Resignation from the Constitution, judges' salary "frozen"

Constitutional Court / Photo: "Free Press" - Dragan Mitreski

By not starting the proceedings on the initiative of the judges, their salaries will not be increased from 300 to 400 euros, after six laws were amended in order to curb the growth of officials' salaries. With the amendments to the six laws, the salaries of the officials minimally increased from 500 to 2.000 denars.

The Judicial Council and the Association of Judges are waiting to receive the decision of the Constitutional Court, which did not initiate proceedings on their two initiatives to evaluate the constitutionality of the amendments to the Law on Judges' Salaries and the Law on Salaries of Judicial Council Members. By not starting the proceedings, the salary of the judges and the members of the Judicial Council will remain "frozen", just like all the other elected and appointed officials, who since last March have received higher salaries by 78 percent, and since this March they have received a minimal increase because that in February of this year the Parliament, by amending six laws, curbed the growth of official salaries.

Only the judges rebelled

From the Judicial Council, they are waiting to receive the explanation from the Constitutional Court and to discuss the reasons for the decision, as well as their possible next steps. They have a similar attitude in the Association of Judges.

- The Association of Judges has not yet received the final decision of the Constitutional Court of the RSM, which should also be published in the Official Gazette, so that we could review it within the framework of the competent bodies in the Association and come up with a possible conclusion and further steps of action. - say the Association of Judges for "Sloboden Pechat".

The judges are the only elected and appointed officials who challenged the changes to the laws that, instead of increasing their salaries with the 2024 base adjustment, remained at the same level because of the reduced coefficients by which their pay is calculated. The reduction of the coefficients came under the strong pressure of the public, which is still outraged by last year's increase in official salaries by a fantastic 78 percent, which happened after the same Constitutional Court abolished the double basis for salary calculation. Until March 21, 2023, the salary of the officials was calculated according to a fixed basis which is multiplied by the complexity coefficients (from 2 to 4,5), and after the Constitutional Court abolished the fixed basis as unconstitutional because there were two in the laws, in force as a basis the average salary from the previous year remained. With that decision, the salaries of the highest officials, the prime minister, the parliament speaker and the president of the state jumped from about 90 thousand to about 160 thousand denars, and the salaries of other officials also increased significantly.
According to the Law on Courts, the salary of judges, determined according to the provisions of that law, cannot be reduced by law or a decision of a state authority, and can be reduced only when disciplinary responsibility is established. Likewise, and according to the Law on the salary of the members of the Judicial Council, the salary of the member of the Council, determined according to the provisions of that law, cannot be reduced by another law or decision of a state authority.

Constitutional: Judges receive the highest salaries

According to the reasoning of the Constitutional Court, no procedure has been initiated for the amendments to the laws on salaries of judges, because the findings of the petitioners, who claim that the contested provisions threaten the independence and autonomy of the judiciary, are unacceptable to the Court.

- According to the Court, the amendments adopted on February 20 of this year, which reduced the coefficients for calculating wages by 13 percent, are not unconstitutional. In particular, the analysis shows that the salaries of judges and members of the Judicial Council will not be reduced, as claimed, but will be increased, but by a minimal amount - said the spokeswoman of the Constitutional Court, Hristina Belovska, after the decision.

The court assessed that they continue to receive a salary that corresponds to their status, role and promotion and that their financial situation has not deteriorated.

– Their financial security is not threatened, as claimed in the allegations, because they are among the group of public officials who receive the highest salaries in the country. The reduction of the coefficients was carried out on the basis of a law, which means that the allegations that there is an intrusion into the judicial authority are unfounded, because the Parliament is the one that is competent to bring the laws - said Belovska.

In the initiative of the Judicial Council and the Association of Judges, it is stated that with the contested laws, the legislator made an unconstitutional and illegal intervention in the autonomy and independence of the judicial authority through a legally impermissible reduction in the salaries of judges as holders of judicial authority and members of the Judicial Council, which is an authority that guarantees the independence of the judiciary.

"It is stated that the constitutional and legal position of the courts and the Judicial Council is violated because the legislator significantly reduced the coefficient for judges (from 2,8 to 3,7 they were reduced in a range from 2,43 to 3,21), that is, for members of the Judicial Council (from 4 for the president and 3,7 for a member, they are reduced to 3,47, i.e. 3,21). By reducing the coefficients, it is legally and factually impossible to adjust salaries with the dynamics of the average salary from the previous year, thus preventing the legal right to adjust the salary", the judges stated in the initiative to the Constitutional Court.

With the amendments to the six laws, the salaries of the officials minimally increased from 500 to 2.000 denars, and without the amendments, the salaries of the deputies, ministers, judges, mayors, etc., would have increased from 300 to 400 euros, depending on the position, for the sake of harmonization with the average salary, which for 2022 was MKD 31.859, and for 2023 MKD 36.614. With those changes, a significant increase was stopped for this year, but if no other legal changes occur during the following months, the salaries of officials will be increased once a year in accordance with the average annual salary and they will expect the next increase in March 2025. .

The laws on the salary of elected and appointed officials, on the salary of deputies, prosecutors, judges, members of the Judicial Council, as well as the Law on the salaries of members of the Council of Public Prosecutors were changed.

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