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Round table: The Constitution and the Judicial Reform in Bulgaria
On April 15, 2003, the Center for the Study of Democracy jointly with the Union of Bulgarian Jurists held a round table discussion, which provided a forum for discussing the constitutional amendments, proposed by different institutions and political parties, the declaration signed between them, and the Decision of the Constitutional Court No.3 of April 10, 2003, on Constitutional Case No.22 of 2002. The Minister of Justice, Members of Parliament, Constitutional Court Judges, magistrates, representatives of governmental authorities and NGOs, academics and experts took part in the event.

In his opening remarks the Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court and of the Union of Bulgarian Jurists Mr. Vladislav Slavov underlined the important role of the non-governmental organizations for the implementation of judicial reform.

The Minister of Justice Mr. Anton Stankov explained that the necessity of a number of constitutional amendments corresponding to the upcoming accession of Bulgaria to the European Union is caused by both domestic and international factors. In his opinion the most important issues that need to be regulated by the Constitution are: the immunity, the irremovability and the disciplinary liability of magistrates; the introduction of mandates for the heads of all units of the judiciary; the powers and formation of the Supreme Judicial Council; and the stabilization of the place and the role of the prosecutors' office and the investigation.

Ms. Ekaterina Mihailova, MP from the United Democratic Forces, expressed her support to the idea of carrying out constitutional reforms and proposed the establishment of a parliamentary committee to prepare concrete suggestions for amendments in the Constitution.

Mr. Alexander Arabadzhiev, MP from Coalition for Bulgaria, expressed his hope that the declaration signed by the political forces would contribute to implementation of reforms on a constitutional level.

Mr. Hristo Manchev, Deputy Attorney General, gave a positive assessment to both the declaration and the decision of the Constitutional Court and added that urgent amendments to the procedural laws are required and they could be made by the present Parliament. Mr. Rumen Georgiev, Deputy Director of the National Investigation Service, outlined the personnel policy as the main problem within the Judiciary.

Mr. Roumen Nenkov, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Court of Cassation, suggested that the National Assembly should introduce fair procedures for removal of magistrates who do not perform their duties; guarantee the independence of the prosecutors who would investigate such cases; and elect the members of the Supreme Judicial Council with a qualified majority.

According to Ms. Tatiana Doncheva, MP from the Coalition for Bulgaria, the decision of the Constitutional Court lacks appropriate justification and reveals numerous weaknesses from a political point of view. Ms. Doncheva expressed her concerns that relations exist between business interests and the judiciary in Bulgaria.

Professor Baycho Panev, professor in law, made a concrete proposal for amending article 8 of the Constitution by adding a new paragraph (2) providing that the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary shall cooperate for protecting the national and public interest.

Mr. Miroslav Popov, professor in constitutional law at the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, referred to article 117, paragraph (3) of the Constitution and underlined that Bulgaria is among the few countries, which guarantee the financial independence of the judiciary as a whole, but does not ensure the same for the individual magistrates.

Ms. Maria Strandzhanska, Chair of the National Union of Jurisconsults, proposed amendments to articles 119, 122, and 134 of the Constitution with regard to the introduction of specialized commercial courts and the constitutional regulation of the place and role of jurisconsults.

In their concluding remarks Mr. Vladislav Slavov and Dr. Maria Yordanova, Director of the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, emphasized that the implementation of judicial reform requires close cooperation between the non-governmental sector and the governmental institutions.

Full records of the discussion in PDF (410 kb) (in Bulgarian)
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