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MEMO/09/342

Brussels, 22 July 2009

Report on Progress under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism in Bulgaria

Why does the Commission report on progress in judicial reform, the fight against corruption and 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 took the obligation within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism 1 to assist Bulgaria to remedy these shortcomings but also to regularly verify progress against six benchmarks set for judiciary reform, the fight against corruption and the fight against organised crime. These benchmarks are interlinked. They need to 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 d oes the Commission report on progress in Bulgaria?

The Commission's reports under the Cooperation and verification Mechanism (CVM) are published twice a year since June 2007. They are based on contributions from the Bulgarian Government, the Commission services, Member States and a variety of other sources.

The last full report, published on 23 July 2008 concluded that Bulgaria was committed to judicial reform and to the fight against corruption and organised crime and had prepared the necessary draft laws, action plans and programmes. However, there was still a clear weakness in translating these intentions into tangible results.

The Commission updated its assessment in an interim report published on 12 February 2009 . This report identified some initial steps towards structural and legislative reform which Bulgaria needed to sustain and extend in order to deliver concrete results.

What does today's report say?

The Commission's report sees a momentum for reform in Bulgaria which has yielded first results. The report takes note of a number of technical steps that were taken as a response to the last full assessment by the Commission in July 2008. These steps concern in particular a reform of the prosecution for serious crime which has shown first results in the form of a higher number of cases and indictments for EU fraud and in an increase in convictions for organised crime. The inspectorate to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has presented an encouraging track record. The report also identifies progress in the equal application of the law and in the identification and in the follow-up to delays with high-level criminal cases.

At the same time, these first successes have to be judged against daily reality in Bulgaria where killings linked with organised crime continue and known criminals are not apprehended. There is a need for clear evidence that the authorities and the political class are unequivocally committed to eradicating the root-causes of organised crime and corruption.

In conclusion, the report states that sufficient political commitment for broader initiatives which could form a more decisive, strategic approach is still missing.

What are the next steps?

I n order to secure lasting change, more substantial results in investigating, prosecuting and judging cases of high-level corruption and organised crime are needed. To assist Bulgaria to focus its reform efforts, the Commission proposes a detailed list of recommendations.

Bulgaria requires a long-term and unequivocal political commitment to ultimately succeed in its reform process. The Commission will therefore re-visit progress in Bulgaria against the benchmarks of the CVM and the specific recommendations it has made in summer 2010. The Commission also invites the other Member States to continue assisting Bulgaria in its reform process.

What are the six benchmarks set for Bulgaria?

The following benchmarks have been set for Bulgaria in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism:

  • Adopt constitutional amendments removing any ambiguity regarding the independence and accountability of the judicial system.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Take further measures to prevent and fight corruption, in particular at the borders and within local government.

  • 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 ongoing investigations, indictments and convictions in these areas.

Where can the report be found?

The report is available on the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/cvm/index_en.htm

1 :

Commission Decision 2006/929/EC of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Bulgaria to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime (OJ L 354, 14.12.2006, p. 56).


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