The European Commission adopted today its latest report on steps taken by Bulgaria to meet its commitments on judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime, in the context of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
Today's report looks at the progress made over the past year to meet the final 17 recommendations issued by the Commission in the January 2017 report and positively notes Bulgaria's continued efforts and determination to implement those recommendations. The Commission is confident that Bulgaria – if it pursues the current positive trend – will be able to fulfil all the remaining recommendations and thereby the outstanding benchmarks. This will enable the CVM process for Bulgaria to then be concluded before the end of this Commission's mandate – in line with the orientation given by President Jean-Claude Juncker when he started his term of office.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "This report acknowledges that Bulgaria has continued to make steady progress in implementing the final recommendations we set out in January 2017. These reforms are necessary to effectively fight corruption and organised crime. If the current positive trend continues and progress is maintained sustainably and irreversibly, I am confident that the CVM process for Bulgaria can be concluded before the end of this Commission's mandate."
Over the twelve months since the last report in November 2017, Bulgaria has continued its efforts to implement the recommendations set out in the January 2017 report. The Commission considers that several recommendations have already been implemented and a number of others are very close to implementation. On this basis, three benchmarks (judicial independence, legislative framework and organised crime) out of six can be considered provisionally closed. Given that in some cases developments are ongoing, continued monitoring by the Commission is required to confirm this assessment.
Bulgaria needs to continue to develop a track record of concrete results so as to consolidate the progress made. This positive trend will need to be maintained under the CVM and will need continued monitoring by the Bulgarian authorities after the closure of the CVM. Transparent reporting by the Bulgarian authorities and public and civic scrutiny will play an important role in internalising monitoring at national level and providing the necessary safeguards to maintain the path of progress and reform. In addition, the Commission's report notes a significant deterioration in the Bulgarian media environment over recent years which risks restricting the access of the public to information and can have a negative impact on judicial independence, with targeted attacks on judges in some media. More widely, the ability of the media, as well as of civil society, to hold those exercising power to account in a pluralistic environment free from pressure is an important foundation stone to pursue the reforms covered by the CVM, as well as for better governance more generally.
The Commission is confident that Bulgaria will pursue its reform efforts and will be able to fulfil all the remaining recommendations. It will continue to follow progress closely and will make a further assessment of the progress made before the end of this Commission's mandate. The Commission expects that with this, the CVM process for Bulgaria will be concluded. To achieve this objective, Bulgaria is invited to pursue the current positive trend towards implementation of all remaining recommendations.
On 1 January 2007, the Commission established the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) to assess progress against the commitments made by Bulgaria in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime. Since 2007, the Commission has reported on progress in these areas on a regular basis in written reports to the European Parliament and Council. The reports have benefitted from contacts with Member States, civil society, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. The Commission's conclusions and the methodology of the CVM have consistently enjoyed the strong support of Member States in Council Conclusions following each report.
The CVM report of January 2017 took stock of 10 years of the CVM, with an overview of the achievements and the remaining challenges, and set out the key remaining steps needed to achieve the CVM's objectives. The Commission made 17 recommendations that, if met by Bulgaria, could be considered as sufficient to close the CVM, unless other developments were to clearly reverse the course of progress. The January report also highlighted that the speed of the process would depend on how quickly Bulgaria will be able to fulfil the recommendations in an irreversible way. A first assessment of progress on the 17 recommendations was adopted in November 2017, but the Commission at that time could not yet conclude that any of the benchmarks were satisfactorily fulfilled.
Today's report takes stock of the steps taken by Bulgaria since November 2017. It contains the Commission's assessment on how the Bulgarian authorities have followed-up on the 17 recommendations, and is complemented by a staff working document which sets out the Commission's detailed analysis, drawing on continuous dialogue between the Bulgarian authorities and the Commission services.
For More Information
MEMO – CVM Reports on Bulgaria and Romania: Questions & Answers