There is a distinct body of opinion among the general public in
Bulgaria that the judicial system is slow and ineffective. It
receives a low measure of trust both from the public at large and
from other state institutions. This is to a great extent warranted.
The process of dispensing justice in Bulgaria is still marked by
serious shortcomings: courts are overburdened with work and take a
long time to deliver their judgments; a shortage of qualified
judges , the complexity of legal procedures and a plethora of new
rules to be applied all contribute to this situation. It is
particularly serious where penalties and sentencing are concerned,
as a number of procedures are not fully completed.
One of the main reasons behind this is the yet incomplete reform
process in the judiciary. The need to reform the system is now
acknowledged by a large number of the magistrates.
Among the multitude of reasons for making judicial reform a
priority and, in particular, for launching the Judicial Reform
Initiative the following stand out:
1.1. Inadequate legal framework
The existing legal framework for the judiciary, despite all
positive changes, is still too contradictory and partly obsolete
and inadequate. Its shortcomings of the existing legislation are
particularly well exploited by those involved in corrupt practices.
Changes are needed in order to establish clear-cut rules in penal,
commercial, civil, and administrative legal relations and, in turn,
to faster, more efficient and more transparent administration of
The current system for criminal prosecution is slow, cumbersome,
and inefficient. The crimes and punishments provided for in the
Penal Code and the Penal Procedure Code do not adequately reflect
present conditions of market economy and rampant crime, including
economic crime. In the past years there have been many legislative
changes aimed at updating the Penal Code and procedure, but rather
than being guided by a comprehensive new vision, they have been
implemented in a piecemeal approach.
The existing legal framework of civil relations opens
opportunities for corruption. The task of civil law is the
equitable regulation of relations among individual citizens as well
as between citizens and the state. This branch of legislation does
not have an immediate bearing on corruption but because of its many
shortcomings it creates conditions favoring the its unrestrained
1.2. Imperfections of the legislative
In addition to the lack of an adequate legal framework its
functioning, the judiciary is burdened by the existing
imperfections of the legislative process and of
approximation of legislation in Bulgaria. The issues concerning
policy making (legislative priorities setting) with respect to law
drafting is one of the weak points in the Bulgarian regulation of
this process. These issues are not covered explicitly by existing
legislation and most often law-drafters have to rely upon their own
understanding of the policy objectives.
There is no established law-drafting procedure ensuring the
quality of the proposed legislation. Specifically, the
main bottle-necks in the legislative process and approximation of
legislation mechanism are:
- The Government has no formal rights to comment on legislation
introduced by Members of Parliament. Therefore all the
"verification" and checks, performed by the executive power, are
not applicable in this case, including the verification for
conformity with EU legislation. The Parliament relies on its own
Legal Department, which is understaffed to perform such functions,
and staff lawyers or, when necessary, documents or testimony form
- There is no ownership of the law-drafting process. The
responsibility of the law-drafters ends with the submission of the
draft to the Council of Ministers, accompanied by a Certificate of
compliance with EU law (issued by the drafting ministry). Once the
draft is forwarded to the Parliament it is out of the hands of the
- The judiciary are not part of a transparent feedback and
monitoring mechanism of the implementation of the legislation which
is a crucial element ensuring the quality of new legislation.
- Lack of sufficient number of well-trained people in the various
phases of the legislative process. The NGO expert potential could
be very helpful in the initial phase of the preparation of draft
legislation as well as by the debates on the draft-acts in the
parliamentary committees. The existing experience of such
cooperation shows the advantages of this participation model.
- In most of cases, Bulgarian legislation is drafted by using
foreign models, with EU legislation as the leading model for areas
to which it applies. However, there is no explicit procedure as to
the mechanism, timing and manner of incorporation of foreign, in
particular EU, expertise into the drafted texts.
- There is no administrative body , which controls and supervises
the whole process.
1.3. Failing administration of
It is well known that legal proceedings under both civil
(including commercial and administrative) and criminal cases are
slow and harbor opportunities for involved parties to intentionally
drag out the process in bad faith. In order to speed up the process
of administration of justice, it is not enough simply to change
The judicial system operates in an outdated,
overly-bureaucratized, and slow manner. Its current poor
organization is a source of corruption and frustration not only for
ordinary citizens but also for those working within the system.
1.4. Lack of reliable staff recruitment procedures
and professional training
Presently there are many professionals working in the judicial
system, yet a significant number of magistrates are young people
with good theoretical background but little professional and life
experience. In the everyday exercise of their duties they
constantly face various difficulties, and the shortcomings in their
performance are largely due to this lack of preparation for the
specific nature of the work. On the other hand, experienced
magistrates face problems arising from constant changes in
legislation and therefore need further training. But programs for
basic training and continuing education of magistrates are yet to
be developed. To a great extent, it is in fact the lack of
experience and skills that account for negative results in the
operation of the judicial system even though the general public
tends to attribute them to corrupt practices.
There are no special programs in Bulgaria designed to promote a
certain kind of professional and personal conduct for magistrates
in line with the social significance of their profession.
A system of evaluation of magistrates is lacking.
The professional skills of the supporting staff of the judicial
system are highly inadequate. Their duties are most demanding and
the conditions of work primitive. No professional training has been
provided for them and their performance is sometimes so poor as to
thwart the efforts of the magistrates.
1.5. Inadequate technical
Most courts, prosecution and investigation offices in the
country use out-dated technical equipment. There is a lack of
coordination between the separate units of the system.