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Jonathan Allen

Former Ambassador to Bulgaria

Part of UK in Bulgaria

23rd February 2015 London, UK

The Rule of Law: an Ongoing Challenge

by Sarah Riley

Jonathan Allen has moved on as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Bulgaria in January 2015 and Sarah Riley has stepped in as Chargé d’Affaires at British Embassy Sofia. This blog is written by guest blogger Sarah Riley.

Global Law Summit, 23-25 February 2015
Global Law Summit, 23-25 February 2015, London

The UK will play host this week to the Global Law Summit (GLS). The GLS is a one-off three day event being held in celebration of the 800th year since the sealing of the Magna Carta. The Summit is an important collaboration between the Government, business and the law, and will champion the Rule of Law as the foundation of the best commercial environment for business growth and fair societal development, grounding the legacy and values of the Magna Carta in today’s increasingly globalised economy.

I’m delighted that Justice Minister Ivanov has accepted the invitation to represent Bulgaria at the Summit. While in London, Minister Ivanov will also meet UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, and Minister for Europe David Lidington MP, for talks across a range of our shared priorities.

It goes without saying that the theme of the Summit – the Rule of Law –  is hugely relevant to Bulgaria and Bulgarians. Bulgaria remains subject to the European Commission’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) which sets out the further work Bulgaria needs to do on judicial reform and on tackling corruption and organised crime. The most recent CVM report noted the limited progress since January 2014, in large part because of 2014’s political instability, but acknowledged the political commitment shown by the new Bulgarian Government to the reform process, and welcomed the cross-party adoption of the Government’s Judicial Reform Strategy. But expectations are high that this political commitment and endorsement will be turned into rapid results, including meaningful convictions, and that the next report will be able to record some significant substantive progress on reform, including on implementation of e-justice, random allocation of cases, intensifying the fight against high-level corruption, and better governance of the judicial system via the functioning of the Supreme Judicial Council. Of course, such reform is not required because the Commission or Bulgaria’s EU partners demand it: that reform is necessary so that Bulgaria’s development is not slowed by corruption, organised crime or an unpredictable legal system, and so that all Bulgarians can benefit from a thriving, competitive economy open to all.

This matters not just for Bulgaria, but also for UK interests. Significant numbers of UK businesses sell to or invest in Bulgaria: the UK has been the fourth largest investor in Bulgaria over the last ten years (and according to the preliminary data of the latest report from the Bulgarian National Bank, it was the third largest foreign investor in 2014). Those investors, whether the largest company or an individual investing in a single property, need to have confidence that their contracts are enforceable in a functional independent legal system. And the Rule of Law underpins our valuable cooperation with Bulgaria on a whole range of security issues that can impact on our countries, and on the EU as a whole, including terrorism and organised crime.

The UK has been a longstanding partner for Bulgaria on the Rule of Law. Minister Ivanov’s participation in the Global Law Summit is just the latest example of the ongoing cooperation between our two countries: I accompanied Prosecutor General Tsatsarov to the UK in November 2014 for a visit focussing on the criminal justice system in the UK; Asset Forfeiture Commission Chair Plamen Georgiev and Deputy Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov also met their UK counterparts in 2014; and the Embassy has organised a wide range of important events, meetings and visits focussing on the Rule of Law in recent years. We’ll be picking up the pace on this in 2015, not least as we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta.

The UK will remain Bulgaria’s committed partner in its efforts to reform the legal system, and to tackle organised crime and corruption. But by far the most important factor in those efforts will be the ability of the politicians, the legal professionals – and indeed the Bulgarian public – to capitalise on the current political will for reform, and to ensure that the sometimes difficult decisions necessary to make that reform happen are taken.

About Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen was British Ambassador to Bulgaria from from 2012 to 2015. He then returned to the UK to take up the position of Director for National Security at the…

Jonathan Allen was British Ambassador to Bulgaria from from 2012 to 2015. He then returned to the UK to take up the position of Director for National Security at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

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