Ten business associations representing foreign investors in Bulgaria have issued an open letter to Bulgaria’s state leaders on January 25 2016, calling for a systemic approach to solving the issues in the judiciary, one that is based on rule of law and the reform strategy approved by Parliament last year.
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and his four deputy prime ministers, Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, President Rossen Plevneliev and Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva, was signed by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Bulgaria, as well as the chambers of commerce representing German, French, British, Belgian and Italian businesses in Bulgaria, among others.
The foreign investor groups expressed their “concern at recent developments regarding the implementation of the long-awaited judiciary reform and the growing perception, both in Bulgaria and among international investor circles, that Bulgaria has a deficit of the rule of law.”
“The perception that reform is not happening leads to uncertainty for investors and the economic entities operating in the country. It reduces appetite for investment in Bulgaria,” the letter said.
The groups also asserted their belief that the Bulgarian judiciary already has the “quality professionals” necessary to implement reforms from within the system, saying that they supported the “efforts for real change from within the judiciary system, which would ensure the necessary independence of judges and magistrates”.
In conclusion, the letter also underlines that reform goes beyond legislating new laws and requires that legal norms are enforced, pointing out that this would increase the trust of Bulgaria’s society and businesses in the judiciary.
Last year, Bulgaria’s National Assembly approved constitutional amendments on judiciary reform, but critics have described the changes as not going far enough and reducing the independence of Bulgarian judges, compared to the initial version of the bill.
The letter by the 10 chambers of commerce also comes some days before the European Commission releases its latest report on the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), which Bulgaria agreed to when it joined the EU in 2007, and which monitors Bulgaria’s progress in reforming the judiciary and fighting corruption.