Revolutionary-guerrilla fervor seized the "protest parties" after the start of the newly elected National Assembly. Although it is not clear whether they will be considered at all, or whether early snap elections will take place, bills are piling up in the Registry of the 45th Parliament.
In their will to stand out from "Democratic Bulgaria" they hurried to submit even a draft amendment to the Constitution with the main focus - the replacement of the Prosecutor General. However, their request turned out to be null and void, as it was supported by only 27 MPs with the required minimum of 60 signatures. This is the second attempt in which Hristo Ivanov wants to change the basic law because of the prosecutor №1. The first ended with the resignation of Ivanov himself as Minister of Justice in the second government of Boyko Borissov. After a "historic compromise" was reached at the end of 2015 and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) supported the judicial reform of GERB and the Reformist Bloc, Ivanov left because he found that the approved changes were not enough to replace the prosecution leadership.
Today, already as chairman of the parliamentary group of "Democratic Bulgaria", Ivanov is fully aware that rewriting the Constitution is a program that in view of the distribution of forces in this National Assembly is almost impossible. That is why the former civil activist has set several smaller but significant enough goals - closing down the specialised justice bodies and the Аnti-Corruption Commission. Theoretically, this can really happen, and relatively quickly.
It is enough to adopt amendments to the Penal Procedure Code (PPC), the Judicial System Act and the Anti-Corruption Act. For the time, it is certain that the 27 deputies from the "urban right", for whom the attacks on specialised justice bodies and the Anti-mafia Commission will be the leading political goals in the coming weeks, can count on 14 more sure votes from "Stand up!" Mutri out! ”, led by their blades Maya Manolova, Tatiana Doncheva and Nikolay Hadzhigenov. It is not clear what is the attitude on the issue in the other two formations, recognized by Hristo Ivanov and company as partners - "There is Such a People" and the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
If he had managed to cross the 4% threshold for entering Parliament, then the defendant Vasil Bozhkov, currently residing in Dubai, would certainly have given his vote in support to the proposals of "Democratic Bulgaria". For the time being, he can only do it virtually. And in order not to be left behind, a few days ago another fugitive from justice - former banker Tsvetan Vassilev, accused of bankruptcy of Corporate Commercial Bank, "assigned" through an online interview from Belgrade the tasks of the new parliamentary majority - dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council, dismissal of the Prosecutor General , change of the electoral legislation and new elections.
And if it is understandable for Bozhkov and Vassilev to want the liquidation of the Specialised Court, the Specialised Prosecutor's Office and Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Property, because they are subject to criminal prosecution by these institutions, then Hristo Ivanov faces a far more difficult task. The democrat must explain why 6-7 years ago he insisted on the adoption of anti-corruption legislation and the introduction even of a special Deputy Prosecutor General, responsible for fighting corruption, and today he sided with Vasil Bozhkov and Tsvetan Vasilev.
Ivanov's task is complicated by several other factors, some of which are foreign policy. The texts in the PPC, JSA and Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Property, which Democratic Bulgaria (DB) now wants to change, followed recommendations from six European prosecutors, who made a structural and functional analysis of the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office. In fact, this analysis, conducted under the auspices of the European Commission's Office for Structural Reforms, took place again at the insistence of Hristo Ivanov during his term as Minister of Justice.
The fact that later he did not like the conclusions of the analysis is not a problem for Brussels, but shows that Ivanov pursued completely different goals than to make an objective audit of the state prosecution. "The opinions expressed to the team in connection with the hearing of corruption cases in the Sofia City Court, as well as unresolved complaints about other practices in this court, make us wonder whether the Sofia City Court is the most appropriate body to hear high-level corruption cases. We believe that there is an argument for transferring the work of the Specialized Court, where there is a more constructive interaction between prosecutors and judges and less formalism ", concluded in 2016 the European prosecutors, who recommended that cases against high level corruption be investigated, namely by the Specialised Prosecutor's Office, as well as to strengthen the anti-corruption body.
In fact, as far back as 2014, the European Commission, through its annual reports on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, insisted that " high-level cases" against authoritative and influential economic figures operating with European and public finances be subject to specialised courts. The difference from today is that then the demands of Brussels were used by Hristo Ivanov to insist on the implementation of the so-called "Romanian model" for fighting corruption in our country. Former Romanian Justice Minister Monica Macovei, considered the architect of the "Romanian model", even arrived in Sofia to meet with Ivanov. The time is not far off when many representatives of the non-governmental sector, who are now part of the government as MPs, municipal councilors or mayors from "Democratic Bulgaria", insisted that Bulgaria must apply the methods applied by Laura Kövesi and the headed by her Anti-Corruption Prosecution, which became popular with the numerous arrests of prominent figures in politics and business in Bucharest.
Finally, in 2017, the Bulgarian authorities, although they never labeled it, partly introduced the "Romanian model" for fighting corruption. This happened precisely with amendments to the legislation, which Democratic Bulgaria now wants to delete. Four years ago, the specialised justice bodies took over the corruption cases from the district prosecutor's offices and courts, and the cases concerning those in power from the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office and the Sofia City Court. The latter did not pass without the resistance of some of the judges and especially of large Sofia law firms. However, the Constitutional Court, which was seised, announced that the specialised courts are not extraordinary and the rights of the defendants before them are guaranteed.
It took less than a year for the first results to come - in 2018 and 2019. The Specialized Prosecutor's Office launched investigations against the considered untouchable persons from the Transition; Evgeniya and Nikolay Banevi, Minyu Staykov, the Arabadzhievi family were arrested for tax crimes, money laundering and other charges. There has even been talk of a long list of names of privatizers and oligarchs. Simultaneously with their detention, tens millions of levs were seized by the Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegal Property, started work under a new law. The biggest case for the last 30 years on the bankruptcy of the Corporate Commercial Bank has started before the Specialised Court. In their first joint operation, the Specialised Prosecutor's Office and the Anti-Corruption Commission the mayor of Mladost municipality Desislava Ivancheva was arrested for corruption. Despite media campaigns and protests, Ivancheva and her accomplices received effective sentences in two courts. There were also arrests of mayors from GERB; a scheme for trade with Bulgarian passports for Macedonians was revealed. The Specialised Prosecutor's Office brought to court and imprisoned many of the ringleaders of telephone fraud, which almost eliminated this type of criminal activity. Investigations against organized drug trafficking and racketeering groups have become common practice, and many people with flourishing nicknames have been arrested.
Last year, the Specialised Prosecutor's Office brought a record number of accusations against the richest Bulgarian, Vasil Bozhkov. He was followed by the brothers Plamen and Atanas Bobokovi, who were accused of hazardous waste trade, imported from Italy. In their case, the Deputy Minister of Environment was also arrested, as the active Minister of Environment and Water - Neno Dimov was arrested earlier.
It was under the supervision of the Specialised Prosecutor's Office that most of the investigations were conducted and many Russian spies, enjoying the cover of diplomats at the Russian Embassy in Sofia, were accused. It should be noted here that after each expulsion of Russian spies from Bulgaria, the leading forces in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization demonstrated support for the actions of the authorities.
Of course, despite all of the above, there is still a shortage of effective convictions for corruption. But the latter is a problem that is not caused by the work of the Specialised Prosecutor's Office or the Specialised Court. It is an indisputable fact that in the past 3-4 years the state prosecution has been very active, which has undoubtedly led to mistakes. With their actions, the prosecutors, as well as the judges from the Specialised Court, who for the most part did not show condescension to the VIP detainees, undoubtedly affected many interests and created many enemies. At the same time influential, with a wide range of resources for counteraction - media, networks of influence, parties and etc. In practice, this explains why the specialised justice bodies and the Anti-Corruption Commission are among the first targets of the "new parties" in parliament.
But those in a hurry to close the Specialised Court and Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Property must not forget that the activities of these institutions have received a clear positive assessment at the highest European level. The authors of the monitoring reports on justice in November 2018 admired the "significant progress" of Bulgaria in adopting legislation governing specialised justice bodies and the Anti-Mafia Commission. And due to the active actions of the Specialised Prosecutor's Office, in October 2019 the EC announced that the end of monitoring is near, and on three of the six indicators, it was terminated - independence of the judiciary, regulations and fight against organized crime. Even the first Rule of Law Report initiated by the new European Commission in autumn 2020 explicitly emphasized that legislative changes from previous years affecting the powers of the Specialised Court, the Specialised Prosecutor's Office and the Anti-Corruption Commission had led to the improvement of cooperation between various institutions, highly appreciated by Brussels. "A number of high-level investigations were launched in the first half of 2020 and charges were brought in a number of cases," said one of the findings of Ursula von der Leyen's in the Commission report from September last year.
All of the above shows that once again we are witnessing how politicians who present themselves as bearers of a new morality and insist for reforms, in fact, do not in the least aim to change the model of governance or guarantee fair, independent and strong justice. They just want to master it. It is too obvious that in the turmoil surrounding the change of power, those standing over Hristo Ivanov, Tatiana Doncheva and others, "new faces", influential economic and legal circles, are trying to solve their personal problems with justice behind the scenes. Their lawyers believe that by closing down the specialised justice bodies and Sotir Tsatsarov's Commission, they will restore their lost positions in the judiciary in recent years. It must now be clear that the possible torpedoing of anti-corruption institutions will take the country back years, something that will certainly not be accepted and admired by Brussels and Washington. The implementation of this scenario will not only lead to a negative response from the country's partners, but will also show to the ordinary Bulgarians that in our country there are indeed untouchables from justice. At the same time, they have such an influence that they not only manage to avoid it, but to eliminate it more safely.
Hristo Ivanov discusses "Romanian model" for fighting corruption with its architect Monica Macovei
Tatiana Doncheva as Evgenia Baneva's lawyer before the Specialized Criminal Court
Hristo Ivanov failed to remove prosecutor №1 while he was Minister of Justice in the second government of Boyko Borissov