Bulgaria's Parliament Holds First-Reading Debate on Constitutional Amendments

Bulgaria's Parliament Holds First-Reading Debate on Constitutional Amendments

Sofia, September 23 (BTA) - Bulgaria's Parliament on Wednesday
is holding a first-reading debate on amendments to the
Constitution. The idea of the revisions is "to reorganize the
judiciary in line with international standards, as a
prerequisite for overcoming the systemic deficits in Bulgaria's
constitutional democracy," National Assembly Chair Tsetska
Tsacheva and a group of MPs who moved the bill wrote in their

Under the bill, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) will be
restructured and reorganized. The 25-member Council will be
divided into a judges' and a prosecutors' college. The judges'
college will consist of 13 members, of whom six will be elected
by the General Assembly of Judges, five by the National
Assembly, and two will be the presidents of the Supreme Court of
 Cassation and of the Supreme Administrative Court. The
prosecutors' college will have 12 members, of whom four will be
elected by the General Assembly of Judges, one by the General
Assembly of Investigating Magistrates, six by Parliament, and
the remaining one will be the Prosecutor General. This
arrangement preserves the three quotas that send members to the
Council: a parliamentary quota (11 members), a professional
quota (11 members), and an ex officio quota (3 members).

The colleges will be independent in performing their
personnel-management and organizational functions, disciplining
magistrates, and giving opinions on bills within their
respective competence. On matters concerning the judiciary in
general, such as the judiciary budget, the SJC will adopt
decisions in plenary meetings.

The plenary meetings will be presided over by the Minister of
Justice in a non-voting capacity. The judges' college will be
chaired by the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, and
the prosecutors' college by the Prosecutor General.

The Justice Minister will no longer be vested with a power to
manage the property of the judiciary, and the plenary SJC will
be assigned the management of the immovable properties.

The bill adds the Supreme Bar Council to the range of entities
competent to approach the Constitutional Court when citizens'
rights and freedoms are violated by a law.

PM, Justice Minister Solicit Support

"One hundred and eighty votes is not a fateful number, but it
makes it possible to fast-track what we have agreed on and is
voted through by the National Assembly," Bulgarian Prime
Minister Boyko Borissov said here on Wednesday, replying to a
reporter's question in Parliament's lobby. In the morning,
Borissov, together with Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, attended
 a meeting of the National Assembly presiding body.

"We came here with Minister Ivanov to ask all political parties
and MPs to support the change because it is important to us and
would be a good sign to our partners in Brussels," Borissov

"One hundred and sixty votes at the plenary sitting are
guaranteed," Ivanov confirmed. "The point is to get 180 votes,
which will ensure the fast progress of the bill, so that a
result can be achieved before the January report [on the EC
Cooperation and  Verification Mechanism], which will be
important in terms of foreign policy." The Justice Minister
added that today he received very strong support from the Prime

In his words, there are various options about the allocation of
quotas in the Supreme Judicial Council, which is one of the
principal moot points, but a solution must be found before the
bill comes up for a second reading.

To be passed, an amendment to the Constitution requires that at
least 180 MPs (three-quarters of all 240) vote in favour of it.
If it receives a majority of less than three-quarters (180) but
more than two-thirds (160 votes), it would be eligible for a new
 consideration not earlier than two months and not later than
five months after that. Upon such new consideration, any such
motion would require the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds
 of all MPs.

Source: Sofia