Bulgaria's Questionable New Judicial Council Promises Justice
Bulgaria's newly elected Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) has formally assumed office amidst serious doubts about where its members are capable of turning around the notorious problems at the Bulgarian judiciary.
The The 22 newly elected VSS members started their five-ear terms in office; they are to be working alongside the Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Cassation (VKS) Lazar Gruev, the Chairperson of the Supreme Administrative Court (VAS) Georgi Kolev, and the Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev, who sit on the Council ex officio.
For the first time this year, the candidates for Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council were subject to public hearings which in some cases required 24-hour-long debates.
The Bulgarian Parliament elected 11 VSS members and the judiciary elected another 11; of those, 6 were elected by the judges; 4 – by the prosecutors; and one – by the investigators.
The new VSS promised more justice and principled decision, with President Rosen Plevneliev urging the new supreme magistrates to work in favor of justice, not in favor of political partisanship.
"Your values form the values of the nation. Bulgaria's entire state is right here in order to shake your hands, and to wish you luck," Plevneliev told the new Supreme Judicial Council, the institution that is charge of the Bulgarian judiciary, and which had been marred by scandals of corruption and clientilism in the recent years.
Against this backdrop, Bulgaria's Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva thanked the members of the outgoing VSS for their "fruitful work and good cooperation", and wished "lots of courage and lots of heart" to the new Council.
In her speech, Bulgarian Parliament Chair Tsetska Tsacheva wished for the termination of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) under which the EU monitors Bulgaria's post-accession progress in problem areas, namely combating organized crime and corruption, and improving the judiciary and the rule of law.
Bulgaria's outgoing Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev urged the new supreme magistrates to start working immediately on tackling the most pressing issue – the overloading of the Bulgarian magistrates.
"The responsibility you are assuming is enormous. Any decision of yours must bear the sign of justice," Lazar Gruev, the Chairperson of Bulgaria's Supreme Court of Cassation (VKS).
Georgi Kolev, head of Bulgaria's Supreme Administrative Court, reminded the new VSS that they are yet to be faced with tough decisions such as the upcoming election of a new Chief Prosecutor.
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