Open regional funds – legal reform

Project description

Title: Open regional funds for South-East Europe – legal reform
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Lead executing agency: Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)
Overall term: 2007 to 2016

Context
As the countries of South-East Europe are looking to join the European Union and gain membership of international organisations, they face the task of harmonising their existing legal systems with EU law.

Due to demand from partner countries, the Open Regional Fund – Legal Reform (ORF-RR) has been supporting the process of EU accession since 2007, focusing in particular on civil and commercial law as well as on modernising the way in which justice is administered. ORF-RR works with partner countries to introduce legal conditions that are in compliance with the acquis communautaire and other legal framework instruments. The reform efforts focus on the issues of justice and fundamental rights as well as justice, freedom and security; these represent the backbone of reform within the context of EU accession. In addition, ORF-RR supports the effective implementation of new laws and promotes additional safeguards in the form of the rule of law, the separation of powers and judicial impartiality.

Against the background of the ethnic conflicts in the Western Balkans, the ORF-Legal Reform project is instrumental in facilitating regional cooperation. With its focus on expert exchange, this cooperation can help in overcoming political tensions, most notably between Kosovo on the one hand and Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other.

Objective
The countries of South-East Europe are working together to achieve their national goals in terms of legal reform. These relate in particular to legal harmonisation with the EU acquis and to the fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria. Selected legislation, provisions and examples of the application of civil and commercial law not only meet standards that comply with the rule of law, but also fulfil the requirements imposed within the context of EU accession and other international agreements.

Approach
ORF - Legal Reform supports the responsible parties of countries in the region in sharing their experiences and learning from one another. This is done by setting up and strengthening a network of regional experts and peer-to-peer learning platforms. In turn, this empowers participating partner institutions to carry out reform efforts independently.

Experts from Germany and other European countries, as well as specialists from the respective neighbouring countries, provide advice on legislation. Exchange with relevant partner institutions in the region enables legal institutions to gain expertise and experience. If problems arise in the area of cross-border judicial cooperation, ORF – Legal Reform helps representatives from partner countries to work together to find and implement solutions.

Results
Problems regarding cross-border judicial cooperation, such as the implementation of international enforcement or bankruptcy proceedings, or issues in the area of corporate law, have been solved jointly.

Faculties of Law from the region have joined forces to create the South East European Law School Network (SEELS) in an effort to jointly raise standards in the quality of training and education and to offer regional educational and research programmes.

Chambers of notaries provide mutual support in improving their services and introducing notaries in areas where they are not yet established.

Centres for dispute resolution and mediation work together on the cross-border recognition of arbitration awards. Support is also provided to women as actors in arbitration proceedings.

In cooperation with UNCITRAL, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, international purchasing rights have been adopted by national lawmakers and made public.

A regional network of academics assists with the national reform efforts and monitors the implementation of international and European guidelines in national legal systems.