Bulgaria Justice Ministry Uploads Judicial Reform Proposal
Bulgaria's Ministry of Justice has published its draft proposals to introduce changes to the judiciary.
Amendments put forward by Minister Hristo Ivanov include changes to the structure and organization of the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS), a top watchdog often labeled "the government of the judiciary".
They also push for the establishment of a structure within the VSS called "Plenum" which includes all of its members and which has vast decision-making and oversight competences.
The governing parties have repeatedly cited the EU's criticism at problems in the judicial system which need to be addressed swiftly, while the opposition believes the cabinet is only trying to give itself more freedom in making reshuffles by fostering divisions in the VSS.
Under the proposal [BG], the VSS will be split into two "chambers" - one for judges and another for prosecutors. Currently VSS members work together in all sittings, without a distinction between the two "groups".
A "Plenum", consisting of all VSS members, will pass drafts of the judiciary's budget and submit them to Parliament.
The Plenum will also be able to run the judiciary's real estate, determine wages in the respective branch of power, tackle organizational matters and to adopt decisions to suspend VSS members if necessary.
Another key feature includes the Plenum's competence to propose the appointment or dismissal of the so-called "Big Three" in Bulgaria's judiciary: the head of Supreme Court of Cassation (now Lozan Panov), the head of the Supreme Administrative Court (Georgi Kolev) and Chief Prosecutor (Sotir Tsatsarov).
Other key positions depending on the Plenum will include the head of the National Investigation Office.
There will be five judges elected by the National Assembly and six by judges' General Assembly, with heads of VKS and VAS being de jure members apart from these numbers.
The chamber of prosecutors will consist of six members elected by Parliament, four from the prosecutors' General Assembly, and one from the investigators' body.
Another key proposal revokes the secrecy of the vote for the "Big Three" positions at the VSS.
More to follow.
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