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MEMO/11/525

Brussels, 20 July 2011

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 Mechanism1 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 does the Commission report on progress in Bulgaria?

The Commission's reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) are published twice a year. The Commission delivers an annual assessment of progress in summer and an interim report in winter. The present report is the fifth annual assessment report. The report is based on contributions from the Bulgarian Government, the Commission services, Member States and NGOs, it is complemented by a staff-working document which sets out the Commission's detailed analysis against each of the six benchmarks set for the CVM.

The last assessment annual report published on 20 July 2010 pointed to a strong reform momentum that had been established in Bulgaria following the adoption of a new strategy for judicial reform. The report took note of important amendments to the Penal Procedure Code and of strengthened efforts to fight organised crime and corruption. The report also suggested Bulgaria to improve judicial practice in order to allow the judiciary to act more pro-actively and to show a stronger sense of responsibility. The last interim report, published on 20 February 2011 took note of Bulgaria's continued commitment to implement its judicial reform strategy through a detailed action plan.

What does today's report say?

The current report takes note of the sustained political will and commitment of the Bulgarian Government to pursue its reform strategy. Bulgaria continued to reform the judicial system, strengthened legislation on conflict of interest and started a structural reform within the police and the criminal court system. At the same time, the report also notes that the fight against high-level corruption has not led to convincing results during the last twelve months and that overall result in the fight against organised crime need to be significantly improved. The leadership of the judiciary has yet to show a real commitment to judicial reform.

The report concludes that there is an urgent need for considerable improvements in accountability and professional practice within the judiciary and the investigative authorities in order to achieve convincing results in the fight against corruption and organised crime. It will be important to achieve factual improvements regarding appointments, appraisals and skills within the judiciary and to set up efficient structures to deal with organised crime cases. The adoption of the new law on asset forfeiture will be an important deliverable to improve the protection against organised crime and corruption.

What are the next steps?

The report notes that continuous commitment over the next period will be necessary to implement the reforms in laws and structures which have been decided since last summer. As a matter of national priority, Bulgaria should urgently pursue its judicial reform strategy and take further steps towards a fundamental reform of the judicial system.

With the next annual assessment report under the CVM in summer 2012, the Commission proposes to carry-out an overall assessment of Bulgaria's progress under the CVM since accession. In the light of this assessment, the Commission will make appropriate proposals. The present report includes a number of specific recommendations to help Bulgaria to prepare for this overall assessment.

The Commission will continue to support Bulgaria in this endeavour and provide its next annual assessment of progress in summer 2012.

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. 58).


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