Report on Progress under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism in Bulgaria18 July 2012
by eub2 -- last modified 18 July 2012
The European Commission has adopted a report on progress made by under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). The report covers a period of five years since Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2007 and presents the Commission's assessment of progress achieved in Bulgaria during this period in the area of judicial reform, the fight against corruption and the fight against organised crime. Its main conclusion is that deeper implementation of reforms is needed in order for the process to become irreversible.
Why does the Commission report on progress in judicial reform, the fight against corruption and the fight against organised crime in Bulgaria?
Upon accession of Bulgaria on 1 January 2007, certain weaknesses remained in the areas of judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime that could prevent an effective application of EU laws, policies and programmes, and prevent Bulgarians from enjoying their full rights as EU citizens. Therefore, the Commission undertook within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to assist Bulgaria to remedy these shortcomings but also to regularly verify progress against six benchmarks set for this purpose. These benchmarks are interlinked and should be seen together as part of a broad reform of the judicial system and the fight against corruption and organised crime for which a long-term political commitment is needed.
How does the Commission report on progress in Bulgaria?
The Commission's reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) have been published twice a year since 2007. The reports are based on contributions from the Bulgarian Government, as well as from the Commission services, Member States and NGOs. The most recent reports in July 2011 and February 2012 charted the legislative, institutional and policy developments relevant to judicial reform and the fight against corruption.
In 2011, the Commission announced its intention to use the summer 2012 report to make a review of progress over the full five years since Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2007. This report therefore takes a five-year perspective and is able to look at longer-term trends and the extent to which policy initiatives have been carried
What does today's report say?
Today's report concludes that Bulgaria needs to step up reforms in order to reach the objectives regarding the rule of law set for the CVM. Overall, the report shows progress. However, the objectives of the CVM have not yet been met and the benchmarks have not been satisfactorily fulfilled. Reform is not yet sustainable and irreversible.
Progress has been achieved with the adoption of the basic legislative framework and the creation of important new institutions. Since 2007, the Supreme Judicial Council and its inspectorate took up functions and specialised bodies have been set up to tackle key issues like organised crime. Asset forfeiture legislation has been improved and a commission has been created to address conflict of interest.
The report recommends that Bulgaria should now focus on filling the gaps in this legal and institutional framework and on implementing all laws in an effective way. At the same time, the report also highlights a number of key shortcomings. As regards the management of the judiciary, weaknesses exist in pursuing judicial integrity, in the consistency of disciplinary practice and in transparent and objective judicial appointments, appraisals and promotions. Regarding the fight against corruption, the coordination of different authorities is still insufficient and reforms require more direction and commitment to results. The steps taken in the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime still lack convincing results.
What are the next steps?
The Commission considers that Bulgaria now needs to focus on implementation and to demonstrate a strong track record in all areas. The Commission will make its next full assessment at the end of 2013 in order to allow the time required to assess tangible results. Between now and then, the Commission will monitor progress closely and on a continuous basis with regular missions, as well as frequent dialogue with the Bulgarian authorities and with other Member States.
To maintain progress, the Commission invites Bulgaria to take action in a number of areas and issues detailed recommendations for this purpose. These recommendations cover aspects related to the reform of the judicial system, to judicial independence, accountability and integrity, the efficiency of the judicial process and to the fight against organised crime and corruption.
What are the six benchmarks set for Bulgaria?
The following benchmarks have been set for Bulgaria in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism:
1. Adopt constitutional amendments removing any ambiguity regarding the independence and accountability of the judicial system.
2. Ensure a more transparent and efficient judicial process by adopting and implementing a new judicial system act and the new civil procedure code. Report on the impact of these new laws and of the penal and administrative procedure code, notably on the pre-trial phase.
3. Continue the reform of the judiciary in order to enhance professionalism, accountability and efficiency. Evaluate the impact of this reform and publish the results annually.
4. Conduct and report on professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high-level corruption. Report on internal inspections of public institutions and on the publication of assets of high-level officials.
5. Take further measures to prevent and fight corruption, in particular at the borders and within local government.
6. Implement a strategy to fight organised crime, focussing on serious crime, money laundering as well as on the systematic confiscation of assets of criminals. Report on new and on-going investigations, indictments and convictions in these areas.
Source: European Commission