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Human resources or who will put through the judicial reform in Bulgaria

Human resources, the awful bureaucratic coinage that gave the name to an EU-funded project, seems to be looming large as Bulgaria’s biggest problem. Two Bulgarian prime ministers put it in more understandable terms. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was the first when he let it slip that Bulgarians should “change the chip in their heads” i.e. their mind-set. At a meeting with Bulgarians in USA, current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said, in his own inimitable style, that the reforms had ground to a halt because “the material was poor”. And perhaps they were both right.

At the beginning of the week Borissov once again made it clear he was going ahead with the reform in the judiciary. And as the judicial reform has been in everybody’s mouth these past 20 years it is, perhaps, time we took a look at who should be putting this reform through in Bulgaria. Because one side of the reform is the “paper”, the laws MPs set down in text. The next, essential step of the judicial reform is to actually put it through, and in this the “protagonists” are the magistrates.  
During the week the National Audit Office released lists of verified discrepancies, ascertained in income and asset declarations submitted by topofficials and other people holding public office. The lists made public 278 instances of inconsistencies between the information submitted to the public register and the real assets and incomes of party functionaries, members of national and local administrations and magistrates and their families. More than 40 percent of the people who have forgotten to declare their property and incomes are investigating magistrates, prosecutors or judges. In this list names of magistrates who have forgotten to declare sums ranging from EUR 10,000 to 45,000 stand out like a sore thumb. In the poorest country of the EU these are appreciable sums, with the average monthly salary standing at around EUR 400, and a magistrate’s salary – no more than EUR 2,000. How long would it take the president of a court, for example, to save up 45,000, this being just a portion of his or her incomes? The portion these people have conveniently chosen to omit in their declarations? It would be no long shot to say the source of such sums was dubious. But it is people with such incomes (and moral standing) that now hold the key to the lifting of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification imposed on Bulgaria by Brussels, a fact that is a trifle insulting to the country, one of the conditions for which is precisely the reform in the judiciary. The judicial system in Bulgaria is in the grip of an elite that was formed in the very first years after the changes in 1898. An elite that is fully satisfied with the status quo and would never, in a million years allow it to change. And this is no surprise – the judicial system is the most atrophied part of life in post-communist Bulgaria, the sector where democratic change is slowest because over the 45 years of communist rule, it simply did not exist. The change of generations that ought to engender the judicial system’s inner need to change is going ahead at a painfully slow pace, which means that the long-cherished dream of reforming the judiciary will go ahead just as slowly and painfully.

English version: Milena Daynova

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