The ambassadors of France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Finland and the UK have issued a joint appeal to the authorities in Sofia to speed up the adoption of proposals in the recently-adopted updated judicial reform strategy.
The diplomats described themselves as “like-minded group” closely following Bulgaria’s progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption.
They said that the reform of the magistracy was a “matter of urgency” and called on the Supreme Judicial Council to take a leading role in this process.
The diplomats believe that it a qualitative leap in corruption trials would be of decisive significance.
A new strong and effective institutional framework was essential, they said, saying that such a framework should include elements of real and result-oriented checks into the integrity and adequacy of capacity for independent investigation and prosecution.
The ambassadors highlighted the political consensus shown in the Bulgarian Parliament in adopting in January 2015 the updated strategy for the continuation of reforms in the judicial system.
They said that they expected this consensus to be turned into concrete legislative steps to ensure the application of the judicial reform strategy, especially in regard to the structure and functioning of the Supreme Judicial Council and strengthening the fight against corruption at the highest level.
The ambassadors called on the SJC is to demonstrate leadership by focusing on the effective resolution of problems related to the allocation of cases, failures in the integrity (professional and moral qualities of some of the judges), and the intersection of undue political influence over the judiciary.
They also highlighted the need to reform the prosecution, saying that intentions to reform the prosecution were welcome and should be followed through.
They insist on “specific actions” of the institutions responsible for deciding cases of high public interest, for example the Corporate Commercial Bank case.
In an apparent hint at Romania as a positive example in the region, the ambassadors said that examples from “other countries in the region” showed that real and substantial change was possible.
“We as friends and partners must share our expectation that – given the ambitions for reforms of the current government – Bulgaria will make significant progress by the summer of 2015,” the seven EU ambassadors said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)