Under the terms of their Association Agreements with the EU, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are expected to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, establish zero tolerance of corruption in the legal profession, and reform legislation regarding prosecutors, judges and lawyers.
The EU is keen to identify and build upon existing positive sources of resilience, as well as to track and respond to vulnerabilities with the mix of instruments and budgets at its disposal. It is taking a differentiated approach to improving relations with its neighbouring countries. In the case of Georgia, this raises the question of whether the radical overhaul of the Saakashvili-era reforms can withstand the corruptive practices of narrow-minded political and economic operators. In Ukraine, the challenge is how to prolong and channel the positive reform dynamic to firmly anchor institutional and procedural change in the justice sector. In Moldova, the issue is rather to insulate the pockets of successful reform while supporting drivers of change in their fight against illiberal forces.
This study identifies innovations in the three associated states’ justice sectors. It analyses changes to both the ‘hardware’ of the justice system, i.e. the constitutional and institutional frameworks, and the ‘software’, i.e. the selection, appointment, promotion and disciplinary procedures and other means to fight corruption in the justice sector.
It concludes with a review of existing court practice with the AA/DCFTAs. By doing so, the paper not only gauges national judges’ awareness about the need to enforce their country’s contractual obligations with the EU, it also offers insights into the degree of domestic courts’ openness to use international/European law to put an end to conflicting national rules and bad practices.