Constitutional Changes Must Not Slow Down Judicial Reform in Bulgaria – EC Secretary-General
Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission (EC), has argued that potential changes to Bulgaria’s Constitution should not come at the expense of the speed of judicial reform.
Day, as cited by the Bulgarian National Radio, made clear that the EC had not taken a strong stance on whether or not Bulgaria had to amend its Constitution as the government was yet to submit detailed information about the scope of the changes.
The EC Secretary-General noted that it was essential that constitutional amendments not delay judicial reform.
Day participated Tuesday in a hearing at the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) on the effect of the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) on Bulgaria and Romania.
During the hearing, she pointed out that Bulgaria’s progress in the spheres of judicial reform and anti-corruption measures had slowed down over the past two years.
Day, as cited by dnevnik.bg, declared that there was no deadline for the lifting of the CVM.
Socialist MEP Iliana Yotova insisted that the CVM had to be abolished as it had already played its part and had grown obsolete, especially against the backdrop of the changing requirements of the EC.
Emil Radev, MEP from the group of the European People's Party (EPP), asked the EC to state clearly whether the CVM would be lifted and when, as well as whether it would keep monitoring corruption levels in all EU countries.
Two other Bulgarian MEPs, Andrey Novakov (EPP) and Georgi Pirnski (S&D) were unanimous that there was no reason to set Bulgaria and Romania apart from the other EU countries as regards justice and home affairs.
To illustrate his point, Novakov cited the latest report of the European Court of Auditors, stressing that it indicated that the percentage of EU funds irregularities in Bulgaria was substantially lower than the EU average, while Pirinski pointed out that Bulgaria did not occupy first place in a general report on corruption in the EU.
Bulgarian MEPs agreed that there were no legal grounds for tie Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Area to the CVM.
Zinaida Zlatanova, former Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister, underscored the need for broad political consensus on judicial reform, adding that it was lacking even among Bulgaria’s ruling parties at present.
Helmut Palder, Counselor in the Bavarian Ministry of Justice and an advisor of the Bulgarian authorities for years, warned that there would be attempts to block reforms in the sector.
He suggested that Bulgaria was going in the right direction, adding that the government could not afford a step back as it would lose the trust it had won.
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