Importance of Constitutional Courts in former Yugoslavia

'Constitutional Courts in Central and Eastern Europe and their important role in the protection of constitutional democracy are being threatened by authoritarian governments,' is one of the conclusions of Professor Bojan Bugaric from the University of Ljubljana.

Professor Bugaric introduced the conference, Constitutional Courts in Former Yugoslav Republics: their role and effects in the transitional period, which was held on 18 April 2016 in Sarajevo, organized by the Centre for Public Research Analitika.

In his introductory speech, Professor Bugaric said that the Constitutional Courts in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia failed to respond to their mission. However, according to his speech,  the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has made a few very important decisions, and hence, although only partially, has managed to establish itself as one of the important factors of democratization in the country.

In the first of three panels, entitled A Look Back and a Look to the Future, Professor Goran Markovic from the Faculty of Law, University of East Sarajevo, spoke about the position of control of constitutionality and the relevance of the tradition of the constitutional judiciary in the former Yugoslavia, pointing to some solutions in regard to the organization and functioning of the constitutional courts in the former Yugoslavia and its republics that were surprisingly modern.

The subject of the presentation of Sanja Baric, professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Rijeka, was the transformative role of the Croatian Constitutional Court: From ex-Yu to the EU. Professor Baric stressed the development path of this Court, and the internal and contextual challenges the Court faced at different stages of its operation. According to her, the current crisis in terms of the appointment of judges of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia, shows that neither its entry into the EU nor the, at least formal, completion of transition guarantees the stability of the institution: "If the Croatian Constitutional Court does not receive a new judge by June 6 this year, after an interval  of six years without any appointments,  the court will be dismissed, "said Professor Baric. However, despite a number of negative reactions from the professional and general public to some of its decisions, Professor Baric characterized the role of the Croatian Constitutional Court in the democratization of the country as positive.

Marija Risteska, from the Center for Research and Policy-Making in Skopje, spoke, among other topics, about the problem of inadequate criteria for the selection of judges and the lack of legal education of the current judges of the Constitutional Court of  the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, due to the fact that only two judges have a PhD, while all the others have completed only an undergraduate degree in law.

From the ranks of the judges, Margarita Tsatsa Nikolovska, the vice president of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, cited the Constitutional Court of Montenegro as a good example, and pointed out that the influence of political structures on the constitutional courts in the region is tremendous, as is particularly apparent in the FormerYugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The third panel was dedicated to the activist-minded and influential constitutional courts in the region: the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Constitutional Court of Kosovo. Nedim Kulenovic, a legal expert for the organization Your Rights BH and an associate of Analitika, raised the question: "What motivates political elites to establish a court as an institution that will be the check point of their power?"

Fisnik Korenica, from the association Group for Legal Political Studies in Pristina, spoke about the important role of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo in a difficult period of transition for the country and of the professional and other support with which the court is provided by the European Union and the entire international community.

"Constitutional courts in the  Balkans are clearly vulnerable institutions, struggling with their inner weaknesses as well as external pressures," was one of the conclusions of  Edin Hodzic, PhD, head of the Center for Social Research and Analytics, who closed the conference.

This event was organized with the support of the Regional Research Promotion Programme in the Western Balkans (RRPP). The RRPP programme is coordinated and managed by the Interfaculty Institute for Central and Eastern Europe (IICEE) at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). The program is fully funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.