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Bulgaria: Stepping up reforms needed to reach rule of law objectives

Commission Européenne - IP/12/798   18/07/2012

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 18 July 2012

Bulgaria: Stepping up reforms needed to reach rule of law objectives

The 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.

"Bulgaria has come a long way since accession" said President Barroso, "The laws are in place, now it will be important to assure their implementation. Bulgaria has made relevant progress and can reach the objectives of the CVM, but it needs to show more ownership of reform and work together more effectively than in the past. Convincing results still need to be shown in the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime so that the concerns of Bulgarian citizens and Bulgaria's European partners can be met. "

Taking a five-year perspective, the report shows progress, but also that 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. In this context, Bulgaria set-up an independent judicial inspectorate and created specialised structures at the level of police and the prosecution to pursue organised crime. Asset forfeiture legislation has been improved and a body to follow-up on conflicts of interest has been created.

The report recommends that Bulgaria focus now on filling the remaining gaps in this legal and institutional framework and concentrate on implementing recently adopted legislation. Weaknesses still exist in particular in judicial integrity, regarding a consistent disciplinary practice concerning transparent and objective judicial appointments, appraisals and promotions. In the fight against corruption, coordination between different authorities is still insufficient and reforms require more direction and commitment to results. The fight against high-level corruption and organised crime still has to show convincing results.

Shortcomings in judicial reform and the fight against corruption are serious concerns for a large majority of Bulgarians. A Flash Eurobarometer poll conducted by the Commission in May showed that 78% of Bulgarians wanted the Commission to continue supporting reform in Bulgaria until it achieves standards comparable to other Member States.

The Commission will make its next assessment of progress at the end of 2013 in order to allow the Bulgarian authorities sufficient time to demonstrate a track record in implementing the relevant laws. The Commission will monitor progress closely during this period with regular missions and a frequent dialogue with the Bulgarian authorities and with other Member States.

Background

On 1 January 2007, the Commission established a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to assess the commitments made by Bulgaria in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption. The Commission was asked to report on progress in these areas on a regular basis. The Commission issued its first report on 27 June 2007 and reported since then on a bi-annual basis. The Commission reports are complemented by a staff-working document which sets out the Commission's detailed analysis against each of the benchmarks set for the CVM.

The Commission's analysis is based on an assessment of progress by the Bulgarian authorities and on information by Member States, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. The Commission has carried out several missions to Bulgaria and the reports also take into account the responses by Bulgaria to detailed questionnaires prepared by the Commission.

The last annual report was published on 20 July 2011. This has been supplemented by an interim report published on 8 February 2012.

A more detailed overview of the report on Bulgaria can be found in MEMO/12/568.

A more detailed overview of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism can be found in

MEMO/07/260.

More detailed information on the Flash Eurobarometer poll on perceptions regarding shortcomings in the rule of law in Bulgaria and regarding the expectations towards support by the Commission in this context can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm

Copies of the full reports can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/cvm/index_en.htm

Contacts :

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen (+32 2 295 30 70)

Mark Gray (+32 2 298 86 44)


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