[Event] Europeanisation of judicial culture in the Western Balkans

21 June 2022
  • Starts at: 15:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Organiser: MATRA
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22
    2517 JN The Hague
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Join us for the presentation of the findings of the “Bridging the gap between formal processes and informal practices that shape judicial culture in the Western Balkans” MATRA Project. At this event we discuss the findings of research that combine an academic and practical approach to identifying the main shortcomings of judicial culture in three target countries in the region, namely, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. The project aims to complement the European Commission’s process of judicial Europeanisation and is a collaboration between the Institute for Democracy (IDSCS), Albanian Legal and Territorial Research Institute (ALTRI), Judicial Research Centre (CEPRIS)and the Asser Institute.

Background - The EU’s efforts to promote rule of law and the preparation of Central and Eastern European Countries for their accession to the EU
The EU’s efforts to promote the rule of law have intensified since the 1990s, when the European Commission played an active role in the preparation of Central and Eastern European Countries for their accession to the EU. However, even if the Commission’s methods to promote the rule of law have been refined through the years, the latest ‘new revised methodology’ announced in 2020 reveals that its approach in terms of substantive standards has not changed significantly. As a matter of fact, the so-called ‘anatomical approach’ solely focusing on formal rules and institutions has led to circumstances under which frequently outputs have mattered more than actual results and the means have been prioritised over the ends. This has contributed to the lack of sustainability of judicial reforms and the concomitant decrease in the quality of justice. The problems concerning the rule of law in several Member States that acceded to the EU in the latest rounds of enlargement, most prominent in Poland and Hungary, have clearly shown the ease with which judicial reforms can be reversed and how the respective judiciaries lack resilience to threats to their status and independence.

There is a certain pattern that could be recognised among most of the former socialist Member States, which is directly related to societal aspects of rule of law, i.e. legal and judicial culture. The latter, judicial culture, is defined as the embedded features of the systems structure that shape the way in which the work of a judge is performed and valued within particular legal systems. More specifically, the remnants of the socialist legal tradition, as part of the features of the present judicial culture in the former socialist states, have been standing in the way of full sustainability of EU induced judicial reforms.

Improving the European Commission’s approach and methodology for accession negotiations in reinforcing judicial independence in the Western Balkans
The success of judicial reforms and the safeguarding of judicial independence are facing obstacles and challenges that are not addressed through the Commission’s current approach in the Western Balkans. The countries of the region are struggling to implement the required standards in legal practice. This has been, arguably, a direct result of the fact that lawyers in the region know the legal rules and provisions by heart, but nevertheless often do not understand the underlying rationale and meaning of law. The general public is also often unaware of the shortcomings of their judicial culture, hence the public pressure for lasting reform is weak and often based solely on personal negative experiences with the judicial system.

The European Commission recognised and addressed this reality by stating that strengthening the rule of law is not only an institutional issue, but a process that requires broader societal transformation. In the area of rule of law, this means that the judicial culture needs to undergo certain changes and adaptations in order to internalise common values and standards of legal adjudication necessary to sustain the Europeanisation of the legal order. These common standards and values are directly related to self-perceptions of judges over their actual role in the system and the independence, impartiality and quality of justice, which are at the heart of the notion of judicial culture.

In this context the project aims to examine and improve the effectiveness of the European Commission’s new approach and revised methodology for accession negotiations in reinforcing judicial independence in Western Balkans.The projectfocuses on four dimensions of judicial culture that are closely related to the specific issues covered by the European Commission: (1) the role of judges in developing the law; (2) judicial self-governance and the post-socialist judicial culture; (3) the role of higher courts in securing uniform application of law; and (4) the importance of judicial independence of individual judges. 

15.00 – 15.05   Introduction and welcome (Dr. Narin Idriz – TMC Asser Instituut)
15.05 – 15.15   Preliminary remarks by Zoran Necev (Project manager - IDSCS)
15.15 – 15.35   Dr. Denis Preshova (Ss. Cyril and Methodius University / IDSC)
15.35 – 15.55   Dr. Fjoralba Caka (Tirana University / ALTRI)
15.55 – 16.15   Prof. Tanasije Marinkovic (University of Belgrade / CEPRIS)
16-15 – 16.45   Q&A
16.45 – 18.00   Reception

Further reading:

Judicial Culture and the Role of Judges in Developing the Law in Albania by Dr Fjoralba Caka and Dr Erind Merkur

Judicial Culture and the Role of Judges in Developing the Law in North Macedonia by Denis Preshova

Judicial Culture and the Role of Judges in Developing the Law in Serbia by Dr Tanasije Marinkovic

Separate but not Independent: The (In)Compatibility of the Judicial Culture with Judicial Self-Governance in North Macedonia by Dr Denis Preshova

Judicial Self-Governance and Judicial Culture in Serbia by Dr Tanasije Marinkovic