PARLIAMENT UNDER PRESSURE
It is not quite clear what practical benefit there will be from the declaration supporting the Government's plan for action before the European Commission's last monitoring report in September. The MPs adopted the declaration last Wednesday. Anyway, as soon as Parliament members can afford wasting an entire working day for a text like that which takes just a sheet of paper and contains three points, what will happen when they resume arguing about amendments to the Constitution, the new bill on judicial power, or municipalities' financial decentralisation?
In the meantime, at the very beginning of the week the three parties in the ruling majority managed to get embroiled on some of these issues. The Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF) did not like the idea launched by the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) to loosen the hoop of municipalities' financial dependence - obviously for its own reasons. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) softened down on the problem but remained firm on some changes in the Criminal Code and the constitutional texts about the judicial power.
However, all of these discussions are made in secret. In public, the coalition trio is demonstrating enviable agreement with the President who keeps saying that the recommendations of the European Commission will be fulfilled and all state institutions will set about working hard. The Parliament reacted to the signals and approved the declaration in support of the action plan with 175 of all 185 votes in favour. That's how the MPs committed themselves to keep the schedule of the Government, described in details in the plan.
Nothing new and nothing concrete so far. About ten days ago the Government's plan was published on the INTERNET, too. It contains more than a hundred tasks related to the areas in the EC May report that were marked as red and yellow zones.
Obviously, it is the Parliament to do something. The zones requiring the biggest efforts are related to changes in the legislation and there is nobody else who can do the legislators' work. Instead of announcing their legislative program in public in order to convince their electors they know what is going on, the MPs promised to control the Government diligently. This is what is written in the declaration which has been discussed for five hours. It means that the Parliament is not going to help the cabinet by adopting laws but will control how Sergey Stanishev and his ministers do their job... However, there are deadlines fixed in the Government's plan. For example, the working group should prepare the amendments to the Constitution by June 30. Did anybody hear anything about it?
And the Government created further additional occupation for the Parliament. By the end of June the MPs should have adopted on first reading the bill of a new Civil Procedure Code. In turn, by the same time the cabinet should have put forward the Law on the Publicity of Senior State Officials Property and the amendments and supplements to the Political Parties Act which should require that party donators be made public.
The new bill on the judicial power should be ready by August 1 along with the criteria for assessment of the magistrates' work.
It became clear in the meantime that the MPs remained deeply touched by the perspective to lose their summer holiday. Tactful silence has been kept for a week now, but when ten days ago opposition members proposed that the Parliament does not go on holiday a real storm exploded. The MRF even proposed that the parliamentary commissions and the plenary hall work in shifts, i.e. part of the MPs take a rest while the others make the laws. Let's just remember that there are forty acts that those elected by the people should adopt as soon as possible. It remains to be seen how they will manage to do it until October when the next monitoring report on Bulgaria's progress towards a real EU membership is expected to be released.
It is also to be seen whether Brussels will be sorry for making Bulgaria advances last Wednesday when the European Parliament confirmed its will that Bulgaria and Romania be accepted in the EU on January 1, 2007. On condition that they set course for reforms instead of holidays.