Council of Europe's GRECO: Bulgaria’s Judicial System Remains Vulnerable to Undue Influence

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | May 14, 2015, Thursday // 10:04
Bulgaria: Council of Europe's GRECO: Bulgaria’s Judicial System Remains Vulnerable to Undue Influence

Bulgaria has a reasonably good legislative framework and many institutions and tools to deter corruption, yet there have been no people convicted of high-level corruption, according to a report of the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

GRECO’s Fourth Evaluation Round, adopted on March 23-27 and published on Wednesday, is highly critical of Bulgaria’s performance in the sphere of fighting corruption and conflict of interest.

GRECO’s Fourth Evaluation Round, launched on 1 January 2012, deals with “Corruption Prevention in respect of Members of Parliament, Judges, and Prosecutors.”

Since joining GRECO in 1999, Bulgaria has been subject to evaluation in the framework of GRECO’s First (in September 2001), Second (in December 2004) and Third (in October 2009) Evaluation Rounds.

The main objective of the latest report is to evaluate the effectiveness of measures adopted by the authorities of Bulgaria in order to prevent corruption in respect of Members of Parliament, Judges and Prosecutors and to further their integrity in appearance and in reality.

Bulgaria is to determine the relevant institutions/bodies responsible for taking the requisite action to implement the recommendations.

Within 18 months following the adoption of the report, Bulgaria is to report back on the action taken in response to the recommendations contained in it.

The report labels oversight bodies as “paper tigers, denied the power to conduct substantive checks.”

“Scrutiny, if it is effected at all, is cursory and their role has been mainly confined to placing the declarations of private interests, incompatibilities and assets of MPs, judges or prosecutors in the public domain. In the absence of any thorough checks and discernible results in detecting and punishing violations of the conflicts of interest and asset disclosure rules by MPs, judges and prosecutors, Transparency is perceived as being ostensible and has not therefore been conducive to boosting public confidence in the three institutions, judges being most vulnerable to public mistrust,” according to GRECO.

The report recommends that “the private interests of MPs, judges and prosecutors – irrespective of whether these are declared regularly or ad hoc – be made subject to substantive and regular checks and that the respective professionals undergo intensive training on
integrity, conflicts of interest and corruption prevention measures.”

The report suggests that the vulnerability of Bulgaria’s judicial system to undue political influence remains significant due to the decision-making processes within the Supreme Judicial Council, the key judicial self-governing body responsible for selection, appointment, promotion, inhouse training and disciplinary action in respect of judges and prosecutors.

“Given that the Prosecution Service is part of the judicial branch, its membership of the Council’s structures responsible for decisions on judges’ careers allows for undue pressure to be exerted also by one arm of the judiciary on the other. That opportunity needs to be
Eliminated,” GRECO argues.

GRECO also recommends to ensure that the principle of random case allocation is implemented in practice, “with due regard being had to a fair and equitable workload for judges, and that the case assignment be protected from undue interference and subject to more stringent controls.”

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Tags: Council of Europe, GRECO, anti-corruption, conflict of interest, judicial system, Supreme Judicial Council
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