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Press release about MEDEL's remarks on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) reports on Bulgaria and Romania

MEDEL

MEDEL representatives were invited to meet with the CVM (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism) team to deepen the discussions regarding the progress reports on the Romanian and Bulgarian judiciary systems, Mr. William Sleath stated on behalf of the European Commission in a letter sent to MEDEL on 28 Jan. 2019.

The letter from the European Commission was a reply to a letter sent by MEDEL, on 14 December 2018, to Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission) and Ms. Vera Jourová (European Commissioner of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality) regarding the 2018 reports of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) on Bulgaria and Romania. 

In that letter MEDEL raised “serious concerns regarding the conclusions expressed in these reports which, from the perspective of our organization and its members, seem far off from the realities in both countries”.

“The force of this report should reside in its technicality and objectiveness, as well as in its ability to reflect relevant facts and to express, when necessary, conclusions issued after consulting divergent points of view on sensitive topics strictly based on legal, factual and non-partisan arguments. Unfortunately, though, based on our observation, the CVM report failed to offer an objective analysis and to give valid recommendations in order to really support the two countries towards the progress of their judicial systems”, MEDEL also stated in the letter.

In the case of Romania, for example, MEDEL stated that, despite the fact that “it raised on numerous occasions the issue of the involvement of the intelligence services in criminal investigations and courts, stating clearly that this undermines the rule of law”, “the CVM Report on Romania covered the issue of the intelligence agencies’ involvement in the judiciary superficially, ignoring the serious consequences that this fact has on the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial. The credibility of the report is seriously affected when, by reading it, it results that words of politicians or journalists seem to be affecting the independence of judiciary more than covert actions of intelligence agencies”.

In the case of Bulgaria, MEDEL stated that this country is faced with serious deficiencies of the judiciary system, aggravated by constant and severe pressures on judges – especially on the President of the Bulgarian High Court – as well as by a “disproportion of forces among judges and prosecutors, in a country where the prosecutors are still organized based on the Soviet model of «prokuratura»”.

“All these observations and concerns from Bulgaria, supported by concrete examples, were ignored by European Commission’s experts”, MEDEL stated in the letter.

MEDEL’s letter to President Junker and Commissioner Jourová on 14 Dec. 2018 was analyzed at the level of the European Commission and it received a reply on 28 Jan. 2019.

“Let me first of all assure you that the Commission continues to follow developments very closely in both Romania and Bulgaria”, and “the Commission relies on input from national authorities and judicial institutions, representatives of civil society and professional organizations, and independent observers such as the Council of Europe, and strives to provide a neutral analysis and assessment of progress”, the letter from the European Commission stated.

In the case of Romania, the letter stated that cooperation between judiciary and Romanian intelligence services is “known to the Commission from public debate, documents and discussions with stakeholders, including the various magistrates' associations”.

“Moreover, the [CVM] report clearly acknowledges the claims of abuses in relation to this cooperation and the role that these claims play in the public debate surrounding the amendments  to the Justice laws, as well as the amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code”, the letter stated.

At the same time, “the democratic control over the national intelligence services fall outside the CVM benchmarks - and outside the competences of the EU, in accordance with the Treaty”, the European Commission claims in the reply to MEDEL.

In the case of Bulgaria, even if the European Commission  acknowledged  certain progressed in the judiciary, “the [CVM] report notes that Bulgaria still faces challenges in promoting professionalism, accountability and efficiency in the judiciary, as well as in the fight against corruption, including the investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption. In the context of the benchmark on continued judicial reform, specific reference is made to the need to follow up  on issues raised by the 2016 independent analysis of the Bulgarian prosecution office. In this respect, the need to enhance accountability and trust in the office of Prosecutor General remains very relevant”, the letter stated.

In the letter, the European Commission also pointed out, restating from the CVM report on Bulgaria, a “significant deterioration” of the media environment in Bulgaria over recent years, which affects the independence of the judiciary due to targeted media attacks on judges.

“With respect to the newly established anti-corruption agency, the [CVM] report concludes that this as an important step towards a more effective anti-corruption framework. At the same time, in the light of the concerns that have been expressed by stakeholders in the context of Bulgaria, the report specifically highlights the effective management of its broad remit of activities as well as the need to build public trust as important challenges for the new institution. The Commission is fully aware that many challenges remain with regard to the functioning of the judiciary and the framework to address corruption and crime in Bulgaria”, the letter also stated.

At the end of the letter, the European Commission restated it’s welcoming of “input from informed stakeholders to be taken into account in the Commission's assessment” as well as for the willingness of MEDEL “to provide further background on the situation in both Romania and Bulgaria”.

MEDEL will forward the answer from the European Commission to its associated members from Romania and Bulgaria for a detailed feedback and will work with the all the parties to prepare the upcoming meetings with the CVM team.

MEDEL - Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés – is a European NGO that gathers 23 associations of Judges and Prosecutors from 16 countries, representing nearly 15.000 magistrates, and has among its goals the promotion of a debate among magistrates in order to deepen the European Union and to defend the independence of the Judiciary.

February 28th, 2019

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