Information on the progress achieved in the area of Justice
during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union
The Bulgarian Presidency focused its work in the area of justice on providing rapid and efficient justice, including by electronic means, at improving the business environment and at safeguarding the rights in family matters. The Bulgarian Presidency has worked very intensively on three main priorities in the field of Justice – establishment and institutionalisation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, development and promotion of e-Justice and substantial progress on the recast of the Brussels IIa Regulation within the Council:
The Bulgarian Presidency, together with the European Commission laid the foundations for the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Two Member States have joined the enhanced cooperation (the Netherlands and Malta). Many important steps have been undertaken, such as: the operating rules of the EPPO selection panel have been agreed; the draft budget of the EPPO has been drawn up for the period until its establishment (the year of 2020), the development of the electronic case management system has begun, etc. The establishment of the Office was the focal point of the Ministers of Justice, who discussed the EPPO cooperation with the EU partner bodies and agencies (Eurojust, Europol, OLAF) within the framework of the JHA Councils. It was pointed out that this cooperation should be based on a clear separation of powers, avoidance of parallel investigations, complementarity and close interaction. A Conference on the topic was also held in Sofia. It was attended by practicing magistrates and representatives of academic community who debated on the upcoming organisational and legal measures for the successful launch of the work of the EPPO in 2020.
As implementation of its e-Justice priority the Bulgarian Presidency dedicated its efforts to the new strategic documents of the EU in the area and to the new legislative proposals on e-evidence. The active work of the Bulgarian Presidency in partnership with Estonia and Austria led to the elaboration of draft E-Justice Strategy for the period 2019-2023. The work on a draft Action Plan started as well, whereas the selection principles of the future projects were set – effectiveness, voluntary participation and taking into account the development of new technologies to the benefit of the judiciary and the European citizens.
The Bulgarian Presidency commenced active discussions in the Council on legislative proposals to improve the cross-border access to electronic evidence, which aim to ensure effective and quick mechanisms to obtain and use electronic evidence for the purpose of preventing, investigating and uncovering crime. During the last JHA Council under the Bulgarian Presidency, held in June, the Ministers of Justice had an orientation debate on these draft instruments.
Both elements of the e-justice priority were discussed in details during a special conference in Sofia in May 2018. The results of this forum would guide the successful completion of the work on these strategic and legislative documents.
In view of the priority to protect the interests of children to an even greater extent, the Bulgarian Presidency conducted intensive negotiations on the proposal for recast of the Brussels IIa Regulation. Taking into account the complexity of this act and the sensitivity of the matter it governs, at all three JHA Councils held during the last six months the Ministers of Justice debated on crucial issuesfor the development of the negotiations, the achievement of unanimity and the future successful completion of this file. The significant progress achieved by the Bulgarian Presidency allowed the ministers to provide political guidance on some of the most important open issues. A commitment was made to complete the negotiations by the end of this year, striving to achieve a broad political agreement without any compromises with the quality of the work on the file.
A significant progress has been achieved on all other dossiers in the field of justice.
The adoption of a general approach on the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on combating fraud and counterfeiting non-cash means of payment of the JHA Council on 9 March was the first successfully completed goal of the Bulgarian Presidency in the area of criminal justice. The objective of the Directive is to update the current rules, to ensure a clear, robust and technology neutral framework. It also eliminates operational obstacles that hamper investigation and prosecution and provides for actions to boost public awareness about fraud methods such as phishing and skimming.
The Bulgarian Presidency successfully completed the negotiations with the European Parliament on the following four acts:
The Regulation on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and bodies, which will boost the level of personal data protection and ensure the free movement of data among EU institutions and bodies. This act is the last element of the modernized EU data protection regime which will be applied as of the autumn of 2018.
The Directive on countering money laundering by criminal law which aims to contribute to a more effecting countering of money laundering by ensuring a unified and comprehensive criminal legal framework and helping to facilitate cross-border police and judicial cooperation among Member States. The active and motivated position of the Bulgaria Presidency during the negotiations ensured the compliance of the Directive with the set international standards of countering money laundering and the added value of its provisions, where necessary.
The Regulation on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust)- the proposal aims to increase Eurojust’s efficiency by establishing a new governance model and to improve the Agency’s operational effectiveness through specifying the powers and status of National Members. A major objective of the proposal is also to ensure that Eurojust can cooperate closely with the European Public Prosecutor's Office, once it is established. The new legal framework provides for an opportunity to increase the exchange of information between Eurojust and the Member States, while ensuring an adequate level of data protection.
The Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders- the proposal is part of the package of measures adopted by the European Commission to strengthen the EU capacity to fight the financing of terrorism and organised crime set out in the Action Plan to strengthen the fight against the financing of terrorist, which was presented in February 2016.
The Bulgarian Presidency has achieved significant progress during the negotiations with the European Parliament in relation to the proposals for a Regulation and Directive on the expansion of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) as regards third country nationals which aim to achieve a more effective exchange of information among Member States about previous convictions against third country nationals issued on their territory.
The Ministers of Justice achieved a partial general approach on three main parts of the proposal for a Directive on preventive restructuring frameworks and second chance and measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures (discharge of debt for entrepreneurs; measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures; compiling and summarizing statistical data to monitor the effectiveness of the procedures). A revised version of Title II (Preventive restructuring frameworks) has been drafted which would contribute to achieve a general approach in October 2018 under the Austrian Presidency. The adoption of this instrument is of fundamental significance for rescuing enterprises and providing entrepreneurs with an opportunity for a new start.
The Bulgarian Presidency has made substantial progress in the negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal for a Directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content as well in the negotiations within the Council on the proposal for a Directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods.
First meeting took place on the proposal for a Regulation on the law applicable to the third-party effects of assignments of claims.
We have also started discussions within the Council on the Company Law Package which includes the proposal for a directive amending Directive (EU) 2017/1132 as regards cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions of companies and the proposal for a directive on the use of digital tools and processes in company law.
The European perspective of the Western Balkans has been a horisontal priority of the Bulgarian Presidency, which was addressed through specific initiatives in the justice field in close cooperation with the European Commission, the EEAS and relevant EU agencies. The Senior Officials Meeting EU-Western Balkans, held in June 2018, provided an opportunity to follow up on the progress and the practical implementation of the justice reforms, the judicial cooperation and the fundamental rights in the Western Balkans partners.