Judicial reform in Bulgaria continues to be a priority in the context of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union. On October 29, 2003, the negotiations on Chapter 24 Justice and Home Affairs have been closed, but several important requirements are still to be met by the country before its entering the EU, including among other the re-organization of the investigation service and the improvement of the effectiveness and accountability of the prosecution. According to the report of the First monitoring mission (peer review) after closure of accession negotiations under Chapter 24 in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs in Bulgaria, presented in July 2004, as well as according to the European Commission’s 2004 Regular Report for Bulgaria’ progress towards accession the reform of the pre-trial phase in Bulgaria is to be continued in order to meet the EU efficiency requirements. The current reform efforts are considered by the experts to be only a partial answer to the requirements. Changes to the Constitution, the Law on the Judiciary and the Penal Procedure Code are indispensable to redefine roles and functions of prosecutors, investigative magistrates and investigative police officers, making the prosecutor the center if gravity of the pre-trial phase.Judicial reform is a priority area of activities of the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) since early 1999, when the Center launched the Judicial Reform Initiative (JRI) a coalition of leading non-governmental organizations, representatives of governmental institutions and experts for developing a program for assistance and successful implementation of judicial reform in Bulgaria. JRI was founded by eight non-profit organizations: Association of Judges in Bulgaria, Center for the Study of Democracy, Chamber of the Investigators, European Network of Women in Police – Bulgaria, Legal Initiative for Training and Development (PIOR), Legal Interaction Alliance, Modern Criminal Justice Foundation, and Union of Bulgarian Jurists. The Program for Judicial Reform , developed within the framework of the Initiative, was endorsed at a highly representative policy forum in May 2000. As a result of the established public-private partnership the main priorities of the Program were subsequently incorporated in the Strategy in Order to Reform the Judiciary in Bulgaria, adopted by the Bulgarian Government in October 2001.The public-private partnership continued successfully in the course of developing the Judicial Anti-Corruption Program (JACP): an effort initiated by CSD to facilitate the prevention and countering of corruption in the judiciary. The Program, published in late 2003, offers a comprehensive set of proposals for reforms in the judiciary. The document was developed by eminent Bulgarian lawyers, including magistrates, and resulted from the combined efforts of influential non-governmental organizations, representatives of state institutions, and experts.
The international conference Reforming the Investigation and the Prosecution will be a two-day event on April 8-9, 2005 (Friday and Saturday) and will be held in Sofia (Boyana Conference Centre). 150 participants will be invited to attend the conference, including:
- One representative of the European Commission.
- Two participants from Spain. The Spanish participants at the event will include one senior representative of the General Council for the Judiciary of Spain and one senior prosecutor.
- 18 participants from almost all PHARE countries (two participants from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania). The participants from each PHARE country will include a representative of the executive (e.g. the Ministry of Justice/Ministry of Interior depending on the place of the investigation/prosecution in the respective country) and/or a representative of the judiciary.
- 100 participants from Bulgaria: representatives of the courts (judges from the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Supreme Administrative Court, appellate, district and regional courts), the prosecution (the prosecutor general and his deputies, prosecutors from the Supreme Prosecution Office of Cassation, the Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office, appellate, district and regional prosecution offices), the investigation (investigators from the National Investigation Service and the district investigation services), the Supreme Judicial Council, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Constitutional Court, non-governmental organizations involved in judicial reform (the Union of Bulgarian Jurists, the Union of Bulgarian Judges, the Association of Prosecutors, the Chamber of Investigators), international organizations (the Delegation of the European Commission, United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, etc.), academia, experts, etc.
- 30 representatives of organizations participating in the Judicial Reform Initiative and media.
An Analytical Report: The Investigation and the Prosecution in the EU Member States and Accession Countries will be developed before the conference and will be distributed among the participants at the event. The report will offer an overview of the organization and principles of operation of the investigation and the prosecution in the European Union, including the new Member States, and the accession countries. It will be disseminated among the participants invited to attend the international conference as well as among representatives of other state institutions, civil organizations and experts involved in judicial reform.