Despite substantial contributions from donors such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the advisory services of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), the courts in Kosovo remain overloaded. It is for that reason that an efficient notarial system is required which will contribute to a functioning justice sector. As Kosovo does not have the expertise or the specialists in this field at its disposal, support from outside is necessary.
Development of the legal foundations
The project began in 2005 with a two-year phase during which an initial law on the notarial system was drafted. The SDC mandated the Institut International des Hautes Etudes Notariales (IHN) in Lausanne to support the Department of Justice of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) in Kosovo with the drafting of the law. In October 2008 the National Assembly of Kosovo adopted the law.
There then followed a second stage, from 2008 to 2011, during which the law was implemented. The same notarial experts from the IHN supported the Ministry of Justice in Kosovo with the drafting of secondary laws, trained 200 candidate notaries and organised the examination process. Finally, in September 2011, the Ministry of Justice certified the first 48 Kosovar notaries, ten of whom were women and three of non-Albanian origin.
Consolidation of the system
The goal of the third and expected final phase is for the notarial services to work independently and without major problems in the long term. From 2015 the Chamber of Notaries and the Notarial Department of the Ministry of Justice will oversee and organise the notarial services. To this end, and in order for the notaries to be able to work efficiently, some general operating conditions and support structures must be established:
- The 48 notaries must receive support to set up and operate their notary offices.
- In order for the Chamber of Notaries to provide effective support to the profession, it must be given appropriate advice and be strengthened as an institution. In addition, the Chamber must organise further professional training for the notaries.
- An adequate number of notaries must be trained and licensed. According to the law, each municipality must have at least one notary and must hire one further notary for every 20,000 inhabitants. This will ensure that the citizens – including minorities – have access to the service.
- In the Ministry of Justice there must be a Notarial Department which supervises the notarial system.
- The laws of Kosovo must be aligned with the notarial law.
- The population must be made aware of the new services.
The Ministry of Justice highly values the experts from the IHN – which has been a partner in the project from the outset – and would like to continue its collaboration with the IHN. In the current phase, the IHN's role is changing: the institute is gradually reducing direct involvement and assuming a more advisory and monitoring role.
Great potential despite setbacks
The introduction of a notarial system in Kosovo is a state-building measure that is contributing to the establishment of the rule of law and the consolidation of the justice system. The driving force behind this project is the Ministry of Justice.
Raising awareness of the notarial services among the general population and future clients will be a major challenge. The public is generally sceptical of state intervention. Because of widespread corruption, citizens are often suspicious of government authorities. Building trust among the population for this new service will therefore be a major task.