The Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe


With the initiative and under the direction of Chief Justice Mrs. Shpresa Beçaj, on 13 - 16 May 2012 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Albania organized Chief Justices’ Conference of Central and Eastern Europe.

Chief Justices and Representatives of the Supreme Courts of Albania, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Slovakia, Ukraine and judges, as well as distinguished lawyers from the United States of America attended the conference.

The Conference of Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts, started as an initiative of CEELI Institute based in Prague. However considering the interest and benefits shown by the participating justices, it was unanimously decided to have this conference organized annually in one of the participating countries. In support of the decision, Albania was the first country to open the proceedings for the "Conference of Chief Justices of Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe" on 13 - 16 May 2012.

The Conference welcomed many personalities of the country. On May 13, 2012 the Prime Minister of Albania, His Excellency, Mr. Sali Berisha delivered a short speech at the opening ceremony. In his speech His Excellency, Mr. Sali Berisha expressed his appreciation for the Supreme Court and the Albanian judiciary in general, which according to him, it had transformed in a relatively short period of time, from being one of the most politicized judiciaries on the planet, into judicial body which is less politicized and in full compliance with the law and justice. Mr. Berisha stated that a free society is primarily and above all, based in freedom and peace, but the main guarantor for freedom and peace, is a fair and consolidated justice system.

While on May 14, 2012, the President of the Republic His Excellency Mr. Bamir Topi, the American Ambassador in Albania His Excellency Mr. Alexander A. Arvizu, Mr. John M. Walker Jr., Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Clifford J. Wallace, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held the opening remarks appraising the importance of this conference, while considering it a bridge for future cooperation for the participating countries.

In his speech the President of the Republic of Albania, Mr. Bamir Topi expressed his privilege to attend this important, interesting and unique meeting, related to the development and issues judicial authorities and Supreme Court in each participating country are currently faced with. The judicial power is placed at the very fundaments of the modern societies which operate based on the principles of the rule of law. The role Supreme Courts exercise in every society is a factor in every achievement or any shortcoming of respective judiciaries, this kind of influence has a direct impact on the efforts of building a state model with democratic institutions and values.

During her speech Chief Justice Shpresa Beçaj opened the conference proceedings highlighting that Chief Justices participation is a living expression of support and encouragement to further strengthen the consultative mechanisms designed by a group of prominent American judges and lawyers, who through CEELI Institute have successfully organized the annual meetings of the Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe bringing to discussion common issues of particular importance for the reformation of our courts.

The United States Ambassador in Albania, Mr. Alexander Arvizu in his speech said: "I want to touch upon a matter which I am not aware of the way you are dealing with in your countries, but in Albania it is quite problematic, this is judicial immunity. In this country and perhaps in some of your countries, judges, parliamentarians and other senior officials enjoy a very wide immunity, not only from prosecution but also from investigations. No investigation can be held unless immunity is in force, thus destroying the secrecy necessary for a successful criminal investigation. If you want to improve the public perception of the judiciary then judges should not be above the law, and in particular above the criminal law. Transparency builds trust in the system. There will be no successful inquiries unless immunity is removed. Transparency is essential for an effective justice while effective justice requires independence of the judiciary ".

Mr. John M. Walker Jr. Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit thanked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Albania, Ms. Shpresa Beçaj for the efforts in materializing and organizing this conference as well as the Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts from 14 countries attending the conference and sharing their countries’ experiences. Mr. Walker highlighted that participants in this conference are experts themselves, as this is a conference from Chief Justices for Chief Justices. United Nations Resolution states that judicial independence should be reflected in the Constitution and all the institutions, national and international organizations should respect this independence. Chief Justice’s mission is difficult; they not only have to perform the role of the leader, but also must ensure a good court administration by establishing relations with other powers.

In his speech, Mr. Clifford J. Wallace, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stressed that joint discussion between Chief Justices for the administration of these institutions is a significant help justices give to each another, under the frame of court management.

During the conference, particular attention was dedicated to some of the major issues and problems justice system and Chief Justices are currently facing along their daily work. Mr. Walker posed several issues for discussion in relation to: public perception towards the judiciary, control by the other powers and institutional independence, perception of corruption in the courts which undermines public confidence, etc.

Some other important topics that were addressed in the conference were: Relations between Media and the Judiciary, moderated by Mr. Branko Hrvatin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Croatia; Selection of Competent Judges, by Mrs. Shpresa Beçaj, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Albania; Institutional Independence from Clifford J. Wallace; Funding of the Judiciary and the Problem of Intervention by the Executive and Legislative Powers, by Clifford J. Wallace; Encouragement for Legal Professionals and Effective Lawyers Training by Mr. Thimio Kondi, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Albania; Wages and Working Conditions of the Judiciary by John M. Walker Jr; Streamlining Procedure for Trials and Appeals by Mr. Constantine Kublashvili, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

In conclusion of the proceedings of the Conference of Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe, Chief Justice Beçaj thanked all participants for handling the discussions with great professionalism and providing thus a valuable asset to the Albanian judiciary, and other Central and Eastern European countries, but above all providing better tools to serve the citizens who expect justice. Mrs. Beçaj extended special thanks to Judge Walker for his commitment and contribution in organizing the conference since its early days, for the moderation and experience he brought to the conference, as well as the other American judges who attended the conference.

Some of the ideas proposed by the participants regarding the topics of the next 2013 conference were: the elaboration of a joint declaration of judicial independence, taking into consideration the Declaration of the Pacific Conference; the independence of the judiciary; correct reasoning and clear written judgments; issues related to anti-corruption, etc.

The works of the "Conference of Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe", was welcomed and praised by all participants, wishing for the next conference to be at the same level of success. The next Conference was unanimously decided to be organized the month of June 2013, in Montenegro.

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