The European Commission has delivered on February 4 “a factual update on developments in Bulgaria” to the European Council in the context of the country’s continued monitoring under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, EC spokesperson Mark Grey said on February 5.
“We do not normally go into detailed statements on what was an informal discussion in the Council. What I can say is that the Bulgarian authorities are fully aware of the recommendations we made [in the regular report] last July,” Grey said during the EC’s daily mid-day briefing.
When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in January 2007, their inadequacies in fighting organised crime and corruption and in reforming the judiciary led to the two newcomer countries being subjected to the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism to bring them up to the bloc’s standards in this area.
Following the political crisis caused by attempts to impeach the president in Romania last summer, which saw some of the country’s judiciary bodies come under pressure (most notably, the constitutional court), the European Commission decided to issue a CVM report on Romania, which came out last week.
Bulgaria was spared the same indignity, despite some rumblings in autumn, when the EC criticised Bulgaria for not doing enough to dispel doubts surrounding some of the nominees for high-level positions in the Bulgarian judiciary. Instead, the Commission delivered an “oral update”, with a formal report due at the end of 2013.
The EC “took note” of the “recent progress” made with top-level appointments in the Bulgarian judiciary, most notably the new prosecutor-general Sotir Tsatsarov.
“We’ll now be looking for a track record to be established, we’ll be looking for the fundamental reform that we’ve talked about in terms of the judiciary in Bulgaria,” Grey said.
“The way the Commission described the situation was by looking at what needs to be done. To give some examples, reform of the judicial system; also, looking at the independence, accountability, integrity of the judiciary and the efficiency of the process,” he said.
“There are a number of examples, that the Bulgarian authorities are fully aware of, that need to be looked at,” Grey said. These included Bulgaria’s specialised prosecution and court on organised crime, as well as the commission on prevention of conflicts of interest as institutions where further progress was needed in the coming months.
(European Commission headquarters’ Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)