EC: Bulgaria Needs to Galvanize Reform Forces
The European Commission has published a press release ahead of the official publication of the report on Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
Below is the full text:
The report presents the Commission's analysis on the steps Bulgaria has taken in the past eighteen months and shows where further steps are needed.
President Barroso said, "This report shows that in Bulgaria there is a need to galvanise the forces in favour of reform and provide leadership. Core principles like the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary must be at the heart of a long-term strategy for reform. A political commitment to this approach, as well as concrete and practical measures in the short term, is the best way to bring the process forward and accelerate progress towards the CVM benchmarks".
This report assesses the progress made by Bulgaria in the core CVM areas of judicial reform, anti-corruption work, and the fight against organised crime. These are issues at the heart of the modernisation of Bulgarian society: for reform to succeed, it needs a consistent and coherent approach based on a broad consensus in Bulgarian society. The fact that this period included three different governments has not helped to build this consensus,, though events have also illustrated a widespread public aspiration for reform.
Since the Commission's last report in July 2012 Bulgaria has taken a few steps forward. There have been some improvements in appointment procedures, some useful managerial steps by the Prosecutor General and some progress by the Supreme Judicial Council on the workload issue.
However, overall progress has not yet been sufficient and remains fragile. Repeated controversies such as appointments having to be aborted due to integrity issues, the escape from justice of convicted organised crime figures and a succession of revelations about political influence on the judicial system have affected public confidence. There remain very few cases where crimes of corruption or organised crime have been brought to conclusion in court.
The Commission believes that the monitoring process of the CVM, the opportunities provided by EU funds and the constructive engagement of the Commission and many Member States continues to be a valuable support to reform in Bulgaria. The Commission invites Bulgaria to accelerate progress on its recommendations on the reform of the judiciary, integrity and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The next formal report is likely to come in around one year's time.
On 1 January 2007, the Commission established a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to assess the commitments made by Bulgaria in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The Commission was asked to report on progress in these areas on a regular basis. The Commission issued its first report on 27 June 2007. The Commission reports are complemented by a staff-working document which sets out the Commission's detailed analysis against each of the benchmarks set for the CVM.
In 2012, the fifth year of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), the Commission decided to produce a longer-term assessment to give a full picture of progress. This assessment was published in July 2012. It showed important progress in the adaptation of the basic legislative and institutional framework, but also some important remaining gaps as well as a need for effective and consistent implementation of the reforms. There were still considerable challenges to be tackled. In this context it was decided to take a longer period before the next report (18 months) see how the reforms already implemented by Bulgaria were taking root and to give time to assess the degree of sustainability before the next assessment.
The Commission's analysis is based on an assessment of progress by the Bulgarian authorities and on information by Member States, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. The Commission has carried out several missions to Bulgaria, and the reports also take into account the responses by Bulgaria to detailed questionnaires prepared by the Commission.
The last annual report was published on 18 July 2012.
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