Round Table Talks at the Supreme Judicial Council of the Republic of Bulgaria

On 14 and 15 October 2013, round table talks took place in Sofia dealing with "The Information Policy of the Judiciary". The IRZ organised the forum in cooperation with the Supreme Judicial Council of the Republic of Bulgaria (SJC), which is a self-governing body of the judiciary. The German experts involved were the President of the Regional Court of Bonn, Margarete Gräfin von Schwerin, and Ulrich Hermanski, Head of Division and long-standing press officer in the Ministry of Justice of the Federal State of North-Rhine Westphalia. The event was attended by the spokespersons of the public prosecutor's offices, PR experts of the courts and journalists from Bulgaria, besides the members of the Public Relations Committee of the SJC. The topics under discussion were the principles and regulations for the release of information in proceedings which are of particular interest to the public, measures for strengthening society's trust in the judiciary as well as the possibility of building a relationship between the judiciary and the media which is based on partnership. The topic on the second day of the event was the improvement of communication within the judiciary.

After the problem was outlined from the Bulgarian point of view and assessed by the German experts, the participants exchanged their experience in a lively discussion and developed approaches to solving it.

The present situation in Bulgaria is marked by mistrust against the judiciary and the intransparent ties in the media landscape, making the efforts to achieve a better image and a factual and correct news coverage even more difficult.

In this setting, the forum is of topical importance to the work of the SJC which is presently developing a uniform media strategy for the entire judiciary. The results of the talks would be included in this strategy, the members of the Supreme Judicial Council stated in the final talks.

Democracy/Law at German-Speaking Secondary Schools in Bulgaria

A class dealing with democracy and law was organised for the pupils of the upper level of the German department of the foreign-language secondary school in Blagoevgrad from 30 September to 4 October 2013. Approximately 100 secondary school pupils divided into different age groups were introduced to the following topics, amongst others: Basic structures of law, the importance of the law and courts for the state and the individual citizens, means of participation within a democracy. The course programme is based on the law classes of the Ministry of Justice of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The lecturer, Ms Ulrike Schultz, is Akademische Oberrätin (academic senior councillor) holding the chair for German and European Constitutional and Administrative Law as well as International Law at the Distance Teaching University Hagen and plays an important role in the drafting of law classes in NRW.

The law classes are aimed at creating awareness among the young people of the principles of the rule of law and democracy. Human rights, the rights and duties of the individual as a citizen, the limits of action taken by the state and the decision-making process in a democracy were therefore major topics of the programme.

Bulgaria is presently being shaken by various protests, the people are very dissatisfied with the political elite. This is another reason why this class is of particular importance for the young people, as the headmistress of the secondary school pointed out at the kick-off, in order to obtain information about their opportunities within a functioning democracy.

The project is carried out by the IRZ in cooperation with the Vice President of the Republic of Bulgaria. The law class in Blagoevgrad is the second event in a row. It was kicked off in spring 2013 at the German-speaking secondary school in Lovech, where approx. 150 pupils took part in the class. In the long run, the classes in democracy are to be included as a permanent component of the curriculum of the schools in Bulgaria.

Seminar in Bulgaria on the European Order for Payment Procedure and Compulsory Enforcement

On 19 and 20 September 2013, a seminar on "The European Order for Payment Procedure and Compulsory Enforcement in Germany" was organised in cooperation with the Appellate Court of Varna in Albena. Sixty civil judges from the Appellate Court of Varna and from thirteen further courts of the district followed the presentations of Dr. Svenja Schröder-Lomb, President of the Local Court of Berlin-Wedding – Central Court for the European Order for Payment Procedure in Germany –, and Mr. Tim Behrend, Head of Division of the Ministry of Justice in North Rhine-Westphalia and judge at the Local Court.

The participants obtained an overview of the fundamentals and the importance of the European Order for Payment Procedure and the procedures and prerequisites established by the European legislator. Amongst others, they worked on finding practical case solutions on the basis of precedents. The knowledge acquired in this process was directly applicable in Bulgaria and facilitated the judges' day-to-day business, the participants stated. The topic also provided the opportunity to discuss and compare the national Bulgarian and German order for payment procedures and the European order for payment procedure, which has a transnational scope of application.

The project on the electronic implementation of the procedure was presented and met with great interest among the participants. As an experienced enforcing judge, Mr. Behrend outlined the fundamentals of compulsory enforcement in Germany, the different types of compulsory enforcement as well as legal remedies in enforcement procedures. As the Bulgarian judges were very engaged in the seminar, it was possible to identify similarities with and differences from Bulgarian regulations.

In the tenth year of the IRZ's close cooperation with the Appellate Court of Varna, this year's seminar at the Black Sea continued the tradition of successful events, thus passing on the know-how of the German experts from all fields of law to almost every judge from the appellate court district.