By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria ranked second from bottom in a survey in European Union countries of perceptions of judicial independence.
This was the second year running that Bulgaria ranked second-bottom, and perceptions of judicial independence were even lower than the previous year.
The survey was done among a representative sample of firms representing the main sectors of the economy – agriculture, manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries and services.
They were asked the question: “To what extent is the judiciary in your country independent from the influences of members of government, citizens, firms?”.
The World Economic Forum survey was cited in a statement on the EU 2014 Justice Scoreboard, released on March 17 2014 for the second year running.
Bulgaria did not figure in two indicators because it was among countries for which there was “no data”.
These indicators were the time needed to resolve litigious civil and commercial cases, and the rate of resolving litigious civil and commercial cases.
Introducing the latest EU Justice Scoreboard, European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that it provided reliable and comparable data on the efficiency, quality and independence of national justice systems which can be used to support recommendations made to EU member countries in the context of the European Semester.
She contrasted this with the recently-announced rule of law framework, which Reding said had been created for dealing with systemic threats to the rule of law.
EU countries are increasingly interdependent, and so too are their justice systems, Reding said.
She said that the findings in the EU Justice Scoreboard “show how important it is for member states to press on with their reforms to make sure that justice systems in Europe serve our citizens and businesses. And to make sure that we continue to create the best climate possible for growth and jobs in our economy.”
In many of these areas, reforms would take some time to bear fruit, Reding said.
“This is a long-distance run and not a sprint. We do not expect to see a revolution overnight. That is why you will not yet be able to track in this year’s edition the results of ambitious reforms that happened last year in some countries. I am thinking of Portugal for example.”
Reding said that the EU Justice Scoreboard “is not a name and shame exercise but it is an encouragement.
“An encouragement for every member state to work on a more efficient, more independent and better justice system than it has today. This is not a process of pointing fingers at each other, but a process of learning from each other.”
As EU countries’ economies were being more interdependent, so were their justice systems.
“Citizens and companies move and live across borders more and more, where they have recourse to the justice systems of other member states. Every national court is a Union court and thus justice policies are no longer simply ‘national business’,” Reding said.