Bulgaria has political will to reform judiciary, PM tells European Commissioner

Bulgaria has political will to reform judiciary, PM tells European Commissioner

Sofia, June 5, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev –Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s judicial reform strategy had been approved by a wide majority in Parliament, proving political will to achieve sustainable change in the judiciary, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on June 4.

Judicial reform in Bulgaria and measures undertaken by institutions to make it irreversible were at the heart of a working meeting between Borissov and Timmermans, a government media statement said.

The meeting was held in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna and was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova and Minister of Justice Hristo Ivanov.

Borissov said that approval by Parliament of the judicial reform strategy proposed by his government “demonstrated the will of political forces to achieve sustainable change in an area that Bulgarian citizens, EU partners, and investors believe does not correspond to the level of democratic development of Bulgaria”.

Borissov said that recently a draft law on amendment and supplementation of the constitution, aiming to ensure the irreversibility of the reforms, had been tabled in Parliament.

According to Borissov, the desire for change in the justice system was visible among judiciary officials and the government was working in co-operation with them on specific items of legislation.

He cited as an example the adopted amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, proposed by the Prosecutor-General, for purpose of preventing the accused people from absconding.

Borissov told Timmermans that the specialist unit, comprised of the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Agency for National Security, and the Interior Ministry, tasked to investigate crimes committed by people occupying high state positions had been operating for two months.

Borissov also highlighted the draft laws on the single anti-corruption unit and amendments to the Judiciary System Act, both undergoing public discussion.

According to the government media statement, Timmermans said that the political will in Bulgaria was evident in Brussels.

He said that the government was heading in the right direction, taking the right steps to achieve stability, with the right team.

Timmermans emphasised that the EC realised how difficult was the balance between preserving the independence of the judiciary and at the same time eradicating corruption within the system.

Borissov highlighted the anti-corruption strategy adopted by the cabinet, as well as the appointment of a deputy prime minister as a national anti-corruption policies co-ordinator.

He pointed to the establishment of a National Council on Anti-Corruption Policies with control functions in the development and implementation of policies in the field of corruption prevention and counteraction.

A Civil Council will monitor and control the implementation of the anti-corruption policies and will include NGO and business representatives, as well as independent experts with proven experience in the field of corruption prevention and counteraction, the government statement said.

“We have the political will to fight corruption and the results are visible – policy measures taken since the beginning of the year to tackle the informal sector, as well as increased trust of European partners, have led to an extra 2.125 billion leva in the state budget,” Borissov said.

The government’s policy is balanced, with priority to the rule of law, he said

He highlighted the good results in the absorption of EU funds.

Borissov said that at the beginning of its term in office, the government had found suspended EU funds, but had managed to make up for the lost time in only a couple of months through targeted efforts.

He expressed confidence that if the cabinet continued to work at an accelerated pace, at least 90 per cent of EU funds for the first programing period of the country would be absorbed by the end of 2015.