ONLY ON NOVA: The first woman speaks – President of the Constitutional Court – Society – Bulgaria – Focus with Lora Krumova
The new President of the Constitutional Court Pavlina Panova with her first TV interview. She spoke about the demands for a revision of the Constitution and a new constitution, about the recent scandals, which also needed a decision from the Constitutional Court. Iliana Shishkova meets with Panova in her office.
Your predecessor Prof. Velchev was the youngest chairman of the Constitutional Court, you are the first woman. Is the chair comfortable for the president?
Taking over the leadership of the Constitutional Court after 2 successful terms of Prof. Velchev is a great responsibility for me. I guess it won’t be convenient over time. It is too early to say. But at the moment – yes, I feel comfortable in this role.
For the first time, a woman headed the Constitutional Court
For years, Prof. Velchev insisted on a direct constitutional complaint. The President also expressed such a positive opinion. Do you think we can get there?
It seems to me that we currently have a serious lack of confidence in the Constitution of the citizens. For them, it continues to be a luxury document, added somewhere high in the shelves of the libraries of all who work with it. But it does not feel like a valid right. I ask that the citizens feel the lack of protection from the Constitutional Court. Internally, although indirectly, they have access to the Constitutional Court. However, citizens’ access to the Constitutional Court is not guaranteed. I ask that we will go in such a direction, or at least in the direction of making the Constitutional Court much more open to the citizens. I think it is good to think in advance exactly how to create this opportunity to protect the rights of citizens. The Constitution must be touched very precisely in this regard. Research needs to be done and there should be no political interest in doing so. The question is that politicians in general have an interest in this individual constitutional complaint, as it will guarantee citizens’ rights to a greater extent, but it should not be hasty and populist.
We are now in a situation where every court in Bulgaria can return to the Court in the Lower Union, but every court can go to the Constitutional Court in its own country. I believe that this is also an extremely good field for the expression of interests in the protection of citizens’ rights. So – yes, I am “for” opening the court, for the opportunity for faster and access to citizens to it. I do not think that the individual constitutional complaint is the panacea for this. And it is good for politicians, including the president, if you propose your changes, to discuss all possible channels through which the citizen can have the protection of fundamental rights to the Constitutional Court.
However, both the president and politicians say they have a draft of a new basic law. They accept from the beginning that we need one. But do you think so?
I am an advocate of the idea that the 1991 Constitution is completely adequate to today’s situation. This is a young Constitution, it is only 30 years old. It is a basic law, it is not an ordinary law that can be changed often. Although changing the law is not a good thing, because you have to create a sense of stability for the citizens. So the adoption of a new Constitution, in my opinion, is too hasty at the moment. It is probably possible to identify some changes, but extreme depth and wisdom must be made. And the statement that someone is preparing a completely new Constitution, we saw that failed only some time ago. So it is true that if we are going to the new Constitution, we must go with all the responsibility to change a completely new adopted basic law of the state.
You said a moment ago that the Constitutional Court must be equally distant from all authorities. However, do you yourself expect attempts at political interference in the work?
Sometimes there are political interests in referring to the Constitution, especially when the referral comes from deputies, from members of parliament. I believe that the Constitutional Court has so far proved in its rulings that it is not guided by any political conjuncture, that it protects the right as it is enshrined in the Constitution and preserves the Constitution. Probably some political forces through various channels will try in some way to determine a certain result through the Constitutional Court. It is our duty and my responsibility to protect the Court from precisely such political attempts at influence.
Chobanov: We warned that the case with Kiril Petkov is unconstitutional
The candidate for Prime Minister Kiril Petkov was the topic of the Constitutional Court and there is already a decision. However, according to many, the Constitutional Court has been pronounced in such a way that it can easily enter the parliament and build a political career. In this sense, do you feel used by such suggestions and statements?
No, I do not think that the Constitutional Court has been used in any way through this case, which has been filed and resolved. Because the Constitutional Court acted absolutely in principle. The Constitutional Court has no time limits to rule on its cases. Some cases require more, more in-depth research, as well as international law and experience for other constitutional courts. So our utterances are slow. In another case, the cases are extremely clear, as soon as they are received, and a less thorough ruling is needed.
Another very big case is ahead of you, this is related to the question of the then Minister of Justice Yanaki Stoilov, if at his insistence the term of office of one of the three greats in the judiciary can be terminated. Brussels often criticizes us for the rights of prosecutor number one. In your opinion, can and should there be something that will be limited? Is the Chief Prosecutor in Bulgaria out of control?
In a very short period of time, we have ruled twice on issues concerning the Prosecutor General. In both cases, the Constitutional Court rules in accordance with the Constitution and its rules. The Constitutional Court cannot give instructions on how to do this, as the practice of our court has been constant throughout the years that the Constitutional Court cannot be a negative legislator. That is, whether or not it is unconstitutional, constitutional judges cannot give instructions to the law as to regulate a certain statute by law.
Ivan Geshev announced that he will refer you to the question of what his powers are. Are there grounds for such a question?
Without knowing in detail the reasons on which the Attorney General intends to ask such a question, I believe that there is no reason, at least at first glance, to ask such a question. The rulings of the Constitutional Court are quite in this position regarding the figure of the Prosecutor General and his powers, so I believe that an understanding of the Constitution in the context of our decisions over the years should not provoke such a request to the Constitutional Court. . But I say again – I can not rule in advance without seeing the request itself.
Geshev appealed to the Constitutional Court for a provision of the Witness Protection Act
Many believe that the green certificate, which is required to be studied by the Ministry of Health, violates your right. You don’t have such a question yet, do you expect it?
We have no signal at the moment to ask such a question to the Constitutional Court, although some representatives of political parties in parliament seriously deny it as a fact in the current law. And ultimately affecting the determination of citizens’ rights. It should be noted, however, that in situations where they are placed on the map of life and health of citizens, due to this situation – pandemic, as it is now, allows, with the requirement, of course, for proportional restriction of rights , to restrict these rights. So, I repeat, it is extremely important on what grounds such a challenge to green certificates will be sought, but it should be noted that if there are some rights, they can be restricted in the name of life and well-being of citizens.