The Institute for Market Economics (IME), an Atlas Network partner in Sofia, has been fighting for judiciary reform and transparency in Bulgaria for the past three years. The newly formed IME Legal Project is helping to create judicial accountability through research and media, and their efforts are drawing attention to the need for change.
A government branch that has seen deteriorating public support and international calls for change, the judiciary system in Bulgaria has been extremely effective at silencing its critics through negative media campaigns. IME has been one of the few organizations that has continued to regularly release articles and studies critical of the judiciary and calling for reform.
“We want to see an effective, accountable, and reformed judiciary system that protects citizens and companies’ rights,” explained Svetla Kostadinova, executive director of IME. “Our immediate goal was to provoke a debate.”
The legal team at IME published over 70 articles in print and online media, gave interviews on major media outlets, and participated in public discussions. While the judiciary is already very unpopular in Bulgaria, IME sought to point the anger at the real problems that need to be addressed, like the non-transparent election process to the Prosecutor General and Supreme Court accountability.
IME also built a coalition of organizations pushing for judicial reform. In 2019, the coalition submitted 4 official statements calling for change and quickly became one of the most influential voices in the fight against corruption. The statements that were submitted called for an end to state financing of political parties, reduced government pressure towards civil society think tanks, and an early termination of the so-called “big three” in the judiciary (Supreme Court of Cassation, Supreme Administrative Court, and Attorney General).
Kostadinova credits Atlas Network for some of her organization’s newfound success. “Atlas Network allowed the newly formed IME Legal Program to work independently,” she explained. “We were able to do research, network, and focus our efforts on building a consensus on this important topic. Atlas Network support was vital and crucial for our ability to be a proactive player and initiator for real change.”