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Bulgarian Constitutional Reform in the Context of Bulgaria's EU Accession

The report analyzes the Bulgarian constitutional reform (the amendments and supplements to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria in the period 2003 – 2005) and traces the socio-political factors, which have affected it, where external factors are identified as most crucial.

The two phases of the constitutional reform are examined and the determinant role of the external requirements, related to the country’s EU accession negotiations and its overall integration process are discussed. The amending and supplementing constitutional texts dealing with the reform of the judiciary (2003) and Bulgaria’s forthcoming EU membership (2005) are considered in detail.

  • The 2003 constitutional provisions regarding the irremovability and immunity status of magistrates, the fixed terms of office of judiciary bodies’ administrative heads, and the powers of the Supreme Judicial Council are thoroughly scrutinized. Their adoption is assessed as a necessary first step to the much needed reform of the judiciary. In addition, a number of amendment proposals not taken into account by the Law on the Amendments and Supplements of the Constitution are reviewed. These were submitted to the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Preparation of Proposals for Constitutional Amendments, and many of them, including those of the Center for the Study of Democracy, offered multi-faceted changes of the judicial system’s structure aiming to match EU requirements for a speedy and effective judiciary. Their incorporation into the analysis aims to make them available if future constitutional reforms are to be undertaken.

  • The February 2005 amendments and supplements were directly linked to Bulgaria’s pending EU membership, i.e. they were mandatory and included provisions on:

    - transfer of national sovereignty to EU organizations, so that member states are able to jointly wield state authority;

    - direct effect of legal instruments adopted by EU institutions in Bulgaria legal order;

    - European Parliament elections and the participation of EU citizens in local elections in Bulgaria;

    - commissioning state bodies to represent Bulgaria in EU institutions and defining the mission of Bulgarian Parliament to prepare national positions on EU secondary legislation adopted by the EU;

    - acquisition of real property in Bulgaria by EU citizens.

The September 2003 and February 2005 amendments and supplements to the Constitution currently in force are evaluated as moderate and cautious. They were based on a broad political consensus, but policy makers were nonetheless unsure as to how permanent this consensus is and how far it can be stretched. Constitutional amendments are viewed as the beginning of more comprehensive changes in current legislation, also gradual and circumspect in character. The reform follows the essential inflexibility of Bulgaria’s Constitution. Its provisions challenge the possibility for political consensus and foster constitutional conservatism in both society as a whole and among decision makers. Thus, the constitutional regime remains limited within the necessary and sufficient provisions and reforms and entrusts the more detailed legal provisions and the respective reforms to the remaining national legislation.

Bulgarian constitutional reforms are placed in a comparative context where the experience of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 is presented. This serves to illustrate the similarities and distinctive features in their approaches to constitutional reforms as related to EU membership and the commitments it involves.

The report contains several annexes offering additional information on some of the issues under consideration, such as: proposals on the continuation of the judicial reform, the procedure for the application of the European Arrest Warrant and the legal background of real property sales (including the sale of land) in the EU member states.

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