The report sets out where progress has been made against the established benchmarks in the past twelve months, and where further steps are needed.
First Vice-President Timmermans said, "Last year Bulgaria took some important steps to put reform back onto the agenda. Now it is time to move to the next stage by turning the strategies on judicial reform and the fight against corruption into action on the ground and delivering concrete results. The adopted amendment of the national Constitution to reform the judicial system, confirming political determination to carry forward the judicial reform strategy, should be quickly followed up through the adoption of the remaining legislative initiatives. The Commission welcomes Bulgaria's wish to draw on further technical assistance and expertise to support the reform process, and the Commission has put in place the necessary means. 2016 must be the year when Bulgarians feel progress on the ground. Seeing real results in tackling high level corruption and organized crime cases remains Bulgaria's biggest challenge and must be the highest priority."
In 2015 Bulgaria took some important steps to put reform back on the agenda, following a period of political instability which appeared to be stalling progress. The two national strategies on judicial reform and the fight against corruption represent a detailed blueprint for action. It is clear, however, that the translation of these strategies into concrete and tangible progress will be a major challenge for 2016.
In December Bulgaria amended its Constitution. While the amendments included some significant changes from the text originally proposed, their adoption still represents an important step towards a reform of the Supreme Judicial Council, which provides the overall direction for the Bulgarian judicial system. This now needs to be followed up, so that the full range of measures planned in the judicial reform strategy becomes law.
Other initiatives have faced setbacks, most notably the anti-corruption strategy. The draft law intended to put in place a new unified anti-corruption authority has been rejected in the National Assembly. Although the government has announced its intention to resubmit an amended proposal, the rejection underlined a lack of political consensus behind the reform process.
The slow progress in tackling high-level corruption and organised crime cases continues to erode public confidence in the ability of the Bulgarian authorities to deliver justice. The same is true for the uncertain reaction and follow-up to controversies such as the Sofia City Court case in 2014. The fact that many of the recommendations in the 2015 CVM report still require action underlines a lack of determination in the efforts of the Bulgarian institutions in key areas of judicial governance.
The Commission believes that the monitoring process of the CVM, the opportunities provided by EU funds and the constructive engagement of the Commission and many Member States continue to provide valuable support to Bulgaria's reform efforts. The Commission urges Bulgaria to accelerate progress on implementing our recommendations on the reform of the judiciary and the fight against corruption and organised crime.
On 1 January 2007, the Commission established the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to assess progress against the commitments made by Bulgaria in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The Commission reports on progress in these areas on a regular basis. The Commission issued its first report on 27 June 2007. The reports contain the Commission's assessment and recommendations to the Bulgarian authorities, and are complemented by a staff working document which sets out a detailed analysis against each of the benchmarks of the CVM.
The Commission analyses measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities, drawing on continuous dialogue between the Bulgarian authorities and the Commission services. The reports have also benefitted from contacts with Member States, civil society, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. The Commission's conclusions and the methodology of the CVM have consistently enjoyed the strong support of the Council of Ministers.
The previous CVM report was published on 28 January 2015. This new report concerns the period since then. The next formal report is likely to come in around one year's time.
All CVM Reports are available on the following website: