At the end of their fact-finding visit to Sofia, Zsolt Németh (Hungary, EPP/CD) and Frank Schwabe (Germany, SOC), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria, have welcomed the intention of the Ministry of Justice to send the second package of amendments to the Judicial Act to the Venice Commission for opinion.
This positive move will allow all the parliamentary forces to take the recommendations of the Venice Commission into account when discussing and adopting the changes to the Judicial Act that are a follow-up to the constitutional changes adopted earlier this year. “It is essential for Bulgaria to move the reform of the judiciary forward, which has wide-reaching and important consequences. We think that all parliamentarians should seize this opportunity to carry out a meaningful reform in compliance with European standards in order to ensure a genuine rule of law in Bulgaria”, the co-rapporteurs said.
Issues related to the fight against corruption and organised crime were also discussed, as well as the need to ensure that the anti-corruption system is effective and produces tangible results. In this context, the co-rapporteurs expressed the hope that the ongoing legislative reform would be completed soon in line with the GRECO recommendations. At the same time, the co-rapporteurs emphasised the need to continue with the reforms that have been initiated, and with their implementation, so as to confirm their sustainability.
The co-rapporteurs had exchanges on the electoral legislation and on the forthcoming October presidential election. While welcoming any proposals that would increase public trust in the conduct of the election, they also stressed the importance of the stability of the electoral framework in the months before the presidential election.
Discussions also focused on the recent political developments in the country as well as the current geopolitical situation. In this context, the co-rapporteurs looked into the general situation of human rights in Bulgaria, with a particular focus on minorities and issues related to migration.
During their visit, the co-rapporteurs met with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Interior, Minister of Education and Science, and Deputy Justice Minister. In Parliament, they met with the Speaker of Parliament, the Bulgarian parliamentary delegation to PACE and representatives of different parliamentary groups. They also had discussions with Bulgaria’s Ombudsperson, representatives of civil society organisations as well as representatives of the international community.
The co-rapporteurs will report on their visit to the PACE Monitoring Committee at a forthcoming meeting. They intend to carry a followup visit to Bulgaria before the end of the year.