The initiative Open Judiciary promoted at the Regional Conference Western Balkans Peer Exchange Meeting

On the 3rd and 4th of October 2019 in Budva, Montenegro, representatives of CLRA’s Project team participated at the two-day regional conference titled “Western Balkans Peer Exchange Meeting”.

The conference was organized by the Regional School for Public Administration (ReSPA), the Open Government Partnership, the Government of Montenegro and the Government of North Macedonia.

The objective of this OGP regional event (Western Balkans Peer Exchange Meeting) is to enable an exchange of experiences and practical solutions regarding the implementation of the OGP process in the respective countries, along with a better understanding of the process and the basic OGP requirements; to introduce participants to the latest trends concerning a relevant set of open government topics, along with presentations of regional initiatives in those areas; and to define areas of joint future intervention. The meeting gathered representatives of the governments (ministers, senior professionals working as national OGP points of contact, others involved in the implementation of the OGP, including Senior IT professionals) and civil society organisations (working on the OGP) from the countries in the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia).

The Open Government Partnership recognized the potential and importance of CLRA’s Project activities involving Open Justice and welcomed and encouraged their promotion at this regional meeting. Hence, as part of the panel “Opening Justice”, CLRA’s representative presented the initiative Open Judiciary as a part of the British Embassy-funded Program titled “Enhancing the transparency, legal certainty and efficiency of the judicial system in North Macedonia”.

The presentation included a brief overview of CLRA’s work and implemented activities in general. Gorica Nadjinska from CLRA explained in detail how the Project got to the idea of introducing Open Judiciary in North Macedonia. In this part, it was stated that CLRA’s research so far, including the findings of the First National Report from the Judicial Indicator Matrix for Measuring the Performances and Reform in the Judiciary provided us with a baseline of all the segments that need improvement in the judiciary in North Macedonia, including the transparency and openness of the judicial institutions. It was stated that the Project took into consideration the reports of the European Commission as well as the main areas in need of strengthening as part of North Macedonia’s National Strategy for Reform of the Judicial Sector, as well as that the Project was following the Government’s achievements in the OGP platform. In addition, it was specified that after achieving great regional success in the opening of the Government and having North Macedonia introduce the Open Parliament a few years ago, the initiative for Open Justice came naturally as a contribution toward the three branches of power opening to the citizens of North Macedonia. Nadjinska also described the support of the British Embassy in Skopje of the justice reform process, stating that the Project is implemented with UK funds. At the end of the presentation, CLRA’s representative gave a detailed explanation of the activities of the Project, such as providing an overall assessment of the current situation regarding open data in North Macedonia’s judiciary, in line with the internationally established minimum standards of Open Justice, as well as the activities that follow, such as the establishment of working groups and the development of the very first action plan for Open Judiciary in North Macedonia, which will be part of the North Macedonia’s Action Plan for OGP.

The presentation resulted with a broad debate on the subject of Open Judiciary in the Balkans, whereby the participants explained and shared their respective overviews of the situation concerning openness of the judiciaries in the Western Balkan countries. Having in mind that Open Judiciary is a new concept to the Balkans that has never before been introduced in this part of Europe, the participants at the event, as well as the representatives from OGP underlined the importance of CLRA’s Project, stating it as a unique, positive and inspirational example for all other Western Balkan countries.

Gorica Nadjinska