Yuriy_Chaika_ 

 

At the beginning of the week, the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation was given an institutional protocol welcome moresuitable to a senior political figure than to the head of prosecution of a country. Meetings were held with the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, even the Patriarch. This institutional focus does not correspond to the visitor’s official rank, but reveals the true political goals of the visit. Prosecutor General Chaika is one of the key actors in the Kremlin’s authoritarian and oligarchic regime, and above all, he directly executes political orders in favor of the regime. As the official Kremlin envoy, Chaika apparently had, above all, a political mission disguised as co-operation with the Prosecution of the Republic of Bulgaria (PRB). We can only guess about the specific political dimensions of the visit, but from the information announced publicly, we can make direct conclusions about the risks to the Bulgarian institutions from a close co-operation between the PRB and the Russian Federal Prosecution Office.

 

It is extremely worrying that according to the information available, the PRB will implement a special program of cooperation with the Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation on the basis of a signed bilateral co-operation agreement. According to this information, the scope of the program includes training programs for prosecutors at the Special Prosecutor’s Office of the General Prosecution and the exchange of information on counter-terrorism, extremism and organized crime. It has to be clearly stated that in authoritarian Russia pro-Democratic opposition groups and dissidents, fighting for the rule of law and for human rights are regularly pronounced as extremists and radicals.

 

Following an analysis of the publicized information and the current European and national legal framework, these relationships are not just a matter of inter-institutional cooperation between the two prosecution offices; this is above all a matter of our national security.

 

In the Annual Report on the state of national security in 2016, Russia’s actions have been identified as a threat to the unity of the EU and the national security of Bulgaria. The report explicitly states the following: “The actions of Russia are a source of regional instability and threaten our main goal: a united, free and peaceful Europe …” (p. 11). The report clearly defines the threat posed by Russia to the EU institutions and Bulgaria: “The deterioration of the relations between the Russian Federation and the EU and NATO puts a serious test on the established European Security Architecture.” Russia’s non-fulfillment and selective implementation of fundamental international treaties (…), its disregard for the territorial integrity, information warfare and the widespread use of hybrid strategies undermine confidence and significantly impede the return to dialogue and the search for lasting security-related political decisions in Europe. Russia’s intensive attempts to restore and broaden its the scale of influence through action in the military, economic and cultural spheres, represented in some cases as equal and mutually beneficial cooperation and even as supporting a national defense system and sovereignty, deepen the crisis further (p. 12) “.[1]

 

In this political context, the question of how it is possible to have close cooperation in joint prosecution training programs and the exchange of sensitive information (including personal data and information on the security and anti-crime system) is quite justified, given that The Prosecutor’s Office of the RF is a body that has direct authority and influence on the political decisions of the authoritarian regime in the Kremlin, and is subject to election and control by political bodies (the RF Prosecutor General is himself elected by the Federation Council on the proposal of the President of RF). It should also be borne in mind that the Russian Prosecution and Investigation are essentially highly centralized and militarized structures that are built and operate in contradiction with the principles of a democratic rule of law. The Prosecutor General of RF is the main tool of the political repression of opposition groups in Russia and part of the model for maintaining the power balance in the authoritarian state. What would be the “good practices” that Russian prosecutors could exchange with their Bulgarian counterparts? How to more effectively oppress opposition forces and dissidents, how to conduct comprehensive investigations, unrestricted by the law or by the court whose independence is not guaranteed?

 

Next, let’s not forget that since 2016, Russia does not officially recognize the primacy of international treaties on domestic law, including international human rights treaties, which are a fundamental institutional guarantee for fundamental rights and freedoms. In this context, close cooperation also poses immediate risks to the rights of both Bulgarian and EU citizens.

 

Bulgaria is a full member of the EU, NATO and the Council of Europe, with specific institutional commitments stemming from its membership in these organizations. Our main commitment is respect for the values and principles of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. As a member of the EU, Bulgaria has to respect the values and principles of the Union: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights (Article 2 of the EU Treaty) and the principle of loyal co-operation (Article 4 (3)), and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is a directly applicable law.

 

The signing of a Cooperation Program with the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation for the period 2017-2019 with the announced scope is in direct conflict with the basic values, principles and imperative norms of both the European law and those at a national constitutional level.

 

As a member of the EU, Bulgaria is involved in building the EU’s area of freedom, security and justice (Article 3, paragraph 2 TEU), which is a shared competence of the EU institutions with the Member States. Bulgaria or its individual institutions should not be concluding cooperation agreements, carrying out joint programs with institutions of a country declared as posing a threat to the national security of the country and EU security, even more so given that the EU itself has imposed sanctions on Russia for violating international law in connection with its involvement in open aggression against a sovereign state – the illegal annexation of the Crimea -as well as the incitement of separatist military actions in Eastern Ukraine.

 

Bulgaria cooperates in the use of classified information both within the Schengen Information System and within NATO. Whatever the close cooperation with the Prosecutor’s Office of the RF, outside of the formal institutional format of international legal assistance, there are significant risks to the security of information, including information we share with our allies in the EU and NATO.

 

There are a few more undisputable facts: According to reputable international sources (official reports, research, indices), Russia is an authoritarian state in which human rights and the rule of law are systematically violated:

  •  • Russia is the country with the highest percentage of convictions in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
  •  • Russia is defined as a “consolidated authoritarian regime” according to the report “Nations in Transition”[2] by the independent international organization Freedom House. The report explicitly stresses that the country’s judiciary is dependent on the Kremlin’s political interests and violates the principles of the Constitution. The report contains specific information on corrupt practices related to Chief Prosecutor General and his family.
  •  • Freedom House report Freedom in the World 2017 [3] states the following:
  •  • “In Russia’s authoritarian government, power is concentrated in the hands of President Vladimir Putin. With loyalist security forces, a subservient judiciary, and a legislature dominated by his United Russia party, Putin is able to manipulate elections and inhibit formal opposition. The government also has strong control of the media environment…The country’s rampant corruption is one notable threat to state power, as it facilitates shifting links among bureaucrats and organized crime groups.”[4]
  • • According to the Rule of Law Index 2016 of the international organization World Justice Project, Russia is ranked among the last positions in regards to the rule of law (92 position out of 112 countries surveyed).[5]

 

If Bulgarian institutions, and especially Prosecutor General, on whose initiative Chaika is visiting, do not see the risks and threats to the national security of the country, the the situation is even more disturbing. This development only supports the conclusions by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe that the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office was based on a Soviet model; the Bulgarian Prosecutor General meets his archetype – the General Prosecutor of Russia.

 

What can be requested by the institutions on the basis of what has been said?

 

Bulgarian institutions should not allow security risks to the country coming from Russia to be objectified into concrete threats by developing a close partnership as in the announced cooperation program between the two prosecution offices.

 

Also, civil society should insist on the following concrete actions:

  •  • Pursuant to 84, para. 16, ex. second of the Constitution, the National Assembly must hold a public hearing of the General Prosecutor on the meetings held, the signed agreements and the cooperation carried out between the Bulgarian and Russian Prosecution Offices;
  •  • The National Assembly must hold a hearing of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice on the meetings held and the content of the discussions;
  •  • The National Assembly must review the content of the Agreement for friendly relations and co-operation between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Russian Federation [6] (in particular Articles 5 and 6) for compliance with the EU treaties and with the NATO membership treaty, as well as with the current obligations arising from our membership in the EU and NATO;
  •  • SANS (State Agency for National Security) must conduct a review of the meetings and the agreed cooperation in 2016 and 2017 between the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation – verifying whether there are specific risks and threats to the security of the information, of violation of our commitments to EU and NATO, as well as risks and threats to the rights and security of Bulgarian citizens, given Russia’s lack of institutional guarantees for human rights and documented systematic violations of human rights, by the authorities of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office and the investigation.

Beyond all this, the symbolic nature of this visit remains in the public space – the Bulgarian institutions behaved as lackeys of a key figure of the authoritarian regime in Russia and the answer to the question – where do we find ourselves as a public environment, institutions and state on the very eve of Bulgaria assuming the Presidency of the Council of the EU  is very clear: further Eastward

 

Dr. Atanas Slavov, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski

 


[1] Annual report on the state of the national security of Bulgaria in 2016:

ftp://193.109.55.85/30_08_2017/702-00-34_Godishen_doklad_sastoyanie_natsionalna_sigurnost_RB_2016.PDF

[2] Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2017:

https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2017/russia

[3] Freedom House, Freedom in the World:

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/russia

[4]World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index:

http://data.worldjusticeproject.org/

[5] Transparency International,

https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016

[6] Ratified by an Act of the National Assembly on 11.12.1992 – SG. 102 from 18.12.1992

 

This entry was posted in Bulgaria and tagged , , , , , by Atanas Slavov.

About Atanas Slavov

Atanas Slavov is a jurist - a constitutionalist, professor of public law at the Department of Public Administration at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. Since 2016 he is a Doctor of Law at the University of Glasgow (Orthodox Political Theology and Democratic Consolidation) and a Doctor of Constitutional Law at the Sofia University (2009). Atanas Slavov has specialized in various American and European academic institutions. His research interests and publications focus on constitutional law and theory, direct democracy and civic participation, political theology, law and religion. He has worked as Counselor on Constitutional Matters to the Minister of Justice (2014-2015), Counselor on Legislative Matters to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior (2016), Constitutional Expert at the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice (2012-2014) and legal adviser in the non-governmental sector. Atanas Slavov is the author of the monographs “Civil Participation in Constitutional Democracy” (2017) and “Supremacy of the Constitution. Nature and Guarantees”(2010). He is a member of the Managing Board of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria, member of the Managing Board and the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Direct Democracy, member of the Bulgarian Association of Political Science and other non-governmental organizations.
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