Commission is confident that CVM can be suspended for Bulgaria

Jourova: Setting a date would be premature, as the final decision will be made by the Council

Photo: EP Vera Jourova.

The European Commission believes that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Bulgaria can be suspended. The statement came Thursday from European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova during an hour-long hearing at the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

However, she stressed that Bulgaria needs to show progress in specific areas such as combating high-level government corruption. She also noted that Bulgaria's progress is and will continue to be monitored by the EC within the framework of the new rule-of-law mechanism that is to apply to all EU Member States. 

EC continues to closely monitor the political situation and protests in Bulgaria, VP Jourova stated adding that “We have always made it clear that peaceful demonstrations are a fundamental right in any democracy and we support that”. According to her, the ongoing protests show that a lively debate is being had by the Bulgarian public and that citizens place great significance on an independent and effective judicial system. We also see discussions about amending the Constitution. Constitutional reforms should be subject to a wide public debate, time is needed to reach broad consensus, to create deterring and verification mechanisms. As far as the monitoring mechanism is concerned, double and even triple standards should be avoided, Vice-President of the EC asserted.

The first annual report under this new mechanism is expected to come out on 23 September. According to Jourova, its scope will be broader than the CVM, as it will include not only judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts but also issues such as media freedom and pluralism.

According to Jourova, the Council of the EU is yet to make a final decision to suspend CVM for Bulgaria, which is why setting a concrete date for it would be premature at this point.

Developments in Bulgaria should be taken into account, even though they should not lead to a reversal of the trends outlined in the 2017 report.

During the hearing, a clear-cut coalition emerged between the MEPs from the parliamentary group of the socialists, the greens and some of the liberals who stood against lifting the monitoring mechanism for Bulgaria. The tone was set by socialist lawmaker Elena Yoncheva, who faces a money laundering charge in connection to CorpBank. At the same time, the EPP and the group of European Conservatives and Reformists stood firmly against keeping the monitoring mechanism in place. Some liberals joined their stance.

“The European Commission has already stated that Bulgaria has fulfilled the obligations assumed upon its accession to the bloc and that the CVM should be suspended. The European Parliament has already expressed support for such a move. As a legal mind, I do not see legal arguments standing in the way of such a decision,” EPP/GERB lawmaker Emil Radev said during the debate, adding that he hopes there will be no double standards in play. The LIBE vice-chair also said that the government continues to be determined to achieve progress on judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts, giving as an example the proposal for a Great National Assembly to be convened in order to adopt a new Constitution. According to Radev, this is the only way to implement the recommendations on the judicial system made by the GRECO commission and the Venice Commission.

“We believe that the EC is exhibiting double standards when it comes to Bulgaria. Our hope is that an end is put to this monitoring mechanism,” said Jorge Buxade from the group of European Conservatives and Reformists, noting that he was speaking on behalf of his Bulgarian colleague, MEP Angel Dzhambazki.

Ilhan Kyuchyuk, MEP representing MRF/Renew Europe, stressed that the CVM has always been perceived ambiguously because it reveals “ineffectiveness and discrimination” and is being applied to only two countries. “This is why it is important that a uniform mechanism be introduced in order to boost all-around confidence that the goals set at the entry point of the system will eventually be achieved,” he explained.

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