Rule of Law in Bulgaria

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

red
A reform concerning the accountability of the Prosecutor General and his or her deputies is ongoing.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Despite the progress made, the composition and functioning of the Supreme Judicial Council has been subject of further debate.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The level of perceived judicial independence in Bulgaria remains low.
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The regime for additional remuneration and promotion of magistrates raises concerns.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Amendments to the Judicial System Act (JSA) have been put in place.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A motion for a reform of the Inspectorate to the Supreme Judicial Council has been proposed.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Quality

red
Access to justice requires improvement.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Financial and human resources raise concerns.
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Efficiency

red
The lack of data regarding civil and commercial 1st and 2nd instance courts still hinders the monitoring of the efficiency of justice.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

yellow
In the latest Transparency International 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, Bulgaria scored 43/100 and was ranked last in the EU and 74th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Corruption covers the period 2015-2020.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The legal framework to fight corruption is largely in place, but challenges remain.
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The institutional framework has recently been consolidated.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Prevention

yellow
The Anti-corruption Commission verifies declarations of assets and interests by senior public office holders and ascertains conflicts of interest.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Recent legislative amendments enhanced the role and functions of the General Inspectorate and the inspectorates in the ministries.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Lobbying is not regulated in Bulgaria.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The anti-corruption law introduced measures to ensure whistleblower protection and encourage the reporting of corruption.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Repressive measures

yellow
The Anti-corruption Commission has faced a number of challenges since its establishment.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The reforms are beginning to show first results but challenges remain.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A solid track record of final convictions in high-level corruption cases remains to be established.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The Internal Security Directorate investigates offences committed by officials of the Ministry of Interior and conducts integrity tests.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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In 2012, Bulgaria put in place a civil confiscation regime.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
The regulator for audiovisual media services, the Council for Electronic Media, is vested with powers in compliance with the Radio and Television Act.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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As regards self-regulation, Bulgaria also has a media ethics committee.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

yellow
The independence of the CEM has been assessed as being at low risk.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Lack of transparency of media ownership in Bulgaria is considered as a source of concern.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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State advertising reportedly plays an important role in the country’s media landscape, especially at local level.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The legal framework against political interference in the media does not explicitly forbid politicians from owning outlets.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Parliament tried to change the Criminal Code in order to criminalise disinformation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Journalists' Protection

yellow
Bulgarian law provides the main legal safeguards for the protection and activities of journalists and media.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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In February 2019, the Bulgarian Parliament passed amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Attacks on journalists are frequently reported.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

yellow
The establishment of a post-monitoring mechanism is ongoing
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The use of public consultation and impact assessment is limited.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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A state of emergency, followed by a new emergency regime, were used to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Civil Society

yellow
The new draft rules on increased transparency of foreign funding for NGOs raise concerns.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Independent Authorities

green
The Ombudsman is now an A accredited body in accordance with the UN Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)
View source | Our evaluation: green
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