The makeover of the judiciary sector in Macedonia is drawing praise.
By Aleksandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 22/03/13
Courts are becoming more proficient in Macedonia under the reforms. [AFP]
Once full reform is implemented in Macedonia's judiciary sector, the result will be a transparent and efficient justice system, experts said.
According to officials, citizens will be able to quickly resolve their disputes, judges will be held responsible for their work, and the system will be able to handle an increase in the fight against crime and corruption.
"The basic objectives of the changes are … increased efficiency of the court system, protection of citizen's rights, fast and efficient proceedings, prevention of the abuse of rights for corruption and implementation of European standards. These revolutionary changes will be implemented by July," the constitutional court in Skopje said in a statement.
About 30 new laws have been adopted over the last two years in an effort to line up with EU standards.
"The new law on the judicial council enables a system of assessment, stimulating … judges to make decisions on the basis of laws and … actual conditions, without accepting interventions or pressures. [Failure to do so] will prevent promotions and may even cause their dismissal," Trajce Arsov, a lawyer in Skopje, told SETimes.
The work of judges in the country will be assessed on the basis of the number of cases resolved and the number of the judge's cases that are confirmed, changed or cancelled by a higher court. The new system is expected to prompt judges to work with greater speed and to have more control in their cases, in a transparent manner.
In addition, the new package of reforms introduces new rules for employing judges who have more qualifications and psychological stability, thus reducing the possibility of improper decisions.
"Unlike before, judges now are being selected according to their quality. Proceedings are faster. I've waited for 4 years for my case, and I've had at least five hearings in the last five months. Previously my case was waiting in some court drawer. Now they work faster and with more quality," Skopje resident Slavko Dojcinovski told SETimes.
Establishing and developing a modern and efficient judiciary has been undertaken through an e-judiciary project. The information technology solutions and systems are in compliance with international and European standards, according to court officials.
"The project included the installation of 150 computers in 33 courts, which are used within the integrated court informational system. Through the system, the cases are electronically distributed to judges, avoiding subjectivity of the human factor when they are assigned," Arsov said.
A data centre for connecting different segments in the sector to efficiently exchange data and reports, is expected to be established soon.
In regard to commercial law, the business community requires even more fundamental changes. The Economic Chamber of Macedonia conducted a survey of its members at the end of last year on the efficiency of court procedures between companies.
"Court procedures are too long. The great disputes are mostly related to settlement of payments, and companies have problems in the implementation of their claims due to too-long procedures," Snezana Kamilovska, chamber member, told SETimes.
She said the disputes for payments should be resolved more proficiently. Often companies are not prepared to go to court, and they include a clause for arbitration for an alternative resolution.
Judiciary sector changes are on the agenda in most regional countries.
Politicians in Serbia are currently focused on reforming the network of courts in the country, according to Justice Minister Nikola Selakovik.
"Regarding the issue whether the court network is more rational and more functional than before, and whether the citizens can more easily and more efficiently protect their rights, the answer is negative. Serbia needs a change of the court network. The opening of new courts in some cities should not be understood as an opportunity to open new job positions for the administration, but as a need of citizens," Selakovik told parliament.
Serbia falls towards the end of the list of countries from the region with the lowest number of courts per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the European statistics. Only Macedonia is below Serbia in that average, having 1.1 courts per 100,000 inhabitants. Serbia has 1.7, while Bosnia and Herzegovina have 2.9, Montenegro has 3.8 and Croatia and Slovenia have more than 4.