Bulgaria Needs More Steps toward Judicial Reform - British Ambassador
Constitutional changes paving the way for a judicial reform are an "important step", despite not being so ambitious as initially planned, British Ambassador to Bulgaria Emma Hopkins said on Sunday.
In an interview with private national bTV station, she added there was "symbolism" to the step taken to divide the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) of Bulgaria into two colleges, one for judges and one for prosecutors, but was quick to add new reforms will be needed later on.
Earlier this week Parliament approved a set of constitutional amendments which include the division of VSS (the high body of the judiciary that enjoys some decision-making capacities and is often dubbed "the government of the judiciary") but voted down a proposal which would have increased the role of lawmakers in appointing prosecutors to the council.
Ms Hopkins added she was "pleased to see an increased pressure for reform" within the judiciary itself.
She voiced her hope that the new Justice Minister, Ekaterina Zaharieva, will carry out the duties of her predecessor Hristo Ivanov and will be devoted to the judicial reform with the same resolve.
Asked whether Bulgaria should expect "a highly critical report" by the EU Commission (reports on Bulgaria and Romania are prepared annually under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism of the EU Commission, the next ones being expected in January), she said:
"I think there will be definitely areas of criticism" especially on the lack of progress on "fighting high-level corruption". Ms Hopkins is referring to Parliament's decision to reject an anti-corruption law that would have enabled law enforcement agencies to act more swiftly against graft and other crimes by setting up a new anti-corruption body.
The vote of lawmakers prompted 14 ambassadors of European country to criticize Parliament over its failure to show enough political will against corruption. A new vote on the bill is expected in the national assembly next year.
Asked if the government has the political will to carry out the reform judging from her experience for the past 8 months, Ms Hopkins said some progress had been made for that time.
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