The epistemological aphorism of the former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, of the unresolved problems that we humans know that they exist, seems to be an accurate description of the state of affairs in the judicial reforms, and what we might expect to unravel from the interplay between the international reforming factors, i.e the US and the EU, and the internal domestic key-veto players. Ossified by corruption and the lack of political talent, it seems that the domestic change in the political philosophy of the ruling elite can only occur through external coercion.
The total absence of an internal public debate on the issues of reform, when EU and US conditionality is not critically reflected upon and openly discussed, has given more leeway to a ‘free-hand” of legitimized non-reformers, which are conducting “tacit dirty work” within the institutions, in order to give to the reforms the course they want to, disguising their actions with sanctimonious “ceremony” of celebrating the reforms.
So far, the EU has used with a limited success “gatekeeping” as an instrument of coercion, conditioning access to the opening of the negotiations to membership with the progress of reforms. On the other hand, the US has publicly banned important political statesmen to enter the US, on serious allegations of large scale corruption and money-laundering. As the European Commission granted yesterday an unconditional recommendation to open the negotiations with Albania towards full membership, observers cautioned that the history of the EU with the Western Balkans countries has been shaped by political concessions, so in the case of EU conditionality vagueness can open the door to noncompliance, as the domestic veto players are being involved in political warfare to anticipate what the EU expects to be achieved and present themselves as reformers. So instead of measuring the results of the justice reforms by clear normative benchmarks as the quality of justice that will be served to the Albanian citizens, it was proclaimed as a success the number of resignations that were tendered by the magistrates to avoid vetting of their illicit enrichment. That hardly comes as a surprise, as many Albanians are aware that corruption of the judiciary is widespread and institutional.
Thus, the real mechanisms at work, those that will determine in the domestic stage the outcome of the reforms, are out of the sight of the public. We know the problems, we know the determinacy of the US and to a certain extent of the EU, but it remains a challenge to know how successful the outbreak with the fairly durable legacies of the past will be. To put it simply, we don’t know how close will be the results of the reforms to the normative desirable aspects of the democratic life, i.e equal dignity of common citizens with entrenched economic and political illegitimate interests, and effective accountability for those in public office.