On 14 April 2015 the Committees on Budgetary Control at the European Parliament held a Hearing on "Cooperation and Verification mechanism (CVM) with regard to Bulgaria and Romania". The objective was to allow a deep discussion at the European Parliament level to assess how Bulgaria and Romania are implementing the commitments to a judicial reform, fighting against corruption and organised crime.
Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Director of the Economic Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy, reviewed the successes and failures of the CVM since its introduction upon Bulgaria`s accession to the EU in 2007. According to Mr. Stefanov, the results of the implementation of the CVM in Bulgaria have been mixed. The mechanism has helped the Bulgarian authorities to create a comprehensive set of institutions to improve transparency and accountability, and to tackle corruption and organized crime, such as the State Agency for National Security, the Commission for Prevention and Ascertainment of Conflicts of Interest, specialized prosecution and courts, etc. But there has not yet been a breakthrough in any of the three sets of the so called “benchmarks” set by the European Commission in the CVM – on judicial reform, on corruption, and on organized crime.
There are a number of improvements which can be introduced to the CVM to help Bulgaria boost its performance in implementing its anti-corruption strategy, and in achieving tangible results:
- The CVM should be integrated into the wider EC efforts to help the convergence to higher rule of law standards in the EU. For example, the anti-corruption component can be fully covered by the EU Anti-Corruption Repot, which also feeds into the National Reform Strategy and economic governance mechanisms. This should ensure corrective venues for the Commission and a wider understanding of the problem among the Bulgarian administration.
- As part of the above-mentioned integration the CVM should offer tools for evaluating or measuring progress, as an integral part of the benchmarking instrument. This should best be entrusted to active anti-corruption civil society organisations which have proven to be an important actor in sustaining the anti-corruption efforts. Adopting and annually implementing an internationally recognized methodology for monitoring and evaluation of anti-corruption policies will strengthen the existing system of checks and balances in the justice and home affairs domain.
- Besides corrective or punitive measures the CVM should consider introducing more focused incentives and capacity building measures. This can be achieved through attaching a funding commitment to its implementation. This commitment can be realized through the available EU funding instruments, such as the national EU co-financed Operational Programmes, but also common European instruments, such as the EU`s Framework Programmes for Research, DG Home and DG Justice financial instruments, etc.