experts said.

The currently-stalled judicial reform programme would have an indirect impact in boosting the country’s economic situation by giving more guarantees to investors, the executive director of Albania’s Centre for Economic Research, Zef Preci, told BIRN.

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Executive director of Albania’s Centre for Economic Research, Zef Preci

“The constant concern of Albanian and foreign investors is the political influence and bribery that leads decision-making in the country’s courts,” Preci said.

“The reform will increase the professional standard of judicial officials, it will lead to more decision-making based on the law and will lift impunity for those who will not [act according to the law],” he said.

EU representatives in the country have argued that a reformed judiciary will create a better climate for investors and more trust in the legal system.

The 2015 EU progress report for Albania said that the problem was critical.

“There is insufficient accountability of judges and prosecutors and corruption within the justice system is widespread,” it said.

Preci said that judges who drag out cases without making timely rulings create further obstacles for business development and additional costs for companies in Albania.

The most problematic issue for investors is property, he argued.

“The corruption prevailing over the property issue has made Albania less attractive as a country in the eyes of investors and made it score low in business index reports,” he said.

The Business Index 2015-2016 report published in June by the American Chamber of Commerce said that 30.6 per cent of business people surveyed by the chamber believe that the situation regarding private property in Albania is bad or very bad, while 23.9 per cent consider it good.

“The issues of private property remain unsolved,” said one of the comments reproduced in the report.

When it come to the overall relationship between business and the courts, 29.6 per cent said it was bad or very bad and 16.7 per cent said it was good.

The proposed judicial reform is aimed at reducing corrosive political influence on the judiciary, but is being stalled by the opposition Democratic Party which objects to the idea of US and EU officials taking an active role in vetting judicial appointments, arguing that it compromises Albania’s sovereignty.

In the last World Bank ‘Doing Business’ index in 2015, Albania fell 35 positions in terms of the overall climate for doing business, from 62nd to 97th.

Balkan Insight
20 July 2016