Pupils in class at the Petar Bogdan secondary school in Montana
Pupils in class at the Petar Bogdan secondary school in Montana

Legal Policy Situation

In the year under review, Bulgaria had been an EU member for 10 years. Since then, the country has continued to work on reforms in the judicial field. Within the framework of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) of the European Commission, the same analysed Bulgaria’s progress in the judicial field, in fighting corruption and organised crime in recent years and has confirmed Bulgaria’s significant progress in 2017. However, the EU still sees the need for improvement in areas such as the reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and criminal proceedings, which includes a further reform of the Criminal Code in particular. In March 2017, elections were held early, due to the resignation of the then Prime Minister in late 2016. Boyko Borisov was re-elected Prime Minister. In addition to the conservative and pro-Western GERB party, the Socialist Party in particular was able to gain in popular vote.

Overall Concept

The IRZ has been cooperating with Bulgaria for more than 20 years. Bulgaria is thus one of the IRZ’s most long-term partnerstates. Following the country’s accession to the EU in 2007, the IRZ has focussed its commitment on the areas of basic and further training for adolescents and EU projects. Between 2013 and 2017, pupils were taught in the subjects of democracy and law at some 20 German-speaking Bulgarian academic high schools. The contents of the courses included the fundamentals of the rule of law, the rights and duties as a citizen, legal professions, the legislative procedure, the separation of powers, fundamental and human rights, the principles of criminal procedure and EU law. The IRZ was thus able to contribute to a strong and functioning civil society.

In addition, the IRZ implemented the EU Action Grant project in the victim protection field, which had commenced in February 2016, in collaboration with the Bulgarian and Romanian Public Prosecutor’s Offices and the German victim support organisation Weißer Ring (see below).

Foci of Activity 2017

Basic and Further Training

  • Four courses in total in “Democracy and law” at four German-speaking academic high schools in Ruse, Montana, Pernik and Blagoevgrad for pupils in middle school and high school in cooperation with the former Vice-President of Bulgaria, Margarita Popova

European Union Funded Project

The EU Action Grant Project: Enhancing the efficiency of the public prosecutor’s offices of Bulgaria and Romania in the field of dealing with victims of crime and promoting their cooperation with local and foreign victim support organisations

The project, which commenced in February 2016 and will end in January 2018, comprises three components: In the first component, the intention is to improve the efficiency of the public prosecutor’s offices in Bulgaria and Romania in their treatment of victims of crime. Additionally, their awareness is to be increased and they are to be trained in the respectful treatment of victims of crime. The second component is concerned with strengthening the cooperation between victim protection associations and the public prosecutor’s offices. The third component will deal with the development of an information brochure for crime victims by Romanian and Bulgarian victim protection associations in collaboration with the Weißer Ring.

Following the successful further training seminars for public prosecutors, police officers and staff of victim protection associations in Bulgaria and Romania, in which some 175 people in total were able to receive further training, expert talks were held in Germany and Brussels. Two delegations of Romanian and Bulgarian public prosecutors conducted expert talks at the Ministry of Justice, the State Office of Criminal Investigations, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Weißer Ring in Mainz. The participants thus had the opportunity to gain practical insights into the field of victim protection in Germany and the collaboration between authorities and victim protection organisations. Another study trip included meetings at the European Commission and Victim Support Europe and took place in mid-November.

In cooperation with the project partner Weißer Ring, another seminar was held in Sofia to develop a handbook for dealing with victims and a brochure with information on victim protection organisations in Bulgaria. Equivalent seminars were also held in Romania. All project results will be presented at the final conference in Sofia in early 2018.

Outlook

It is intended to continue the topic of “Democracy and law” in the area of methodology and didactics in 2018. Judicial officers and teachers are to be trained in running the courses independently in the future, as part of seminars and workshops organised in cooperation with the High Judicial Council, which has been running a training programme in this area for several years.

Additionally, the IRZ will complete the EU Action Grant project in the field of victim protection together with the Bulgarian, Romanian and German partners in early 2018.