For Bulgarian Judicial Reform to Succeed It Needs EU Help - EUinside

Novinite Insider » OPINIONS | July 22, 2015, Wednesday // 11:54| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: For Bulgarian Judicial Reform to Succeed It Needs EU Help - EUinside

In order for the Bulgarian judicial reform to succeed it will not only need pressure coming from the civil society and “a person in power to start the reform”, but also some outside help from the EU.

This is argued in a recent article by Adelina Marini of euinside.com, which examines the problems with the rule of law faced by Bulgaria and Romania.

Although the problems of the two countries are not threatening the existence of the EU, the situation has significantly changed for the first time since Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007.

Romania has become the example for Bulgaria in the fight against high-level corruption, with even Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta coming under investigation on corruption charges.

The contrast has become even more marked in light of the recent oral report of the European Commission (EC) on the progress achieved by the two countries under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

The evaluation of the two countries has been markedly different, which could lead to Romania coming out of the CVM and acceding to the Schengen Area, while Bulgaria is still lagging behind and has been commended only for the approved strategy on fight against corruption and the judicial reform.

The EC noted Bulgaria's slow progress in the investigations on high-level corruption and the lack of capacity to investigate such cases in the prosecution.

The CVM reports are increasingly becoming worse and more blunt every time, with the EC directly stating last year that the Bulgarian judiciary was under political pressure.

One positive development is that Bulgarian civil society has increasingly called for the start of reforms, which can be traced back to the 2013 protests against the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.

The protests were sparked by the controversial appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski as chief of the State Agency for National Security (DANS).

The protests had immediate effect as the nomination was withdrawn, with the most active protesters asking for more, namely a judicial reform.

Eventually, the protests led to the resignation of Oresharski and the coming into power of the “semi-old, semi-new” government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, as Marini calls it.

It was semi-old as it was headed by Borisov, whose first term was characterised by the deterioration of Bulgaria's progress in the CVM reports.

At the same time, it was a “semi-new” as it carried a reformatory spirit by the inclusion of new figures such as Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, who presented his strategy for judicial reform at the start of his term.

Although the strategy was accepted as it did not require any commitments, the real work on it really started with the proposed constitutional amendments, which are aimed at ensuring the independence of the judiciary and addressing the fight against corruption and organised crime.

While consensus is being sought between the parliamentary represented parties, the Bulgarian civil society has become active again.

It organised the initiative “Justice for all”, which included the invitation of former Romanian Justice Minister and current MEP Monica Macovei, who is often regarded as the pioneer of the current institutional environment in Romania.

During her recent visit to Bulgaria, Macovei highlighted that just one person in power is needed to start the reform.

The Bulgarian constitutional amendments are welcomed by EC and EU member states, but are being opposed by certain parliamentary represented parties, such as BSP and DPS.

The amendments foresee the the division of the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) into two colleges – one of judges and another of prosecutors and the reduction of the term in office from five to four years.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev called for completing the reform without postponing it after the holding of the local elections in the autumn as this is of vital importance for attracting more investments and economic growth to the country.

Although EC President Jean-Claude Juncker assured that CVM monitoring of Bulgaria would be concluded by the end of his term in office – 2019, Macovei and other MEPs think that the mechanism should be kept until it fulfills its goals.

However this could not happen without the participation of the European political families, which should encourage their Bulgarian members to work towards accomplishment of these goals.

The article concludes by stating that it is highly likely that in case the reformatory momentum is lost, it might never be regained, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Read the full article here.

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Tags: Bulgaria, Romania, EU, EC, CVM, report, judicial reform, constitutional amendments, civil society, Hristo Ivanov, Rosen Plevneliev, Monica Macovei, rule of law, corruption, Schengen, protest, Boyko Borisov, Plamen Oresharski, VSS, organised crime, BSP, DPS
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