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Project “Elaboration and promotion of a standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the courts – the guarantor for public trust and civilian control over the justice system”

The initiative of Transparency International-Bulgaria is carried out with the financial support of the European Union through the European Social Fund. It is financed from the operational programme “Good Governance”, with priority access “Transparent and effective judicial system”, a form of the procedure “Civilian control over the reform in the judiciary system”. The project is expected to last for 18 months, from 11.09.2017 to 11.03.2019. The overall sum is 91 567,33 leva, from which 77 832,23 leva is financed from the EU and 13 735,10 from national co-financing.

The aim of the project is to strengthen the trust of the citizens in the judiciary system through a standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the Bulgarian courts. The aim will be carried out by the fulfillment of two goals: 1) strengthening the expert potential for introducing and using a standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the judiciary in Bulgaria through adapting leading international standards and transfer of good practices; 2) strengthening the capacity of the public bodies for civilian control over transparency, publicity and accountability of the courts.

This initiative is carried out as a result of a deficits, pointed out in the reports of the European Commission in Bulgaria in the recent years in relation to the Mechanism for cooperation and verification, as well as in the analysis of the international anti-corruption organization Transparency International. The reports signal an unsatisfactory publicity and integrity in the governance of the judiciary system, low level of public trust in the judiciary system, public perception of corruption, opacity and ineffectiveness in the work of the judiciary system. In addition, one of the recent researches of Transparency International Bulgaria – Index of the local system for integrity, showed heterogeneous, ineffective and unsystematic practices for the provision of information from the courts, which unnecessarily hamper the citizens, the business, the media and the public organizations when carrying out the activity – i.e. the protection of their rights and interests.

The initiative at hand is focused on the formulation of a proposal, which may provide an adequate answer to the above-mentioned problems. It is directed towards the need of a standard for the provision of information, made public by the courts for the citizens in real time, which contributes towards an effective civilian control and strengthening the public trust. The initiative will be carried out via research of the leading standards for transparency and publicity, evaluation of the deficits and improvements made by the court in the country in this respect, introducing and promoting the standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the courts in Bulgaria, as well as the development of the capacity for civilian control over the implementation of the said standard. The project includes five key guidelines:

Activity 1: “Elaboration of a standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the courts in Bulgaria.”

The main aim of this activity is to establish the main parameters of the Standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the court on the basis of a detailed inquiry of the international standards of the Council of Europe and the Venetian Commission, and the good practices in their implementation in three Member States of the European Union.

As a result, the Standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the courts in Bulgaria will be established, which is based on leading international standards for publicity and transparency in the work of the judiciary, on the analysis of the good practices in three Member States of the EU.

Activity 2: “Evaluation of the transparency of the judiciary in Bulgaria via publicly available information.”

The main aim of the activity is to compose the first Roadmap for court transparency in Bulgaria via evaluation of their practices against the Standard for publicity and transparency. In relation to this, the object of the research and evaluation will be the information which has been made available through the official websites of the regional, district, administrative and appellative courts, the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court.

The research is expected to provide quantitative and qualitative information in relation to the number and the profile of the courts, which practice complies with the Standard for publicity and transparency, as well as the good practices for publicity, transparency and accountability, achieved by the courts in Bulgaria. As a result of the research and the analysis of that research, а Roadmap of the transparency of the courts in Bulgaria, based on the standard parameters of the Standard for publicity and transparency of the courts, will be made. The Roadmap for transparency is a document, which is intended to be used as a policy paper with suggestions of recommendations and measures for public discussion and consultation with the beneficiaries from the project from harmonization of the practices and the introduction of a Standard for transparency and publicity in the work of the courts in Bulgaria.

Activity 3: “Promoting the public support for introducing the Standard via consultation with the stakeholders.”

The main purpose of this activity is to achieve a wide support from all stakeholders for the introducing of a Standard for publicity and motivating the public, the professionals and the expert organizations to support and apply the mechanism for civilian control over the process for the introduction and implementation of the Standard in the court system.

The activity includes the preparation and the organization of a wide-format consultative forum – National roundtable – with the participation of representatives from the Supreme Judicial Council, professional organizations, non-governmental organizations with the relevant expertise, civilians, business and the media. The Forum will provide a playfield for the introduction and the discussion of the Standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the courts and the Roadmap of the transparency of the courts in Bulgaria.

As a result of this activity, a wide range of beneficiaries will be informed about the possibilities, which the Standard provides as a tool for civilian and governance control. Consequently, a medium for support will be established among the professional and expert community in Bulgaria for the introduction and the implementation of the Standard.

Activity 4: “Training for civilian control over the publicity and the transparency in the work of the courts and the implementation of the Standard.”

The activity envisages the preparation and the training of the representatives of the public organizations from the regional centres in Bulgaria in order to develop skills for civilian monitoring over the implementation of the Standard for transparency. It is directed towards the achievement of the goals of the project, which aims at strengthening the public involvement in order to support higher publicity and accountability of the courts, and for more active civilian control over these processes.

As a result of this activity, the representatives of at least 28 civilian organizations from the regional centres in Bulgaria will be trained. Consequently, the capacity for carrying out a civilian monitoring and control over the standards for transparency, accountability and publicity of the courts in Bulgaria.

Activity 5: Activity for promoting the project via a wide range of information and active communication with the stakeholders and the public as a whole.”

As far as the aim of the project is strengthening the public trust in the judiciary system through the establishment of a medium for the launch of a Standard for publicity and transparency in the work of the courts in Bulgaria is concerned, without any doubt, one of the most important tasks of the team will be to ensure wide range of information in relation to the project and active information, as well as the involvement of stakeholders and the public as a whole.

In this respect, the main focus of the activity will be the promoting of the main results of the project – the Standard for publicity and transparency of the courts and the Roadmap for transparency of the courts in Bulgaria. A related element is the promotion of the financial support of the EU, where the requirements of the relevant European and national law are taken into account.

As a result of the proactive approach, it is expected that the professional community will support the Standard for publicity in the work of the courts. Alongside this, it is expected that the negative tendency arising from the problems in the judicial reform will be overcome. In relation to this, the active civilian organizations will be informed and attracted as an active player in the processes for the strengthening the publicity and accountability in the judiciary system and the judicial reform as a whole. With the help of the media and public communication, it is expected that the public will be more engaged in supporting the measures for higher publicity and accountability in the work of the courts in Bulgaria.