CVM: Another bad report card for Bulgaria
Report card time makes Bulgaria look like a pupil that got into a decent school but is rather shoddy about doing its classwork and lackadaisical about keeping promises to do better next time.
January 28 2015 saw the release of the latest European Commission report on Bulgaria under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, put in place when the country joined the EU in 2007, intended to bring the country up to the bloc’s standards in the judiciary and in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
As was expected, the latest reported noted that since the previous CVM report in July 2012, “overall progress has been not yet sufficient, and fragile”.
Bulgaria had taken a few steps forward, the report said. There has been some degree of improvements in appointment procedures, some useful managerial steps by the Prosecutor General and some progress by the Supreme Judicial Council on the workload issue.
Public confidence is conditioned largely by key moments when decisions or events are of sufficient importance to warrant more general interest, the EC said.
“Most such events over the last 18 months – a period during which Bulgaria has had three different governments – have been the source of concern rather than reassurance, with appointments having to be aborted due to integrity issues, the escape from justice of convicted leaders of organised crime and a succession of revelations about political influence on the judicial system.”
There remain very few cases where crimes of corruption or organised crime have been brought to conclusion in court, the EC’s CVM report said.
The EC “invited” Bulgaria to take action in a number of areas, including independence, accountability and integrity of the judiciary, reform and efficiency of the judicial system, and a “sustained and consistent effort” to prevent corruption and punish wrongdoers.
Steps against corruption included a recommendation for Bulgaria to entrust a single institution with the task to coordinate the fight against corruption, to assist and coordinate the efforts in different sectors.
The report also detailed several specific steps that the country could take against organised crime.
Presenting the centre-right coalition cabinet’s response to the CVM report, Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kouneva noted that the report was most critical about the Supreme Judicial Council.
GERB, majority partner in the ruling coalition, claimed that the CVM report represented a “credit of trust” given to the government, which was stable and which could see the legislative amendments through and produce real action on the part of the executive.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party said that the report was critical, as had been expected, and the party called on all state authorities and the ruling coalition, in consensus with other political forces, to identify measures that will lead to improving the judicial system and generally strengthening the rule of law.
Lyutvi Mestan, leader of opposition party the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, called the CVM report “very objective” and said his party would support the implementation of its recommendations.