What kind of judicial reform after the EC’s 2015 Report?

The citizens have to be aware what exactly the reform is entailing, what to expect from it and how to cooperate and follow its implementation

От МOVE.BG, публикувана на 13 февруари 2015

During the opening of the discussion Sasha Bezuhanova, founder of MOVE.BG, justified the need of such public discussions: “The citizens have to be aware what exactly the reform is entailing, what to expect from it and how to cooperate and follow its implementation. Guaranteeing rule of law within the state is not going to happen with accepting a few normative acts. What is needed is an extensive and widespread common effort and influx of powerful moral energy in the justice system.”

Jordan Jordanov, co-founder of blEUprint, also noted that during the period leading to 2018 when Bulgaria will take on the EU Council’s Presidency, our country needs to channel a political consensus, expert potential and wide civil support in order to implement the crucial reforms in the justice system. “Rule of law and the contitutional state are not classifications. At the moment our country needs not only mechanisms, strategies and programmes, but also prompt results and functioning institutions”, he added.

In his official introduction, Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov noted that due to the EC’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism Report the topic of judicial reform continues to be at the forefront for eight years now. The reasons for the inability to execute the needed reforms are not hidden in the monitoring mechanism but in the powerful political influence over the judicial establishment. According to the Justice Minister, progress needs to be achieved in the reforming the model of our justice system, and not simply within the Supreme Judicial Court, in order for levels of civil trust to be on the rise. “The first recommendation of the Report and the main purpose of the strategy is to solve the problem of the workload of judges and of the uneven distribution of cases because this restricts the effective judicial activity and creates prerequisites for pressure”, Minister Ivanov added. According to him, it is high time for the Supreme Judicial Court, which is currently a judicial court with the participation of prosecutors, to foster control and create prerequisites for public discussion of the work of the Attorney General.

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Regarding the inefficiency of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in its current form, Dr. Linka Toneva, Political Science PhD at Sofia University, noted that the European Commission does not dispose of the methodology and analytical instruments to recognize the real local problems. The reason for that is the inherently incorrect design of the Mechanism. On the one hand, it has a wrong addressee - it is not directed concretely to the governments and administration and, on the other, it focuses on the monitoring itself rather than on the real partnership with the monitored countries. In addition to that, the current sanctions mechanisms of the EC are quite restricted.

According to Tihomir Bezlov, senior analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy, there is an urgent need of anti-corruption measures as corruption is rooted at the highest levels of magistrates, which are more powerful than the politicians, as well as in the lack of penalties for corruption activities.

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Regarding the judicial reform, Dr. Hristo Hristev, co-founder of MOVE.BG and a EU Law lecturer at the Sofia University, emphasized that the updated strategy for judicial system reform poses basic questions which were lacking before, such as: scope and competences of the administrative management of the court, autonomy, attestations, secondments and disciplinary liabilities.

Judge Atanas Atanasov, member of the Board and executive secretary of the Bulgarian Judges Association, highlighted the need of real actions and willpower by the parliamentary forces for the implementation of the proposed reform, and not only declarative support. Atanasov also mentioned the paradox that the aims of the strategy need to be implemented by the same concrete leaders of judicial and prosecutorial organs and the Supreme Judicial Court which it intends to reform.

According to the “Capital” newspaper journalist Rosen Bosev, the inability of the media to perform their social function due to the restricted freedom of speech and the self-censorship within them, the lack of an investigative journalism and the lack of a reaction by the Supreme Judicial Court, the Prosecution and the other judicial institutions in cases of journalistic findings, are a core problem of the judicial system. “The previous Reports replaced the role of the media but this time this did not happen because the local context is incomprehensible to the European experts” he noted.

In the discussion participated diplomats among who was the French Ambassador Mr. Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes, representatives of the judiciary, experts from different NGOs in the judicial sector and educational institutions.

Both organizations will continue their efforts to focus on the important issues about the Bulgarian progress and to seek solutions in the context of the democratic state development. MOVE.BG, as a platform working towards mobilisation of Bulgarian citizens for common actions regarding the important themes for Bulgaria, will undertake the task to popularise the judicial reform debate so that a widespread understanding and consensus about its priorities and measures can be reached.

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