The Council of Europe’s body of constitutional legal experts, the Venice Commission, has adopted on Friday its urgent interim opinion on the draft new Constitution of Bulgaria prepared upon the request of the President of the National Assembly of Bulgaria. The opinion focuses on the reform of the judiciary and the prosecution service where the most important amendments were made.
The Venice Commission regrets that the launch of the constitutional reform was not preceded by an appropriate public debate, the Draft has been prepared within the parliamentary majority, seemingly without any external input, and the reasons for certain amendments were not well-explained. However, it is commendable that the Venice Commission has been involved in the constitutional reform process at such an early stage. As the reform continues, the Bulgarian authorities should elaborate on the reasons behind each proposal and ensure meaningful participation of the public, experts and all political forces in this process.
The amendments enhancing the protection of social and economic rights are either welcome or unobjectionable, but some clarifications are needed, in particular on the obligation of the State “to promote the birth rate”: it should not be used to justify discrimination of cultural or ethnic minorities or of women. A blanket restriction on the right to vote for convicts sentenced to imprisonment should be replaced by a more flexible rule, in line with the case law of the European Court.