On the Rule of Law Turn on Kirchberg – Part II

The times of constitutional crisis call for a more robust approach to institutions and their respective spheres of competence and expertise. Courts of law are in the business of enforcing the rule of law. The European Court of Justice must currently rely on the unwritten and implicit understandings of the constitution to fulfill its task.

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On the Rule of Law Turn on Kirchberg – Part I

What came to be generically known as “the rule of law crisis” in the European Union has led the European Court of Justice to add a new chapter to its own jurisprudential tradition. Since 2017, the Court has been laying the foundations for a jurisprudential paradigm shift in order to defend the integrity of the EU legal system and it can thereby rely on the functions that the EU Treaties confer upon it.

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A Judge Born in the USSR

The Sofia City Court which is notorious for its corruption is currently dealing with its latest scandal which involves the citizenship of the court’s President Alexey Trifonov. There are rising concerns that he is not a Bulgarian citizen – holding Bulgarian citizenship, however, is a requirement to serve as a magistrate in Bulgaria. The answer to a question, which appears to be simple at first glance – what is judge Trifonov’s citizenship? ­– requires the study of USSR and Bulgarian citizenship law applicable in 1972. The issue has already reached Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court and illustrates the deplorable state of Bulgaria’s rule of law.

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Pre-Modern Understandings of Rule-Making

Since his entering into office a year ago, Italy’s Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini has proved to be the true leader of the governmental coalition between the Five Star Movement and the Lega, run by Salvini himself. His populist approach looks far closer to that of Orbán than to the confused ideology of the Five Star Movement. Contrary to the latter, Salvini always gives the impression of knowing exactly what he wants. Being far more predictable than his allies, he has succeeded both in seizing control of Italy’s political agenda and in gaining a huge electoral consent, not least because he knows how to fuel the popular anxiety.

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Judges Depending on Judges

Since the beginning of 2018 the CJEU has finally been putting flesh on the bones of the EU principle of judicial independence. Most recently, the Court has been widely praised for its ruling against the Polish attempt of removing the, presumably, disloyal judges by a general measure of lowering their retirement age from 70 to 65. While the decision is indeed praiseworthy, it is nevertheless necessary to emphasize its notable doctrinal lacuna with potential negative practical implications – particularly in those EU member states with a weak democratic and rule of law tradition, a low degree of legal and political culture as well as with a small and tightly-knit legal elite.

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Turning the Lights Off

On 14 June the Bulgarian minister of justice finally took the step to present to the public its long-awaited draft of the new accountability mechanism intended to ensure independent investigation for to the top three Bulgarian magistrates. The draft legislation proves that the concerns regarding the consequences for Bugaria’s judicial independence were entirely justified.

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This is how Bulgarian Judicial Independence Ends…Not with a Bang but a Whimper

Bulgaria notoriously ranks at the bottom of all judicial independence and corruption indexes in the EU, even lagging far behind Member States such as Hungary and Poland. Under the guise of implementing EU recommendations and the case-law of the European of Human Rights, a reform proposal by Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice is about to threaten Bulgaria’s judicial independence even further.

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