On 14 April 2022, Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on Judiciary and related legislation to permanently dissolve a parallel court system built during Boyko Borissov’s first term as Prime Minister – the Specialized Criminal Court, acting as a first and second instance, and the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office supposed to fight corruption and organized crime. Even before these institutions started working, one could see that they would be politicized and used for harassment of inconvenient people. This is primarily due to the fact that they are a misplaced legal transplant – they were transplanted in a justice system with severe structural problems which remained unattended, without consideration for the specifics of the local legal culture and without evidence that they would be successful at fighting corruption. Unsurprisingly, this parallel court system established a strong record of ignoring basic principles of criminal law and violating human rights, too. Unfortunately, these troublesome developments were encouraged by the European Commission via the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) under which Bulgaria’s rule of law has been monitored since the country’s accession to the EU.
Last month, I was invited to write a commentary on the rise and fall of specialized criminal justice in Bulgaria for the Verfassungsblog – you can read my article “Bulgaria’s Failed Specialized Criminal Justice Experiment” in full here. Also, since the failure of the CVM is a long-standing research interest of mine, I am sharing my academic article ‘Threats to the Rule of Law: The Pitfalls of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” published in European Public Law (Kluwer), in case you want to learn more about the European Commission’s mistakes and omissions in the process.