EC Expects Transparency in Bulgaria's Judiciary Appointments
The European Commission has voiced expectations for Bulgaria to adhere to rules of transparency and integrity in making senior judicial appointments.
The statement was made by EC spokesperson, Mark Gray, speaking Friday for the Brussels correspondent of the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR.
Gray said the expectations involved both the appointments of constitutional judges and the election of the country's new chief prosecutor. He noted EC was following the Thursday events with the taking of the Constitutional Court oath of office and all debates in the case.
The spokesperson stressed senior judiciary must be elected according to criteria for personal qualities and integrity.
Bulgaria's government was keenly waiting a reaction from EC after the President blocked a judge suspected of graft from taking a position at the country's highest court amid EU concerns.
On Thursday, controversial supreme magistrate, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court, VAS, Veneta Markovska, elected to become one of the two new constitutional judges from the parliamentary quota, was prevented from taking the oath of office by Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev, who left the ceremony, thus blocking her appointment.
The President left at the moment Markovska had to be sworn in. He delivered an address to the new members of the Constitutional Court, but left the hall when it was Markovska's turn to take the oath.
The other three - Georgi Angelov, a magistrate from VAS, elected from the judicial quota, former Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, who was nominated by the President, and the second one (in addition to Markovska) from the parliamentary quota – former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, Anastas Anastasov, were sworn in.
Plevneliev's move blocked Markovska's joining of the Constitutional Court since under the law the oath is considered valid only if taken in the presence of the Head of State.
The President explained that a letter from the Prosecutor's Office, which he received in the last minute, only made him even firmer in his decision to block Markovska.
The case in question involves a pretrial procedure from 2010, launched on a tipoff from the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime, GDBOP. It is against an unknown perpetrator for trading influence, money laundering, and bribes. According to BNR, the case is connected to Georgi Georgiev, who is believed to have been Markovska's live-in boyfriend. She denied the above, saying first that she did not know him, and later that he was just a distant acquaintance. There are suspicions that through him she had received "donations" related to her work as a judge.
Plevneliev's move is a precedent in the entire history of the Constitutional Court since 1991 when it was established.
In the aftermath, Markovska declared she had no intentions to give up on joining the Constitutional Court, and would seek a legal decision, but legal experts said the case is closed for her.
Her nomination and following election for one of the Parliament's two candidates to serve on Bulgaria's Constitutional Court raised controversy after information was leaked that she had attempted to use her influence to pressure the Ministry of Interior to suppress an investigation against the alleged boyfriend. Other allegations included trading influence, being close with an attorney who has been a side in cases tried by her, and murky property deals, including co-ownership with the said attorney.
Despite the tipoff sent to the opposition and an investigative journalistic report from 2010 with the above information, the MPs voted for Markovska's appointment without a hearing and without asking her for explanations.
This led to the European Commission issuing of two warnings it could publish an emergency report for Bulgaria on the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Corruption and Organized Crime.
Bulgarian Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee chair Iskra Fidosova sent a letter of explanation to the EC, and PM Boyko Borisov was initially dismissive of the Commission's warning, but later "advised" Markovska three times to resign.
All along she kept denying all accusations of attempting to illicitly use her influence, albeit without failing to produce a coherent alternative narrative regarding the events. Markovska also claimed there were no investigations whatsoever against her.
After Plevneliev's move, the Constitutional Court issued their opinion that the Parliament should now decide if they will re-launch the procedure to elect another constitutional judge from their quota.
On Friday, the Bulgarian Parliament's Legal Committee decided to start a new procedure to elect and appoint a constitutional judge from the parliamentary quota. Fidosova now pledges a full probe of any posisble tipoffs, even anonymous ones.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, declared the Bulgarian Parliament would be starting as early as Friday a procedure to elect a new constitutional judge from its quota.
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