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Developing Judicial Reform Program for Bulgaria

Policy Workshop, July 1, 1999


On July 1, 1999, a Policy Workshop was held at the Center for the Study of Democracy. Forty-one participants attended: members of the Steering Committee and of the task forces, Bulgarian and international experts, representatives of state and international institutions. The revised first version of the draft Program for the Development of the Judicial Reform in Bulgaria was presented and discussed.

Dr. Ognian Shentov, President of the Center for the Study of Democracy, opened the Workshop. He emphasized how important the prepared document was for the further development of the judicial reform in Bulgaria. He also stressed the main directions in the future activities of the Initiative.

Introductory remarks were made by: Ms. Ekaterina Mihailova – MP and Chair, Parliamentary group of UDF, Mr. Vassilis Maragos – Economic Advisor in the European Commission Delegation in Bulgaria, Mr. Claes Eklundh – Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman of Sweden.

Ms. Ekaterina Mihailova highly appraised the present work of the JRI and the prepared draft Program. She highlighted the significance of the mechanisms that has developed for cooperation with state institutions. Thanks to the Initiative, the Parliament and the Government have already started discussing a number of proposals and ideas that are a major part of the draft Program.

Mr. Vassilis Maragos expressed the support of the European Commission Delegation in Bulgaria on the work done by the JRI for the development of the Program for the Judicial Reform. He denoted the necessity of clear definition of the priorities of the Program and the stages for their implementation.

Mr. Claes Eklundh presented the role of the institution Parliamentary Ombudsman in Sweden. Its main function is to control public administration and to protect citizens’ rights and freedom.

Ms. Nelly Koutzkova, coordinator of the task forces, introduced the main concepts in the draft Program in the context of the present development of the reform.

The discussion proceeded along two major panels:

  • Elaboration of the legal basis of the reform: civil, administrative, and penal law and procedure;
  • Training of magistrates, improving work of court administration, and opening the judicial system to society.

Within these two panels, the leaders of the task forces outlined the most important questions and the ones subject to discussion in each of the respective parts of the draft Program.

Suggestions and recommendations were expressed by: Mr. Vladislav Slavov – Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court, Mr. Roumen Nenkov – Chair of the Second division of the criminal college, Supreme Court of Cassation, Ms. Kina Choutourkova and Mr. Borislav Belazelkov – Justices in the Supreme Court of Cassation, Dr. Ekaterina Trendafilova – Associate professor in Penal Law, Sofia University Faculty of Law, Ms. Kapka Kostova – Chair of Sofia Regional Court, Ms. Elena Avdeva – Chair of Blagoevgrad District Court, Mr. Vassil Chobanov – LLM, Journalist in Radio Free Europe, Dr. Silvi Chernev – Attorney-at-law and Deputy Chair of the Court of Arbitration with Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Roumen Georgiev – Deputy Director of the Specialize Investigation Agency, Mr. Vassilis Maragos from the Delegation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Mr. Vladimir Kanev – expert in the Ministry of Justice and European Legal Integration, Ms. Galina Mikhlin – representative of the World bank, Washington D.C.

Throughout the discussion, a number of opinions were voiced: for the necessity of further training in the magistrate profession (Dr. S. Chernev); for the legal requirements for practice and qualification in taking a certain position, and for the establishment of the institution "assistent judge"; (Mr. Vl. Slavov); for creating an atmosphere lacking conflicts in the work of magistrates (Mr. R. Georgiev); for the pros and cons regarding specialized courts. Mr. Roumen Nenkov started discussing the problem of lawyers’ behavior during a court process. He shared his opinion on introducing constitutional and legal possibilities for suspending magistrates. He also paid special attention to the necessity of better material work conditions for magistrates. Mr. Vl. Kanev focused on the insufficient financial resources for the latter, as well as on the lack of coordination between the different units of the system. The main aim of the reform, in his opinion, has to be a "fast and inexpensive legal process." Mr. Maragos highlighted the need of developing a national system that would allow the magistrates to build their career and would guarantee their independence. He also pointed out the need of high qualification and internal specialization on different problems. His opinion was that an adequate system for evaluating the magistrates’ work was essential. The problems of the reform have to be rated: starting with the minimal requirements, but prioritizing them. On behalf of the World Bank, Ms. G. Mikhlin highly appraised the draft Program and the activity of the JRI Community.

The draft Program is published in a brochure in 1000 copies. It is distributed to non-profit organizations, professional unions, state institutions, the media, experts, and citizens, with the aim of getting their opinion and specific proposals for amendments. The final version of the Program will be developed after taking into account the remarks and suggestions given by all interested parties.

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