GOVERNMENT AND MAGISTRATES HAVE FORFEITED THE JUDICIAL REFORM
It's obvious that Bulgaria will not have soon a judicial system that at least looks like a normal one. The most recent proof of that gloomy perspective emerged during the long-awaited roundtable, titled Challenges to the Judiciary's 2006 Budget. It was organized by the Initiative for Stabilization of the Judiciary System of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Spanish project Stabilization of the Administrative Capacity of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and Improvement of the Magistrates' Statute, financed by the EU's PHARE programme.
On Tuesday (November 8), at 10.00 a. m. sharp the most eminent participants in the discussion - Supreme Cassation Court Chairman Ivan Grigorov, Supreme Administrative Court Chairman Konstantin Penchev, and the head of the Budget Committee with the SJC Andrey Ikonomov, took their seats.
The executive power was represented by deputy finance ministers Kiril Ananiev and Lyubomir Datsov. But they remained alone till the end of the meeting because the third player in their team - Justice Minister Georgi Petkanov - was almost 45 minutes late, listened apathically for about an hour, then rose suddenly and left silently.
Generally, the parameters of the debate that sparked at the roundtable are already clear. The SJC wants from the State BGN471.9MN for 2006, while the Finance Ministry and the Council of Ministers are not ready to give Themis more than BGN277MN. According to the magistrates, any normal country (no matter if it is a EU member or is still in labour of the transition) launches to its judicial system a budget amounting to 2-4% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Well, the money which the Bulgarian Government is inclined to set aside for the judiciary system is exactly 0.56% of the country's GDP.
According to representatives of the executive power, however, the state subsidy for the third power has been increased by some 28% as compared to 2005. Moreover, in addition to the above-mentioned BGN277MN, the Finance Ministry has earmarked another BGN20.7MN for setting up regional administrative and commercial courts, and BGN10MN for contingent expenses. Thus, the judicial system's 2006 budget will total BGN307.7MN which is way above this year's BGN230.1MN.
It's Bulgaria's fault that this first official meeting was not initiated, organized and financed by the SJC or the Justice Ministry (as the main responsible authority for the progress and quality of the judicial reform), but by Americans and Spanish people for whom the future of Bulgarian legislation is simply a matter of business. Indeed, in all materials of the roundtable SJC's sign-board was placed on the top of the list of organizers. But it was a secret to nobody that was just a gesture of goodwill on the part of USAID's representative in Bulgaria Kenneth Stewart and of SJC's adviser on behalf of the Spanish project, Manuel Mazuelos Fernandez Figueroa.