The European Commission has no decision to stop the so-called monitoring of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria.
The well-known position of the Commission has not changed since the October 2019 report – that Bulgaria has fulfilled all its commitments upon the country’s accession to the European Union.
The rule of law situation in Bulgaria will be monitored within the framework of the new European Rule of Law Mechanism and the European Semester.
This is clear from the answer of the press service of the European Commission in Brussels to several questions that “Dnevnik” sent to clarify the situation around the fate of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM, more popularly known as monitoring). They arose after a position with recommendations of the Commission for the so-called European Semester, concerning the economic, fiscal and social policies of each of the 27 member states.
This document has a special passage on judicial reform, which states: “These issues are subject to monitoring under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. Within this mechanism, the Commission continues to monitor judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Bulgaria.”
On this occasion, Dnevnik specifically asked the European Commission “Is the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism still in force?”
The Brussels reply does not explicitly say “Yes” or “No”, but several quotations and explanations indicate that the European Commission has not formally decided to terminate this mechanism, established by its decision at the end of 2006.
The text quotes from the Commission Communication of 22 October 2019, and in particular that of President Jean-Claude Juncker: “Before taking a final decision, the Commission will also listen carefully to the opinions of Parliament and the Council.”
These opinions have already been given in an advisory capacity. The European Parliament is aware that, despite criticism of Bulgaria, monitoring must be stopped and replaced immediately by the future Rule of Law Mechanism, valid for all in the EU. The details are still being clarified. As early as last October, Capital told the EU Council that there were countries dissatisfied with the drop in monitoring, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, which insisted that the end of CVM coincide with the beginning of the new rule of law mechanism. The weekly later added that the circle of these countries has expanded to at least 8. A kind of signal that there are still dissatisfied EU countries is that Bulgaria is not invited to Schengen, and the Dutch linked such a decision to termination of CVM.
The answer to “Dnevnik” from the press service of the European Commission also says:
“Bulgaria has extensively reformed its anti-corruption legal framework, but solid evidence is needed for a final conviction for high-level corruption in order to build public confidence. In addition, several challenges remain, including ensuring effective criminal investigations. , redistributing the workload of the courts and improving the efficiency of local prosecutorial services.
The continued adoption and implementation of the necessary reforms will require follow-up at national and EU level.
The rule of law situation will be monitored in particular in the framework of the new European Rule of Law Mechanism and the European Semester. ”
The latter clarification is important because the Bulgarian authorities have explained over the past two days that the media has unjustifiably mixed three different forms: the current monitoring of judicial reform with the Semester report and the future Rule of Law Mechanism. Today, the Commission points out that the passage for judicial reform was not accidentally included in the European Semester on Wednesday, although the topic is not among the four recommendations to Bulgaria at the end.
“As the last (the final) assessment was made under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, the area of legal reform and the fight against corruption are not covered by the specific recommendations. for Bulgaria, but they are important for the development of a positive business climate in the country. The quote in the European Semester reflects this state of affairs, “the Commission’s press service said today.
This confirms two things – that there will be no more reports on the so-called monitoring, as well as that positions on the state of justice in Bulgaria will be included in the messages for the Semester, which are otherwise devoted exclusively to economic problems.
The next such mention of judicial reform in Bulgaria can be expected sometime in November. Then usually the European Commission publishes an “autumn package” of documents for the preparation of this assessment in the spring of 2021.