The European Commission said on Tuesday that monitoring for Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) could be concluded next year, in line with the timeframe set by Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014.
“If the current positive trend continues and progress is maintained sustainably and irreversibly, I am confident that the CVM process for Bulgaria can be concluded before the end of this Commission’s mandate,” the first vice-president of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, said in a statement.
Three of the six benchmarks – judicial independence, legislative framework and organised crime, can be considered provisionally closed, as several recommendations have already been implemented, while a number of others are very close to implementation, the Commission said. However, given that in some cases developments are ongoing, the Commission will continue montitoring to confirm this assessment.
The three remaining benchmarks are judicial reform, high-level corruption and corruption in general.
In addition, the Commission notes “a significant deterioration in the Bulgarian media environment over recent years.”
“More widely, the ability of the media, as well as of civil society, to hold those exercising power to account in a pluralistic environment free from pressure is an important foundation stone to pursue the reforms covered by the CVM, as well as for better governance more generally,” the EU’s executive body said.
In January 2017, the Commission made 17 recommendations to Bulgaria grouped in six benchmarks, which the country should resolve in order to end the CVM. The CVM was introduced in 2007, when Bulgaria entered the EU.