The Juncker Commission won’t lift the monitoring on Bulgaria

Vĕra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for justice, speaks to the press on 26 April 2016. [Europe by Satellite]

Vĕra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for justice, said on Friday (26 April) that the Juncker Commission will not lift the monitoring on Bulgaria under the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

The EU executive published today its annual “justice scoreboard”, for a 7th consecutive year. The initiative assesses the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems in all EU member states.

The EU is undergoing a difficult period when several member states are deemed as problematic in terms of rule of law. Poland and Hungary are under an Article 7 procedure, while Romania, the country holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, is not very far from it.

Relations with Romania have become 'heavier’, Commission admits

The European Commission admitted on Friday (29 March) that relations with Romania, the holder of the rotating EU presidency, had become “heavier” because of the case of Laura Codruța Kövesi, the top candidate for the post of the chief European prosecutor.

Only two EU countries are under the so-called “Cooperation and Verification mechanism”, or CVM. The mechanism was put in place in 2007 and is still ongoing.

In the latest report from last November, the Commission highlighted some serious concerns about Romania. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave an “orientation” when he took office, almost five years ago, that he would like to close CVM during his mandate.

Bulgarian Prime Minister has presented this “orientation” internally as a promise, and done very little, during his almost ten-year-time on power, in terms of promotion of reforms.

This is why the statement by Jourová that the monitoring will not be lifted may be a heavy blow for him, now that his GERB party (EPP-affiliated) is losing ground to the opposition Bulgarian Socialist party (BSP).

EURACTIV asked Jourova about the Commission assessment on Bulgaria, also in the context of the chances of the CVM to be lifted.

“My personal opinion is that this is not feasible under this Commission. We don’t have much time ahead of us. And the trend is not so satisfactory that we could say very clearly that we can stop this mechanism”, Jourová said.

She added that in Bulgaria the perception about judiciary independence was the third lowest in the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.

“The people have a big lack of trust related to the justice system”, she said.

The justice Commissioner said that under CVM, there were still concrete milestones and concrete goals to be attained, especially related to the sustainable and irreversible measures, that the EU executive wanted to see in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is currently rattled by corruption scandals revealing that many of those in power had obtained luxury real estate at market prices that could not correspond to their income.

Many of those concerned claim the property was acquired at low prices, well below the market. This however raises other questions: for what reason did they obtain the properties so cheap.

The scandals are unfolding and are taking centre stage ahead of the European elections. It is widely assumed that if Borissov loses the European election, early general elections are unavoidable.

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