Saturday, February 16, 2008

Court efficiency, judicial independence pressing issues for Macedonia

Judicial reform is a major challenge that Macedonia must meet in its efforts to join NATO and the EU. Two particular problem areas are efficiency of courts and independence of the judicial system.

In Macedonia, cases that would elsewhere take a maximum of six months to complete sometimes drag on for as long as a decade. Meanwhile, under the constitution, judges are elected by parliament, allowing the possibility of direct political influence on their selection.

"It must be ensured that the judges, themselves, elect members of the State Judicial Council in free elections," says legal expert Renata Deskoska.

"The parliamentary political parties should be aware of the meaning of this process, not only because of the Euro integration prospects, but also because Macedonians are faced every day with politically dependent judges and inefficient legal processes," Deskoska says. "The political parties should consider the interests of the people and reach greater consensus for constitutional changes."

Education of people working in the judicial system is also a crucial factor. As the country moves towards integration, its judiciary will be tasked with implementing European and international law. Newly organised judges will be called on to build a more efficient system. Adequate training is needed to achieve this.

According to experts from within the courts, the reforms will be very deep. They will include changes in the constitutional judiciary, by broadening its functions and competences and implementing the so-called "constitutional complaint" as a final measure for people to plead their case in court.

The reforms have to be carried out quickly, experts say. The window of opportunity for Macedonia's EU integration is open, but it may not remain open indefinitely.

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