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Summary of the discussion at the International Conference on Bulgarian Judiciary in the EU Accession Process: Reforming the Investigation and the Prosecution
On April 8-9, 2005, the Center for the Study of Democracy jointly with the Ministry of Justice held an International Conference on Bulgarian Judiciary in the EU Accession Process: Reforming the Investigation and the Prosecution. The main goal of the conference, organized with the support of the European Commission, was to facilitate the process of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union by contributing to the strengthening of the Bulgarian judiciary, in particular as regards the organization and place of the prosecution and the investigation, in compliance with the best practices implemented in the EU Member States and other accession countries.

The event brought together representatives of the investigative bodies and prosecution offices from eight Southeast European countries and Spain as well as representatives of a number of Bulgarian state institutions (the courts, the investigation, the Supreme Judicial Council, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Constitutional Court, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Constitutional Court), non-governmental organizations involved in judicial reform, international organizations, academia, experts, etc. The conference benefited from the participation of the Director General of DG Justice, Freedom and Security Mr. Jonathan Faull.

In his opening speech the Deputy Minister of Justice Dr. Margarit Ganev outlined the challenges before the judicial reform in Bulgaria. He paid special attention to the necessity of modernization of the pre-trial phase in the criminal proceedings as one of the key problems for successful European integration.
Dr. Ganev mentioned the start of the criminal justice reform in Bulgaria with the adoption by the government of the National Concept on Criminal Proceedings Reform and pointed out the necessary future steps to be undertaken, including the adoption of new Code of Criminal Procedure. He summarized the recommendations of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament for reforming the pre-trial phase, further developing the role of the Prosecutor General in order to ensure transparency, accountability and effectiveness within the management of the judiciary, and creating a working mechanism for dismissal of corrupt or incompetent magistrates.

Mr. Ganev underlined the pro-active civil position of the Center for the Study of Democracy for encouraging process of the judicial reform and highly estimated the cooperation between the Center and the Ministry of Justice.

The CSD Chairman Dr. Ognian Shentov welcomed the participants, emphasizing on the significant role the NGOs played in promoting judicial reform in Bulgaria. He noted that although there is no acquis communautaire as regards the structure of the judiciary, there are recommendations aimed at achieving compliance with the best practices in EU and a number of objective indicators, e.g. the length of proceedings, the existence of reliable statistical data on the speed and efficiency of the criminal procedure, etc.

The Director General for Justice, Freedom and Security Mr. Jonathan Faull presented the lessons learned from the last EU enlargement and the position of Bulgaria in the context of the European area of Justice, Freedom and Security (JFS). He said that the conclusion of the negotiations and the future signing of the Accession Treaty clearly show that Bulgaria belongs to the European “family”. Mr. Faull explained that JFS issues are becoming more and more an international problem rather than a domestic one and should therefore be dealt with on the basis of co-operation as the EU possesses important mechanisms in this area. According to him Bulgaria has done an enormous amount of work but there are further efforts to be made in order to build a quick, efficient and reliable judiciary, which will be able to meet the challenges of accession. He added that the “EU does not tell how to administer justice; it just tells we need highly effective judiciary”.
Mr. Faull defined as one of the main lessons learned from the fifth enlargement the circumstance that the main and structural reforms concerning the efficiency of democracy and rule of law should not be postponed until the end of the pre-accession process, especially as regards the judicial reform.

Mr.Antonio Vercher Noguera, Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Spain and Mr. Ignacio Pando Echeverría, Senior Judge, Regional Court of Avila, Spain presented the structure and organization of the judiciary in Spain, which includes only the courts, and described the role and place of the investigation and prosecution. Reviewing the history of the judicial reform in Spain, the Spanish guests pointed out as main specifics of the Spanish experience the political consensus reached on the priorities of the reform.

Mr. Thomas Peebles, Resident Legal Advisor, US Department of Justice delivered a speech on: The Role of the Prosecution in Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law. An American Perspective. He marked that the US Department of Justice provides assistance across the globe for building judicial systems where rule of law prevails. Mr. Peebles mentioned that if this goal is to be achieved, all parts of the system should be effective. He confirmed the commitment of the US government for contributing to the strengthening of the institutions engaged in the criminal proceedings in Bulgaria and its readiness for cooperation with the Bulgarian prosecutors and their EU colleagues. The globalization of the transnational crime and international terrorism, and the necessity of strong criminal justice to combat them effectively are the main reasons for that US commitment. Mr. Peebles paid special attention to several prerequisites, which are compulsory for the prosecutors in every democratic society, so that the institution is efficient and contributes to strengthening the democracy and rule of law:

  • Possession of high competence and a high degree of technical skill to prosecute the complex sort of crime that most threaten us today, including terrorist crime;

  • Possession of strong ethical compass and sensitivity to basic human rights;

  • Awareness of the world-wide dimensions of their work and the responsibilities, evolving from their function of crime-fighters.

The first panel after the opening session was devoted to the Structure, Organization and Functions of the Prosecution in the New EU Member States. The country reports were presented by: Mr. Miroslav Ruzicka, Director of Analytical and Legislative Department of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Czech Republic, Mr. Tamás Jávorszki, Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Somogy Country, Hungary, Ms. Rudite Abolina, Head Prosecutor, Work Analysis and Management Department, Prosecutor General’s Office, Latvia, Mr. Robertas Dlugauskas, Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Training Methodology Division, Prosecutor General’s Office, Lithuania, Ms. Julita Sobczyk, Prosecutor, Poland, Mr. Robert Renier, Head of the District State Prosecutor’s Office in Krsko, Slovenia, and Mr. Alexander Kunosik, Division of Criminal Law Legislation, Ministry of Justice, Slovakia.
They presented the different models of prosecution offices in the respective countries and the main principles upon which they function, such as independence, depolitization, incompatibility and transparency as well as accountability of the Prosecutor General before the body that elects or appoints him (usually the parliament or executive authorities) and transparency.. The speakers underlined that the prosecutor, being dominus litis in the pre-trial phase, is totally responsible for the development of and results achieved in that phase of the criminal proceedings, nevertheless which is the investigative body.

On Saturday, April 9, the conference continued with a panel dealing with Investigative authorities in New EU Member States: Place, Organization and Functions, moderated by Mr. David Wolstenholme, Pre-Accession Advisor, Ministry of Interior of Republic of Bulgaria. Speakers in the panel were: Major of Police Mr. Robert Gergely, Mr. Dariusz Jankowski, Law Adviser in the Legal Bureau of Police Headquarter, PolandDr. Petras Ragauskas, Deputy Director of the Law Institute, Lithuania, and Ms. Vladimira Trnkocyova, Division of Supervision over Criminal Justice System, Ministry of Justice, Slovakia.

During the session on Romania the current status and future reforms of the prosecution and investigative authorities in this country were presented by Ms. Monica Otava, Prosecutor from Section of International Cooperation, European Integration, Public Information and Relations with Media, Prosecution Office by the High Court of Cassation and Justice, Romania and Mr. Iulian Mihai Novac,Service chief, General Inspectorate of Romanian Police,Ministry of Administration and Interior.

The last session was dedicated to the Judicial Reform in Bulgaria: Challenges and Perspectives. Reforming the Investigation and Prosecution. Anti-Corruption Dimensions.Presentations were delivered by Mr. Yonko Grozev, Attorney-at-Law, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Ms. Nelly Koutzkova, Judge from Sofia District Court and Chair of the Association of Judges in Bulgaria, and Mr. Roumen Kirov, Investigator from National Investigation Service.

Mr. Grozev mentioned that although the Constitution guarantees the judicial independence, the politization of the judiciary is obvious and the conflicts within it have become notorious. He underlined that in all new member states there is a steady connection between the prosecution and the executive, notwithstanding the place of the prosecution within the structure of the three branches of power. Mr. Grozev explained that common feature with the main function of public prosecution to implement the state criminal policy hence the necessity of mechanisms for control by the executive over the prosecution.

Ms. Koutzkova said that by now politicians have proved to be incapable to overcome the problems of the judiciary, using as an excuse the independence of judiciary and some contradictory case law of the Constitutional Court.

Mr. Kirov spoke on corruption – related issues, namely the weak points in the activities of the investigators where they can become subject to corruption pressure. He also offered some recommendations for improving the work of investigators and limiting the preconditions for corruption.

The former Minister of the Interior Mr. Emanuil Yordanov, Mr. Mihail Genov from the National Investigation Service, Ms. Daniela Dokovska, Attorney-at-Law, and other participants from Bulgaria took part in the discussion that followed, sharing their views on different aspects of the judicial reform.

The Deputy Chair of the Supreme Court of Cassation Mr. Roumen Nenkov stated that the most significant problem of the judiciary is of structural nature and concerns the Constitution and the division of powers. The mechanism of state indictment, which is typically a function of the executive, is being implemented through the judiciary. The constitutionally envisaged place of the prosecution within the judiciary along with the courts and the joint management of the three separate units of the judiciary by a uniform body, i.e. the Supreme Judicial Council, is totally inadmissible because of their completely different functions.

Ms. Dokovska expressed her opinion that not the investigation itself is the obstacle for the efficiency in the pre-trial phase but rather the entire structure of the Bulgarian judiciary remains the major problem. She also supported Mr. Nenkov’s statement that the separate units of the judiciary should be managed separately.

In his closing address the Minister of Justice Mr. Anton Stankov informed the participants that the draft of the new Code of Criminal Procedure is almost ready and is expected to be adopted by the next National Assembly. According to Minister Stankov the new Code of Criminal Procedure is among the key prerequisites for successful implementation of the EU requirement for more efficient pre-trial phase of criminal proceedings.

Mr. Stankov admitted that the partial failure of the judicial reform is due to the lack of political support. According to him, however, despite the attempts of some groups, including among the judicial circles, to hamper the reform, the necessity of its accomplishment is widely recognized and the reform will be concluded anyway.

The new publication of CSD The Courts, Prosecution and Investigation in the EU Member States and Accession Countries (in Bulgarian only) as well as the Proposals of the Center for the Study of Democracy for Reforms of the Judiciary were distributed among the participants in the conference.
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