Presentation of the Functional Analysis and the Improvement plan of the Situation of Basic Courts in the Republic of North Macedonia

On November 18, 2021, the Center for Legal Research and Analysis presented the Functional Analysis and the Improvement  Plan of the Basic Courts in Republic of North Macedonia. This analysis completes the process of detailed review of all judicial institutions in the country, as a basis for further comprehensive and in-depth reform in the judicial sector, through several key areas: independence and impartiality, efficiency of basic courts, transparency and accountability, quality of judicial justice, human resources, technical conditions and capacities, availability and use of information computer technology, financing of the judiciary and gender perspectives.

The event was attended by the presidents and court administrators of the basic courts, the presidents of the appellate and administrative courts in the country, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, as well as other representatives of the non-governmental sector and  judicial institutions in the country.

The President of the Supreme Court of Republic of North Macedonia, judge Besa Ademi welcomed the entire process of comprehensive analysis of the state of the courts, not only through theoretical explanation, but also through field and direct insight in the functioning of the courts with the currently available capacities. She highlighted that this document is a solid basis for creating a new Strategy for Judicial Reform 2023 – 2027, giving a clear overview of the overall situation of the basic courts that occupy a significant part of the judicial system, thereby proposing precise guidelines for the next steps in the judiciary.

The Minister of Justice, Mr. Bojan Maricic, expressed satisfaction with the long process of cooperation between the Ministry of Justice, the Center for Legal Research and Analysis and the British Embassy in Skopje. He assessed that the Functional Analysis and the Improvement plan of basic courts will contribute to the effort for overcoming the systemic shortcomings in the functioning of the judiciary, as a good basis in the process of amending existing and adopting new procedural and systemic laws in the field of justice. The Minister pointed out that the next 2022 brings a bigger budget for the judiciary and an increase in the salaries of the judges, the court administration, as well as the salaries of the public prosecutors in the country.

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom in North Macedonia, Ms. Rachel Galloway, welcomed the long-term cooperation between the institutions, emphasizing the importance of preparing such analysis that concretize the process of judicial reform, based on european and international standards. She stated that the progress of the judiciary is visible in all segments of its functioning if a comparison is made with the past years and efforts for improving the current situation in the judiciary should be continued.

Mr. Dzemali Saiti, President of the Macedinian Judges Association, pointed out that the Functional analysis and the Improvement plan of basic courts are a form of early detection of shortcomings and the introduction of proposed measures in which direction the most relevant stakeholders in the justice sector should move.

The President of the Basic Civil court in Skopje, judge Ilir Sulejmani emphasized that the preparation of this comprehensive analysis enables a thorough analysis of the functioning of the courts. According to him, in order to improve the work of the courts, it is necessary to fill the number of judges as envisaged, stating that specifically in the Civil Court there is a major shortcoming in the number of judges as well as in the team with which the judges work, that directly calls into question the quality of the decision. He concluded that such a process of discussion among judges could lead to finding concrete solutions to improve the situation.

Mr. Sasho Temelkoski, President of the Association of Court Administration in Republic of North Macedonia, said that the preparation of this analysis is a special challenge for the courts and court administration in terms of explaining its budget requests and projections through argumentative representation before the other two authorities. He states that the Functional Analysis and the Improvement Plan are an important basis for recognizing the real problems and that the activities undertaken so far should not be finished, because there is a process of monitoring the reforms that should be undertaken in accordance with the analysis. He also pointed out that the judicial service continues to be supportive of all further analysis and processes of judicial reform as before.

Ms. Lidija Stojkova-Zafirovska, President of the Center for Legal Research and Analysis expressed gratitude to all participants in the process of preparation of the Functional Analysis and the Improvement plan of basic courts, emphasizing that only the joint commitment and engagement of all relevant stakeholders including all staff structures in the courts, may result in a credible process of reform and advancement of the judiciary.

The findings and recommendations from the functional analysis were presented by part of the team of experts who worked on the analysis, Zarko Hadzi-Zafirov, Elena Mujoska and Jugoslav Gjorgjievski.

In the second part of the presentation, the experts concluded that the judiciary functions as part of the state budget system, does not have its own independent budget, while procurement and employment in the court are still subject to approval by the Ministry of Finance, and they are not implemented in time. It was briefly concluded that since 2010 with the determination of the court budget of 0.8% in the Law on Court Budget, not once has the court budget been provided in the legally envisaged amount. Accordingly, it is inevitable to influence the improvement of the material and financial status of the courts and the judicial service through cooperation between all three authorities. In addition to the above, it was concluded that the existing technical and spatial capacities in the courts are insufficiently developed, i.e. the court infrastructure, including all aspects, disrupts the smooth functioning of the courts. The lack of material and human resources in the courts leads to the need for urgent review of the systematization of job positions in all basic courts, i.e. the existing number of human resources in the court does not correspond to the real need in the overall process.

In the part of the open discussion, the judges stated that a direct dialogue between the three authorities is inevitable, as well as that all conditions for smooth functioning of the courts should be met, as a precondition for quality and efficient decision-making.

Gorica Nadjinska