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EUKOJUST assists the certification of Albanian-Serbian translators and court interpreters

Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) organized this week a written exam for the certification of Albanian-Serbian language translators and court interpreters, for the very first time.

Almost 100 candidates attended the test organized by the KJC testing and evaluation Commission and the KJC supporting staff members. EU/Kosovo Justice Sector Program – EUKOJUST, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – OSCE monitored the process.

EUKOJUST contributed also to the Regulation on the Certification of Translators and Court Interpreters. In addition, EUKOJUST is actively involved in supporting and advising Kosovo Judicial Council on establishing norms and regulations for a professional management of translation services at courts and prosecutions offices. 

EUKOJUST Access to Justice Expert Alina Laura Matache continues supporting and monitoring the entire competition process, while the Programme continues to improve access to justice, particularly for women and disadvantaged or marginalized groups, specific activity focus on Improving quality of translations, including non-majority official languages.

KJC was grateful to monitors for contributing to this process, as the goal is to increase transparency and ensure a smooth running of the certification process of Albanian-Serbian language translators and court interpreters.

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Discussing the Strategic Development Plan of the Ministry of Justice 2022 – 2025

During a two-day workshop, which started on May 12, Ministry of Justice officials and EUKOJUST experts are discussing in Prizren the Strategic Development Plan of the Ministry of Justice for the period 2022 – 2025.

In general, the activity aims to provide support to the Ministry of Justice in restructuring so it can successfully deal with the challenges of the EU integration process and in implementing reforms in the rule of law sector. In this regard, the Ministry of Justice has established a Working Group for drafting and finalizing the Strategic Development Plan of the Ministry of Justice for the period 2022-2025, and the goal is to have the Plan finalized during this workshop. The Workshop is also serving for reflection on the competences, roles and responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice and its internal units.

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EUKOJUST continues to support the KJC in completing its legislative framework

On 28 and 29 April EUKOJUST supported Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) in further advancing its legislative framework through a workshop held in Peja. In this Workshop, Kosovo Judicial Council, Court Presidents, Judges, Legal Experts have been working together in drafting/finalizing six different sub-legal acts, which include the following:

  • Catalogue regarding job descriptions in Courts, the Secretary, and the Judicial Inspection Unit.
  • Regulation on the functioning of the KJCS and the JIU.
  • Draft regulation on the status, rights, obligations, performance appraisal, disciplinary procedure, and termination of employment of professional associates
  • Draft regulation on non-financial assets.
  • Draft regulation amending the regulation on transfer of judges.
  • Discussion regarding the quality of data, electronic file of judges as well as addressing issues related to Criminal Evidence.

EUKOJUST Experts Alban Krasniqi and Arben Isufi are supporting this activity with expertise in the relevant fields.

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EUKOJUST holds its 6th Steering Committee Meeting

The sixth Steering Committee meeting of the European Union / Kosovo Justice Sector Programme EUKOJUST, was held on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 in Pristina. The Chair of the Kosovo Judicial Council, Mr. Albert Zogaj chaired the meeting, in which the Kosovo Minister of Justice, Ms. Albulena Haxhiu, Director of the EUKOJUST Project from IRZ, Ms. Teresa Thalhammer and Mr. Nicola Scaramuzzo from the EU Office in Kosovo were also present.

The representatives of the key judicial institutions in Kosovo discussed in the meeting the activities and achievements of the Project presented in the 5th quarterly report covering the period January – March 2022 and presented their views on the way forward.

Following the discussion, the Steering Committee voting right members, including Mr. Albert Zogaj – Chair of the Judicial Council, Mr. Enver Peci – President of the Supreme Court, Mr. Jetish Maloku – Chair of the Prosecutorial Council, Ms. Sevdije Morina, Deputy Chief State Prosecutor, Ms. Kadrije Bicaj from the Academy of Justice, Mr. Mentor Borovci – from the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Naser Canolli – Official Gazette agreed on the date of next Steering Committee meeting and its chair.

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Special Laws vs Law on Minor Offences: harmonization initiated

Harmonization of Special Laws with the Law on Minor Offences was the core topic of the workshop jointly organized by the Legal Office of the Prime Minister’s Office (LO-OPM) and EUKOJUST on Friday, April 15, 2022 in Pristina. Representatives from line ministries, Assembly, judiciary, and defense lawyers attended the workshop and presented their views on this important issue.

The LO-OPM has done recently a piloting regarding the harmonization of special laws falling under the administrative responsibility of the of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, which was presented today.

The outcomes of this pilot have demonstrated the outmost importance of the process regarding the fundamental principles of legality and respect of human rights by ensuring that minor offences and their accompanied sanctions are stipulated only through laws and not sub-legal acts, likewise to the principle of legal certainty by enabling citizens and other entities to plan and adapt their actions according to laws that are stable, accessible, foreseeable, and consistent. Moreover, the piloting has demonstrated the importance of the harmonization of the Law on Minor Offences with the EU Acquis, especially the six directives on procedural rights that LO-OPM has already planned with EUKOJUST to use as a pilot regarding the pre-screening thematic approach.

There remains a high number of laws within other ministries that stands in a stark contrast with principles enshrined in the instruments mentioned above. Owing to this, the LO-OPM and EUKOJUST are planning to continue this fundamental legal reform that moves the respect of the rule of law and human rights a step forward, said EUKOJUST Team Leader, Volkmar Theobald.

“We consider that it is necessary to identify these specific laws that need to be amended to ensure the required legal harmonization. Such a harmonization process needs to be done in coordination with line ministries,” said Theobald.

With this workshop the EUKOJUST aimed at discussing with all stakeholders the modalities of action for the next phase of the process of legal harmonization. The Harmonisation of Special Laws with the Law on Minor Offences will constitute a significant legal reform.

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The reform on three important rule of law areas initiated

A workshop on drafting the reform in three important rule of law areas in Kosovo is underway. The EU-funded project, EUKOJUST, is supporting justice institutions in drafting the Concept Document on Civil Procedure Code, Concept Document on Administrative and Labor Justice, and on the initiative to amend the Law on Special Chamber of the Supreme Court. The current reforms represent an ideal opportunity for tangible improvement in the three areas that these documents aim to address.

Representatives of Kosovo’s highest justice institutions pledged to contribute to the process of drafting concept papers that will assist in the process of reforming the areas that have so far lagged in operation.

The Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, expressed her commitment that everything requested from the Ministry of Justice will be addressed. “I am aware of the problems you face on daily basis. I know we have many challenges, but just as there is no lack of will, we will prioritize the problems and we will address them until solved completely”, said Haxhiu. Minister Haxhiu praised the assistance and support that EUKOJUST is providing to this very important process for citizens, the country, and the judiciary in general.

The Chair of the Kosovo Judicial Council, Albert Zogaj, expressed his gratification that the initiative of the Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court is now becoming real with the support of EUKOJUST. “This makes me believe that the results will be fast and visible,” said Zogaj. He commended the involvement of the judiciary in such a large and voluminous composition for such initiative, while this may be the first time. Zogaj said that the issues identified in the system by the Council, the Ministry and the Supreme Court make necessary the substantial reform of procedural justice in Kosovo.

The President of the Supreme Court, Enver Peci, expressed his gratification with the comprehensive commitment of institutions in this workshop for an important process of reforming the justice system, in particular for the constructive and positive spirit of work in the workshop. He agreed on the need for reform in terms of the functioning of some units where delays have been identified. Peci said that addressing these issues is a challenge, but he was optimistic that with the will and commitment of all the best legal modalities in terms of well-functioning will be found.

EUKOJUST Team Leader, Volkmar Theobald, said to be delighted to the growing cooperation with institutions and to witness project’s support intensifying. Theobald emphasized that today’s event marks the start of the reform in three areas that EUKOJUST shall support the Ministry of Judicial Council. On behalf of the EU Office in Kosovo, project manager Nicola Scaramuzzo addressed the workshop.

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New regulation on CMIS use is being drafted with EUKOJUST support

EUKOJUST is supporting Kosovo Judicial Council with a workshop on 7 and 8 April to draft a new regulation on the use of Case Management Information System (CMIS) in the judiciary system. This two-day workshop will serve as a platform to identify and address emerging issues pertaining to the use of CMIS by judges and the supporting staff of courts and KJC. Furthermore, the workshop is going to tackle key aspects of CMIS encompassing the work of basic courts, appellate court as well as supreme court against the backdrop of streamlining processes regarding statistical reporting and interconnecting this system with other platforms in place.

The Regulation is conceptualized as a blueprint to provide a clear description of the entire work processes in the court system through CMIS, starting from the receipt of submissions/case files, registration, scanning and automatic allocation of cases to judges through CMIS. Moreover, it is going to track all actions undertaken by the judge, communication of judges with courts through the system. New draft of the regulation aims to further clarify communication between the court system: Basic Court – Appellate Court – Supreme Court and Electronic data exchange with the Prosecution Service will be better streamlined.

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EUKOJUST supporting Prime Minister’s Office for a more structured approach on legal approximation

EUKOJUST is supporting the Legal Office of the Office of the Prime Minister (LO-OPM) and relevant stakeholders to take a more structured approach on legal approximation, i.e. following the National Program for the Implementation of the SAA, to assess conformity of national law with the EU acquis comprehensively regarding the areas identified in that Program.

This constitutes a new approach and requires guidance and capacity building. This guidance and methodology are set out in the Approximation Manual which was updated by EUKOJUST and where the introduction of the pre-screening thematic approach to Legal Approximation with the EU Acquis is central.

Given the importance of the Manual for the improvement of the legal and institutional framework with regard to EU Approximation, EUKOJUST in cooperation with the LO-OPM organized a two-day workshop on 29 and 30 of March 2022 in Peja where the first draft of the updated Manual elaborated by EUKOJUST was discussed and agreed upon with relevant stakeholders, such as LO-OPM, MoJ and Assembly.

During the Workshop EUKOJUST experts explained the difference between the thematic and ad hoc approach, use of terminology consistently by differentiating between the overarching concept of approximation, including the harmonization of national law with directly applicable EU legal act on one hand and transposition of directive on the other hand, the different approximation requirements for directly applicable EU legal acts and directives, suggests a different analytical focus for Tables of Concordance (ToCs) for directives and for directly applicable EU acts, suggests standards for citations of EU law, provided an in-depth guidance for the elaboration of ToCs and provided updates (new case law, missing differentiation, ..). It was evident that the representatives of the beneficiaries are well aware of the process and the challenges in legal approximation. The difference between the thematic and the ad hoc approach were understood and the benefits of the thematic approach, though more work intensive, were acknowledged. Also, the advantages of taking a different in approach for the harmonisation of directly applicable EU law and directives which need to be transposed was recognized. The participants however stressed, that comprehensive training will be needed to introduce these novelties to the legal drafters in all line ministries and administrative bodies involved in legal approximation.

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Chief Prosecutor Lumezi hosted the representatives of the EUKOJUST Project

Prishtina, April 4, 2022- The Chief State Prosecutor, Aleksandër Lumezi hosted the representatives of the EUKOJUST Project, led by the former EULEX Chief Prosecutor, Johannes Van Veerswijk, engaged as an expert in this project, accompanied by another expert, Cristian Nicoara.

Chief Prosecutor Lumezi and experts Veerswijk and Nicoara had fruitful discussions on the joint activities undertaken so far as well as the ones expected to be undertaken within the EUKOJUST Project, which aim to improve the prosecutorial system, especially in advancing transparency, accountability and strengthening the ethics of the prosecutors.

They also exchanged views on strengthening the role and position of prosecutors and their specialization in handling criminal cases. Chief Prosecutor Lumezi praised the support of the EUKOJUST Project provided to the institution of the State Prosecutor and expressed his readiness to deepen cooperation and partnership with the EUKOJUST project in the future.

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The role of the lawyer in representing the victims of Domestic Violence

EUKOJUST project, in cooperation with the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates (KCA), organized a one-day training on the topic “The Role of the Lawyer in representing the victims of Domestic Violence”. The training was delivered by the EUKOJUST Long Term Expert on Public Legal Education / Domestic Violence and Marginalized Groups Bardhë Krasniqi and Legal Advisor Nita Bejta to over 60 lawyers licensed by the KCA from the Peja region.

The focus of the training was building professional capacities of lawyers on protection from domestic violence, national legal framework including the latest trends in international law and jurisprudence, as part of the continuous legal education programme under the KCA umbrella, as well as building the soft skills of lawyers to understand the dynamics of domestic violence situations. The lawyers benefited both from the professional point of view and from the good experience of the trainers.

The training was delivered under the EUKOJUST project’s specific objective on strengthening access to justice for all citizens in Kosovo, particularly in the field of domestic violence and disadvantaged or marginalized groups.

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Protection of judges and prosecutors while dealing with corruption

On 29 and 30 March 2022, EULEX and EUKOJUST together with the Kosovo Justice Academy, organized a joint workshop for judges and prosecutors, especially the ones working in high-profile cases at the Special departments of the Basic Court Pristina and the Court of Appeal, and at the SPRK. The topic of the workshop was the protection needed and required for judges and prosecutors while dealing with corruption and other similar types of cases.

The topic raised a lot of interest for the participants, allowing a fruitful exchange of ideas and professional experiences. The first day of the workshop was dedicated to establishing the international and domestic legal basis for the support required, followed by identifying and thoroughly debating potential risks and threats the judges and prosecutors are or may be confronted with. During the second day, media representatives were invited for an in-depth discussion on the role media is playing in conveying various messages, while the rest of the day was dedicated to thorough debate regarding means and mechanisms to address the perceived threats.

EUKOJUST was glad to partner with EULEX in delivering this activity by moderating the workshop and providing solid professional expertise to the debates. Such inter-institutional cooperation within the EU-family was highly appreciated by all participants and will certainly continue in the future.

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Strengthening access to justice through judicial training in partnership with civil society

The needs and the benefits of mutual cooperation between the Kosovo Academy of Justice (KJA) and civil society in Kosovo were discussed in Pristina on Monday, 28 March 2022, at a workshop organized jointly by KJA and the EU Program for the Justice Sector, EUKOJUST.

The workshop aimed to discuss the foundation of a constructive coordination mechanism between the Academy of Justice and civil society organizations in delivering training and capacity-building activities in the rule of law area under Friends of the Academy umbrella.

In line with the approved Kosovo Rule of Law Strategy and Action Plan, EUKOJUST is facilitating the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between civil society organizations and Justice Academy. The MoU foresees using the experience and capacities of non-governmental organizations in promoting good practices for judges, prosecutors, and support staff in matters related to corruption, organized crime, and access to justice.

The event was attended by several NGOs representing every aspect of civil society and directly involved in monitoring the judiciary, including having an active role in providing comments to legislative initiatives. The civil society organizations attending the event such as, Kosovo Law Institute (KLI), Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI), the Kosovar Gender Studies Center (KGSC), Advocacy Training and Resource Center (ATRC), Center for Social Group Development (CSGD), Centre for Equality and Liberty (CEL), Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE), Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), responded positively to the call on being part of the new coordination mechanism, such as Friends of the Academy.

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Standardizing the status of civil servants in the judiciary

The drafting of the concept document for civil servants of the administrative staff of courts and prosecutor’s offices has entered an important stage. Representatives of relevant judicial system institutions assisted by experts from the EU-funded project on justice reform, EUKOJUST, provided a valuable contribution in advancing the work on the concept document, during a two-day workshop held in Peja.

Following an introductory session by the chair of the working group, Ruzhdi Osmani, and deputy chairs, Shkëlzen Maliqi, and Valdrin Krasniqi, the participants engaged into a substantial debate on the concept document, including the Definition of the problem – discussion of analysis and data collected by the working group; Discussion of the existing legal framework – including relevant policy papers, laws and sub-legal acts; Discussion and drafting of the part on causes and effects of the identified problems and inclusion of stakeholders; and Finalisation of the table with the existing legal and policy framework – institutions and their responsibilities over policy issues were analysed.

Under this activity EUKOJUST Project aims to help local institutions improve the managerial capabilities of the judiciary, including the administration of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council and the Kosovo Judicial Council, Courts and Prosecution offices. Thus, this activity does not only cover the judges and prosecutors, but equally the staff providing administrative or otherwise support in the process of delivering justice.

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Substantive discussion on the Standards and Principles for Drafting of Legal Acts

An in-depth and substantive discussion on the Standards and Principles for Drafting of Legal Acts co-organized by the Legal Office of the Office of the Prime Minister and the EUKOJUST project took place on Monday, 28 February in Pristina.

The workshop addressed issues related to the constitutional interpretation of some concepts such as the concept of legal acts, their hierarchy, and their categorization. There was a broad discussion also over the dilemma of which authorities that can issue legal acts and in what capacity, if so.

The discussion took place at a time when Kosovo authorities are waiting for the draft law on legal acts. Several constitutional issues were also discussed, which are a precondition for the continuation of the work on drafting relevant manuals on the standards of legislation drafting.

EUKOJUST aims among others to provide assistance to the legal office within the office of the Prime Minister to finalise the draft of the administrative instructions on standards of drafting the legal acts.

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Drafting of a Concept Document for realizing civil rights is underway

A two-day workshop focused on the Concept Document for realizing civil rights, including the right to fair trial within a reasonable time, started in Peja today, jointly organised by the Ministry of Justice and the EU-funded project EUKOJUST.

The workshop aims at drafting a concept document within a reasonable time by bringing together key stakeholders in the rule of law institutions and civil society.

In a diverse variety and composition of participants, including judges, civil servants, experts, and members of civil society, there was a fruitful exchange of views and contribution to ensure effective work in drafting the Concept Document, in the first day of the workshop.

The activity is part of the EUKOJUST Objective 4 Access to Justice, support to the Ministry of Justice on legislative initiatives on civil rights, and in line with the approved Kosovo Rule of Law Strategy and Action Plan.

The Strategy foresees an intervention directed towards increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of legal remedies through the improvement of the legal guarantees for judicial protection related to the achievement of fundamental rights in criminal, civil, and administrative matters. The goal is to enable citizens of Kosovo to benefit from the constitutional right to a fair trial within a reasonable time and making legal remedies available and effective in practice. The document will provide a set of solutions regarding effective legal remedies for cases involving delays in court proceedings.

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Roundtable on statistical and analytical capacity building

The European Union/Kosovo Justice Sector Programme, EUKOJUST, organized on the 1st of February 2022 a hybrid format roundtable on the statistical and analytical capacity building and donor coordination mechanisms. As noted in the opening remarks of Mr Cristian Nicoara, EUKOJUST deputy team leader, the roundtable brought together respected representatives of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC), Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) and Ministry of Justice.

Besides presentations, key findings and recommendations given by EUKOJUST experts Mr. Kristian Turkalj, Ms. Martina Vrdoljak and Mr. Enes Sedić; special emphasis was placed on – in the context of adopting the Strategy on Rule of Law 2021-2026 – how the statistical data is interconnected with concrete objectives, specific indicators, measuring progress and assessing impact and why, despite progress made, inter-institutional and donor coordination still requests for attention.

Mr. Besnik Ramosaj (Director of Statistics Department of KJC) presented on the types of statistical reports that can currently be drawn from CMIS.

The topics and presentations given during the roundtable opened a meaningful and mutually reinforcing dialogue among roundtable participants.

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Separation of Powers and Independence of Judiciary discussed in Pristina

Separation of Powers and Independence of Judiciary was discussed at a roundtable held in Pristina on 25 January, organised by EUKOJUST, the EU-funded project for the justice system reform. Report on Separation of Powers and Independence with comparative constitutional solutions, relevant ECJ jurisprudence, and comparative structure of the Ministry of Justice prepared by prof. Ivan Vanja Savić, EUKOJUST STE was presented at the roundtable.

EUKOJUST experts and Kosovo justice system officials (Enver Peci, President of the Supreme court of Kosovo,  Aleksandër Lumezi, Chief State Prosecutor, Blerim Sallahu, Deputy Minister, Albert Zogaj, President of Kosovo Judicial Council, Jetish Maloku, President of Kosovo Prosecutor Council and Enver Fejzullahu Director of Judicial Academy) presented their views and developing a common ground of effective cooperation between three branches of power within Kosovo Legal System (legislation-executive-judiciary) and finding the mechanism for achieving better cooperation for reform activities and for meeting EU criteria for integration process without jeopardizing independence of judiciary.

This is important for achieving a common understanding of the framework in which particular stakeholders are operating as well as finding best ways for mutual cooperation. This is needed for reforms which are essential of the European integration processes of Kosovo.

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Towards a clear vision of competencies, roles and responsibilities of the Correctional Service

A three-day workshop for Drafting the Regulation on Internal Organization and Systematization of Jobs at the Kosovo Correctional Service, was held recently in Peja, organised by EUKOJUST.

In an open discussion the Kosovo Correctional Service officials and EUKOJUST international experts jointly worked on developing a clear vision of the competencies, roles and responsibilities of the Correctional Service, on the internal reorganization in the General Directorate as well as in correctional institutions.

The activity was yet another step towards the objective of drafting a Regulation which will advance and develop the correctional service in Kosovo, as an important mechanism within the overall Kosovo justice system.

Internal organization reform aims at advancing the Correctional Service of Kosovo, its functionality, better conditions for its employees, as well as better treatment of prisoners according to international standards.

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Fifth Steering Committee meeting of EUKOJUST

Fifth Steering Committee meeting of the EU-funded EUKOJUST Project, was held on Monday, January 24, 2022 in Pristina in a hybrid format, by physical and online presence. The meeting was chaired by Deputy Minister of Justice, Mrs. Nita Shala.

Present at this meeting were also other voting right members: Mr. Albert Zogaj – Chair of the Judicial Council, Mr. Enver Peci – President of the Supreme Court, Mr. Jetish Maloku – Chair of the Prosecutorial Council, Mr. Enver Fejzullahu – Director of the Academy of Justice, Mr. Mentor Borovci – from the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Fehmi Stublla – Official Gazette.

The key topics of discussion were the activities and achievements of the Project during the 4th quarterly report covering the period October – December 2021.

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Further enhancement of digitalization a cornerstone towards efficiency of courts and prosecution offices

The European Union/Kosovo Justice Sector Programme – EUKOJUST organized a hybrid format roundtable to present findings and recommendations from assessment reports on Information and Communication Technology (TIK) infrastructure, courtroom infrastructure and archives in courts and prosecution offices. 

The roundtable was attended by the Chair of the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC), Mr Albert Zogaj, Chair of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC), Mr Jetish Maloku, European Union Office in Kosovo, representatives of the international stakeholders, courts and prosecution offices’ administrators and respective ICT and Archives departments of KJC and KPC. 

Further enhancement of the digitalization of courts and prosecution offices was underscored as a cornerstone towards the increase of efficiency, transparency and accountability of courts and prosecution offices to deliver justice. 

KPC and KJC chairs welcomed the organization of this roundtable and expressed their commitment to spearhead and support initiatives contributing to the digitalization of work processes in courts and prosecution offices.