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BULGARIA – Urgent Interim Opinion upon request of the National Assembly issued

23/11/2020

Council of Europe, Strasbourg – The Venice Commission published on 20 November 2020 its Urgent interim opinion on the draft new Constitution of Bulgaria prepared upon the request of the President of the National Assembly of Bulgaria. The opinion focuses on the reform of the judiciary and the prosecution service where the most important amendments were made. Below are some main recommendations of the Commission.

The Venice Commission regrets that the launch of the constitutional reform was not preceded by an appropriate public debate; however, it is commendable that the Venice Commission has been involved in the constitutional reform process at such an early stage. Making the Constitution more easily amendable by removing the requirement to convoke the General National Assembly is, as such, not contrary to the European standards. However, such an important change should have a convincing explanation, should be subject to a very thorough public debate, and the existence of different procedures of amendment should be considered thoroughly. As for the proposal of the Draft to reduce the number of MPs in the National Assembly from 240 to 120, this number seems to be chosen arbitrarily.

The amendments enhancing the protection of fundamental rights generally welcome, but some clarifications are needed.

The Draft makes several steps in the right direction concerning the Bulgarian judiciary and the prosecution service; however, certain issues still have to be addressed: i.a. :
- composition of the Judicial and Prosecutorial Councils,
- anti-deadlock mechanism for the parliament while electing the members of the Councils,
- the probationary periods for the young judges or prosecutors should be removed,
- the “prosecutorial monopoly” and the possibility of bringing the Prosecutor General to criminal liability,

The introduction of the right of individual complaint before the Constitutional Court and of the referral of the cases by ordinary courts to the Constitutional Court is welcome, as it strengthens individual rights.
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