European Commission Criticizes Bulgaria for Failure to Reform
The European Commission (EC) took the Bulgarian government to task in a report issued this week detailing the country’s failure to reform its judicial system in accordance with recommendations proscribed in a July EC report. This was the EC’s most negative report on Bulgaria since the country joined the European Union in 2007.
The report began with the good news commending Bulgaria for putting into operation a new specialized Court and Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime, and a Commission for the Identification and Forfeiture of Criminal Assets. It also stated that Bulgaria has taken steps to improve judicial practices, the organization of the prosecutor’s office, and cooperation between courts, police and administrative authorities. However, the report said there has been no progress in other significant areas.
The EC report noted that the new draft law on asset forfeiture needs to be more comprehensive, and have strong institutional backing. Otherwise, the legislation will not be “effective in dissuading organized crime and high-level corruption.” The Bulgarian Parliament is currently debating the law which outlines the procedure for asset forfeiture prior to a conviction especially assets connected to organized crime.
Additionally, the Commission noted that court verdicts are still not systematically published and standards for publication not agreed upon calling for the establishment of a “unified information system across the prosecution, police and other administrative authorities…”
In light of electoral fraud allegations in both presidential and local elections last October, the Commission noted that “dissuasive sanctions for votebuying as well as full transparency in political party financing” are essential in the fight against organized crime and corruption.
Maglena Kuneva, the former Bulgarian European Commissioner, issued a statement saying that the report from Brussels "told us what we all already know: Bulgaria's current rulers do not want a change in the status quo." Kuneva, the founder and the leader of the civic movement "Bulgaria for Citizens" said there is a large contrast between what the government has actually accomplished and its claims of success. This summer the Commission will prepare an overall assessment of Bulgaria’s progress since the country joined the EU.