The Prosecutorial College of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) discussed a letter from the office of European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi requesting additional information on seven of the ten delegated prosecutors nominated by Bulgaria to join the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO).
At the beginning of the sitting, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev explicitly clarified that a response was due, but in this case neither the full text of Kövesi's letter nor the response of the Prosecutorial College could be commented in full due to the confidential nature of the information they contained.
After Geshev, Ognyan Damyanov took the floor, reporting that a letter had been received by the SJC, according to which the European Prosecutor General requested additional information on seven of the candidates for delegated prosecutors and strongly stressed the need to stop insinuations that it was "return of candidates'.
Evgeni Ivanov, for his part, expressed surprise at the fact that Kövesi’s cabinet in Luxembourg is asking for information on some of the Bulgarian candidates before the new European body's management actually became aware of the full amount of information sent by Bulgaria about the magistrates. "There is some tension around this point. The timetable for the selection of European delegated prosecutors is clear. I disregard the journalistic interpretations that they have been returned - there is nothing like that - I just want information, what step is provided in the very rules for selection of the EPPO. It strikes me, however, that the EPPO's letter came before they had received all the materials relating to the procedure. Only the record of the meetings of the Prosecutorial College is about 400 pages long. The materials also contain additional information about the candidates, as well as audio recordings of the procedure. There is nothing hidden in the procedure, so for me it is a bit strange all this tension and what is the reason for this procedural impatience of the EPPO. I hope that this impatience is the result of the EPPO rushing to work, and not of anything else. We did our best to complete the procedure quickly and efficiently. For myself - I would vote again in the same way if I had to go through the procedure again. However, after what happened, even if there was a possibility for a second procedure, it is difficult for me to imagine how the capable, knowledgeable and literate colleagues would be motivated to participate", Ivanov pointed out and reiterated that the Prosecutorial College did everything possible to conduct the selection procedure flawlessly.
Gergana Mutafova agreed with what Ivanov said. "I will not make unnecessary declarations, but I also share the fact that in circumstances where I had to vote again, my vote will be the same again. With a sufficiently long procedure for collecting documents - we initially received 35 candidates. We fully complied with our pre-announced procedure and the rules we adopted ourselves. If we look back at the requirements for candidates, we will see that absolutely all nominees meet these criteria. From then on, we do not participate in the completion of the procedure. There were many misinterpretations by some media about the letter, including the names of colleagues that were not approved, as if they were second-hand magistrates. I think that this is a pity! Colleagues do not deserve this attitude to their professional careers. Yes, we owe a speech on the subject - at least to the colleagues who are affected", said Mutafova.
Kalina Chapkanova also pointed out that she stands by her position that the procedure was conducted completely objectively and impartially. And set out the general framework in which the information to be presented to the EPPO is contained. It has already been prepared by the staff and will be sent as soon as possible. "I want to remind everyone that the information we exchange with the EPPO moves through the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs". Given that the additional information we have prepared to send contains confidential information, we are therefore unable to disclose the authentic text. But we can still proclaim the general principles. It is appropriate to announce that, first of all, the information we will provide fully corresponds to the framework set by the EPPO itself. Second - the information we provide contains objective facts. This is information concerning the normative base, which regulates the conduct of the procedure for election of European delegated prosecutors and the general normative framework of the structure of the judiciary, as we have emphasized the status of the magistrate in our country. Our answer also contains a lot of personal information, which concerns the work of each of the colleagues. We think that it is through the work that we can present the business card of each of the colleagues. Precisely because of the availability of this personal information, we will not announce the full text of our answer at the moment, until the procedure is officially completed" said Chapkanova.
Ognyan Damyanov re-joined to make another important clarification, which in practice completely refutes the manipulations of some Bulgarian media and politicians that the EPPO has stated that investigators cannot apply for such a position. In fact, it turned out that on January 11, 2021, an email was sent to the Administrative Heads of Prosecutors' Offices across the country by the Bulgarian Prosecutor in the EPPO, Teodora Georgieva, explaining the procedure for selecting ten European delegated prosecutors, as explicitly requested that the information be passed on to both the courts and the investigation departments. Our representative in Luxembourg, Teodora Georgieva, clarified that all current magistrates can apply for the procedure - judges, prosecutors and investigators, without exception.
"In our response, which we have prepared in a volume of tens of pages, we answer Ms. Kövesi's questions, but we also ask - are there any other regulatory requirements for our representatives in the EP that are not known to us?", Damyanov commented. He also suggested that a general opinion from the Prosecutorial College on the three elected investigators, in which they expressed the view that the preliminary ruling that investigators could not be delegated prosecutors was discriminatory, should be sent to Luxembourg. Investigators also refused to send additional information about them to Kövesi's office, as they said they had shown all their qualities at the time of the presentation.
The Prosecutor General also proposed a recording to be sent to the EPPO, as well as the record of the current discussion on the issue in the Prosecutorial College. "I do not see any serious problem, I do not see any problem at all. Like everyone in Bulgaria, I hope they finally understand, we are in the process of an unfinished procedure. Following finalization by the EPPO, each of us or the whole College can make statements, taking into account the official statement of the EPPO, which also confirms that the procedure is not over. After all, in the course of such procedures, it is normal to have issues that need to be clarified. The good European approach, which we follow together with our colleagues, in a partnership conversation, in some consultations, if there are any issues that need to be discussed - this should be done", Geshev commented at the end.
The Prosecutorial College Staff finally agreed unanimously that the information requested by the EPPO would be sent, together with the opinion of the three investigators and a recording of the discussion.