Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Legal Reform
Title: Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Legal Reform
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Lead executing agency: Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)
Overall term: 2007 to 2021
As the countries of South-East Europe are looking to join the European Union (EU) and gain membership in international organisations, they face the task of harmonising their existing legal systems with EU law.
In response to demand from partner countries, the Open Regional Fund (ORF) – Legal Reform project has been supporting the process of rapprochement with the EU since 2007, focusing in particular on civil and commercial law and on modernising the way in which justice is administered. The project works with partner countries to align legal conditions with the acquis communautaire (accumulated body of European Union law and obligations). This comprises all binding rights and obligations for all EU member states. Reform work focuses on the issues of justice and fundamental rights as well as justice, freedom and security. Rule of law is also essential for the countries’ sustainable economic growth. The Western Balkan states have set themselves the goal of developing a regional economic area. This requires an effective implementation of legal frameworks.
The ORF – Legal Reform project concentrates its work on fostering regional cooperation and sharing expertise. Against the backdrop of existing ethnic conflicts in the Western Balkans, this cooperation can help to overcome political tensions.
The preconditions for implementing the acquis communautaire (EU acquis) in the course of EU rapprochement are improved. The countries of South-East Europe work together to fulfil the legal frameworks and achieve their national goals of legal reform.
All the partner countries supported by the ORF – Legal Reform project face similar challenges, and some of them can be solved more successfully by working together. The Regional Fund therefore supports state institutions and civil society in these partner countries in working together within certain areas to adapt their systems of law and justice to the requirements of the EU’s acquis, in particular with the aim of sustainable economic development. Regional exchange is an essential element in successful rapprochement with the European Union. With these objectives in sight, the ORF – Legal Reform project promotes:
- the development and support of regional platforms and networks;
- the exchange of experts among the partner countries;
- harmonisation of laws in the region;
- networking between partner institutions and international sectoral organisations.
The project supported the establishment of the South East European Law School Network (SEELS), which comprises 13 law faculties. Not only has this enhanced quality standards for education and professional training in law, it has also led to the establishment of regional teaching and research programmes.
With the support of the project, the countries regularly attend meetings of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Through their participation in the international discussions, the partner countries are better informed about investor-state arbitration and the current developments in this area.
The Belgrade Open Pre-Moot was founded. Moots are a kind of legal competition. University teams compete against one another in simulated court proceedings and represent clients in fictional disputes. The Belgrade Open Pre-Moot has now become one of the world’s top ten pre-moots.
Together with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the project supported the network of law academies in the region, organised training courses for judges and created a regional database of legal experts. As a result of this, more than 300 judges and employees of partner institutions from the region attended training courses in the previous project phase (2016 to 2018) in fields including EU law and women’s and land rights.
The project has promoted the issue of gender justice across all of its measures. For example, access to land rights for women has been improved, partly through guidelines for notaries regarding gender-sensitive work.