Bulgarian parliament will likely give the green light to the much needed judiciary reform to kick off in a vote scheduled for July 24. After days of tough negotiations in the fragmented parliament comprising seven political parties, a deal was reached on July 23 to secure the necessary majority of 160 lawmakers (out of 240) to support a package of constitutional amendments that will provide the basis for a long delayed reform in the judiciary.
The deal includes a compromise between the junior ruling coalition partner Reformist Bloc, which proposed the amendments back in May, and the second largest opposition party, the predominantly ethnic Turk MRF, which insisted on some changes in the amendments. However, the key reform that envisages dividing Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council into two colleges – of the judges and of the prosecutors - was kept. Last week, the European Commission (EC) said that this change will guarantee that the country is ready to implement the judiciary reform and that it will be irreversible.
Problems in the judiciary that lead to widespread corruption and weak enforcement of the rule of law have long been a major hurdle for a stronger and more inclusive economic growth in Bulgaria, the poorest EU country. The EC has been pushing for reforms in the judiciary ever since Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007.
If the amendments pass at first reading, the parliament will ask the Constitutional Court if it has the right to amend the texts, or this must be done by a Grand National Assembly, before the second reading vote.
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