The strike of Skopje court administration employees that began in May ended in mid-August, according to Biljana Joanidis, the Managing Partner of Law Firm Joanidis — but only, perhaps, temporarily. Joanidis reports that the employees have agreed to return to work until the December 11 national elections — after which they’ll consider and, potentially, walk out once again.
The elections reflect a significant political crisis in the country, Joanidis says. "I want to be realistic," she sighs. "In general, in Macedonia, the main problem is the political crisis, which is present in every core of society, including the judiciary, as the governing political party elects and dismisses judges." The country’s court system struggles through other unique challenges as well, according to Joanidis, including the recent attempts to introduce Common Law elements into the traditionally Continental system. "A little bit of confusion" exists as a result, she says, noting that there have also been 26 changes to the Panel (Criminal) Court in the last eight years, and that, at the moment, there are two different laws of criminal procedure.
"The situation is confusing here," Joanidis repeats, "but we’re optimistic. We hope that after the elections it will get better." Still, she says, "for the time being, it is what it is."
Joanidis reports that the attorneys in the country feel somewhat under attack as well. "A lot of work has been taken away from attorneys and given to notaries, to executors, etc.," causing attorneys to "feel marginalized." Unfortunately, she says, "the political parties in Macedonia see attorneys as being on the opposite side, as attorneys are for protection of rights, so they don’t want to empower us or give us full rights."
She returns to the guiding theme of the conversation, noting that "political influence is everywhere. It’s in the courts, attorneys, government, everywhere." As a result, she says, "everyone’s interested in the elections."
Finally, she’s asked how business is. "Our law firm business is ok," she reports, "but we’re not a good indicator, as we’ve been around for 30 years. We have work — I’m not complaining. But in general work is down. There’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s only the top 10-15 firms or so in the country that are thriving, "and everybody else is on the edge, struggling to stay alive."
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