(DF) President: Consultations Do Not Aim to Destroy Prosecution Service

December 19 (BTA) – The consultations with President Radev on the need for revisions in the Constitution related to the judiciary continued on Thursday with representatives of NGO’s and professional magistrates associations. At the start of the meeting, President Radev pointed out that the consultations do not aim to destroy Bulgaria Prosecution Office, and do not cater to existing political parties, new political parties or upcoming elections. His comment comes a day after newly-elected Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev said in an interview for the Bulgarian National Television that the place of the prosecution service is within the Judiciary and that otherwise the Prosecution cannot be independent. He also said that the consultations with the President might lead to the destruction of the prosecution service. According to President Radev, the public is growing ever more sensitive to corruption and scandals that quickly fade away in the media. That is why the topic of discussion during the consultations is the constitutional model of Bulgaria’s Prosecution Office, and the model of the Bulgarian justice system as a whole. According to him, the most pressing questions are whether there is room – and need – for revisions in the Constitution to guarantee strong, efficient and independent courts and prosecutors, and if so – how to do it. In Radev’s opinion, the revisions are necessary and can be done in one of two ways: through detailed discussions, a viable dialogue between institutions and the public; or through street pressure, outside the boundaries of law, where consequences are unpredictable. The President added, though, that the most important of all debates takes place in Parliament where all options, changes and consequences are being weighed, and the ways to implement these changes are evaluated. Geshev: It is a political debate which pursues political goals In his first televized interview Thursday morning, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev said on the Bulgarian National Television that the consultations with the President are a political debate with apparent political goals. “So far, I am not seeing anything related to the law in these talks. […] So far, I have not heard any rational, concrete ideas, based on sound judicial arguments. In other words, we are starting a debate to find out what the topic of the debate is,” he said. “My personal opinion, and I am sure I speak for all my fellow prosecutors, is that the prosecution service should not fall outside of the judiciary. And here is why: because otherwise it would fall within the executive branch, thus precluding the question of the independence of every prosecutor, and I have no idea how to withstand the political pressure that will ensue. It will be part of everyday life. That would not be in the interest of Bulgarian people,” said Geshev. “What hides behind this discussion are the political ideas of a segment of politicians outside of Parliament to destroy the prosecution service. They have two goals. One is to establish a mechanism: not to control the Prosecutor General but rather to remove a specific prosecutor general they do not like. And secondly, there is the eternal goal of destroying the prosecution service.” Strong support for changes concerning Supreme Judicial Council The majority of the participants in the Thursday debate with the President supported the idea of changing the members and structure of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to decrease the political presence on it. According to Vladislav Slavov of the Union of Bulgarian Jurists, there is no room for a political quota on the SJC or at the very least it should be severely downsized. He believes that the judiciary cannot be independent if the SJC is not restructured. Judge Emil Dechev of the Union of Judges in Bulgaria agrees that the parliamentary quota on the SJC must be reduced. He put forth the idea that the SJC plenum should only make decisions concerning the judiciary’s budget and buildings, rather than have prosecutors taking part in the election of the presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Appellate Court. During the debate, the European Institute for Strategies and Analysis made public the results of a survey showing that the public is against politicians interfering in the election of SJC members, judges and prosecutors. RY/MT //