Probe team sworn in

(SOFIA) - Bulgaria's prime minister on Wednesday accepted the findings of a European Commission report criticising its judicial system and called on senior officials to give it a careful reading.

Boyko Borisov took 40 minutes to read out the document to parliament before describing it as a "friendly report", "extremely important" with "precise recommendations of what we have to do by 2012."

He hoped the judiciary would also read it carefully, he added.

The Commission's report, released Wednesday, said Bulgaria needed to take urgent action to improve its battle against corruption and organised crime.

It acknowledged that the government had shown "determination and commitment in driving the reform process".

But it said leadership of the judiciary had yet to show "a real commitment to thorough judicial reform" and had failed to guarantee the integrity and accountability of judges.

The fight against high-level corruption "has not yet led to convincing results," the report said.

Bulgaria's chief prosecutor Boris Velchev said he had expected a better assessment.

There had been "significant progress in the number of court cases against organised crime groups over the past year," he argued.

But he added: "Together with the justice minister we will discuss some of the recommendations in the report concerning reforms in the prosecution and will see that they are met as far as we can."

For Bulgaria's left-wing opposition socialist MP and former interior minister Mihail Mikov told parliament the report was "the most critical so far" since Bulgaria had joi ned the EU.

Former European commissioner for consumer protection, Meglena Kuneva, said the report had made "very harsh assessments and too many recommendations."

Kuneva is running in October's presidential elections.

Since they joi ned the EU in 2007, Bulgaria and Romania have been subjected to unprecedented monitoring over their failure to curb corruption, reform the judiciary and get convictions in organised crime trials.

The commission will examine next year whether to stop monitoring the two countries.

|||Bulgarian PM vows to address EU criticism of court system
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