The Injustice of Bulgaria's Justice Appointments
At the end of May, Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council, VSS, selected Vladimira Yaneva as Head of the country's busiest Sofia City Court.
Yaneva, who has eight years of experience, four of them on maternity leave, won the appointment at second round against Velichka Tsanova, a judge with extensive experience, Deputy Chair and temporarily in charge of the same court.
In the aftermath of her win, Yaneva admitted she is close to the family of Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who confirmed the revelation, sending shockwaves through the country's judicial system, stirring an unprecedented riot among Bulgarian magistrates.
Four senior judges – two from VSS, one from the Varna Regional Court (known as one of the founders of Tsvetanov's ruling GERB, and former GERB MEP), and Tsanova resigned in a bout of outrage by the appointment.
If the scandalous vote was not enough, the site for investigative journalism Bivol.bg, through a simple document check, disclosed that much like Tsvetanov - her mentor, friend, relative, who knows?, Yaneva failed to declare several properties and likely committed conflict of interests by attempting to halt a legal case that could implicate her father in murky real estate deals.
The scandal came on the heels of the appointment of Georgi Kolev, a graduate of the former Communist Interior Ministry College "Georgi Dimitrov," largely rumored to be close to GERB, as Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court, VAS, and the surprising crash of the Trade Register, even before the official restriction of access to it, passed by the Parliament.
Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, called the resignations and the scandal acts of impudence, blaming the previous Three-Way Coalition cabinet for appointing such people at VSS. Tsvetanov has remained silent.
Borisov's statement is actually an admission that GERB promised changes, but continues old practices such as the merge of executive and judicial power, while the behavior of the VSS members voting for Yaneva – a demonstration they would not even stand by any political binds, and would give in to the pressure of whoever is in power.
Since the names of those VSS members and the grounds of their vote remain secret to the public, there is no definitive proof the tandem Borisov-Tsvetanov is striving to take over the judicial system, but the mindset is clear – the end result excuses the means. This was precisely the thinking of the Communist Regime's People's Tribunal, killing scores and imposing 45 dark years of repressions in Bulgaria. Democracy is based on the independence of different powers – amalgamating the executive and judicial ones is the foundation of totalitarianism and autocracy.
It is also unclear if the resignations would increase Tsvetanov's influence in VSS or will lead to a real reform there; if and how the scandal, raging on the background of Europe giving Bulgaria a cold shoulder over its Schengen entry, will be reflected in the upcoming EU monitoring report on Bulgaria.
But it is clear Bulgaria, with the highest share of people with legal degrees in Europe, has an extremely inapt judicial system while the said resignations show that disgraces at VSS do not preclude the country from having honest and dignified magistrates.
The conclusion should read: "system error, reboot."
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