PROFESSIONALS HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT
Anton Stankov, Minister of JusticeThe Introduction of a Unified Company Number Will Open Procedures for Setting Up the Trade RegisterMr. Stankov, do you think that after the latest amendments to the Judiciary Act, passed by Parliament at second reading on March 25, you could already breathe freely?- I'll recall that all ideas which we can already put into practice made their way with considerable efforts. The first version of the Judiciary Act was slashed by the Constitutional Court (on July 30, 2002 the National Assembly adopted at second reading more than one hundred amendments to the Judiciary Act, but in December the Constitutional Court revoked almost half of them). It was still more difficult to reach a consensus between the parliamentary political forces whose leaders smoked the peace pipe only in April 2003 and guaranteed by their signatures the amendments to the Constitution. I would like to bring to mind as well the work of the Interim Parliamentary Commission for Amendments to the Constitution in its part regarding the judiciary power, and the peremptory statement of Mr. Guenter Verheugen about the further pace of reforms, made about twenty days ago. We left behind about a dozen of difficult meetings with the magistrates when the constitutional amendments were already a fact, but there was not law for their enforcement... Why? Constitutional provisions can be directly put into practice, can't they?- Well, the constitution is a legislative act which does not describe everything in detail, so that no specific laws to be necessary. For instance, the introduction of the concept administrative head in the judiciary caused so many practical questions that had we not discussed these issues with the magistrates in advance, we would had never come to the right decisions. Therefore, I could say with an easy conscience that the recent amendments to the Judiciary Act deserved the efforts. With their approval some of the real reforms in the judiciary system have already been realized at the normative level. What remains is their actual implementation, i.e. the heaps of paper should be reproduced into quick and effective jurisdiction. Mr. Stankov, what came up to the horizon is not a legislative wave, but a ... tsunami: under the amendments to the Constitution and to the Judiciary Act, new heads of the court, investigation and prosecutors' office should be appointed. It's a secret to nobody that quite a number of the magistrates worry they would be thrown out of the game forever. Have already got an idea how many heads will pass through the sifter and how long will the process last?- First of all I would like to comment on the worries. Two things should bring relief to both the society and the magistrates. Parliament has decided that the work of the Supreme Judicial Court would be public and transparent in the future. I.e. there are much more serious guarantees that no decisions in the dark will be made. Secondly, the Judiciary Act and the Constitution guarantee that the real professionals will be promoted and climb up in the system. So, all colleagues who have earned professional prestige and possess the necessary qualities should not be afraid of the future changes. Regarding the number of administrative heads in the judiciary system, who are to be elected, they are about eight hundred. I can hardly tell you now how long the procedure will last, but I believe everything could be completed within 45 days if the Supreme Judicial Court provides the necessary organisation. You mentioned the European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. Have you got any idea why he criticized severely the pace of the judicial reform? You have not been given poor marks for your work so far. - Let's be straight towards Mr. Verheugen and read carefully what he had said...And what did he say?- His words are: If the judiciary reform is delayed, that will be a problem for both Bulgaria and Romania... That is nothing different from or more discouraging than what has long ago been known in this country. It will be hardly necessary to remind that the Government has set as its task to finalize the negotiations with the present teams of the European Commission and to join the European Union (EU) as a full-fledged member in 2007. Does anyone believe that if we do not fulfil our commitments within the set terms, Bulgaria will be accepted in the EU just because they like us?Our partnership with both the EU and the European Commission has been very good so far. In addition, the EU officials appreciate our efforts and the results we have achieved, but in the same time they don't keep silent about our blunders and delay. Mr. Verheugen's statement in fact is that the finalization of negotiations with the EU on the Justice and Internal Affairs Chapter is not the end of the judicial reform, but its real start. Bulgarian businessmen are still dissatisfied with the operation of the judiciary system. Their sharpest criticism concerns the sluggishness of solving lawsuits. Do you have an answer for them in the near future? - By way of a joke, appraisals of the judicial system's operation always differ, depending on whether someone is a plaintiff or a defendant in a certain lawsuit. Partnership with business is very important. Therefore, reforms in commercial law and ways for solving the big problem - speeding up insolvency procedures - are already on the agenda. Electronic registers will be introduced to guarantee quickness in the operation of the judiciary system, easy access to information, and an immediate answer to the question: Who am I negotiating with?In fact, it is not only Bulgarian entrepreneurs, but businessmen from the EU that are interested in that part of the reforms. Therefore, we have to realize them as soon as possible.