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Bulgaria's justice minister resigns after parliament fails to pass reforms

Bulgaria's justice minister has resigned after parliament refused to back legislation meant to clean up the corrupt and inefficient judiciary. The EU has criticized Bulgaria over corruption and judicial reforms.

Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov accused parliament on Wednesday of watering down judicial reforms he said would improve efficiency and clamp down on rampant corruption.

Ivanov, whose Reformist Bloc is in a junior coalition partner with the conservative party of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, had wanted both the parliament and the prosecution service to appoint an equal number of members to the Supreme Judicial Council, the body responsible for legal appointments.

He also wanted to bring accountability and reduce the power of the chief prosecutor.

Only his Reformist Bloc backed the measure, potentially raising tensions between it and conservatives.

"Today's vote adds to doubts over whether in Bulgaria we can now speak of the supremacy of the chief prosecutor. Because of that, I can now with relief announce that I will no longer be justice minister," Ivanov told parliament.

Instead, parliament approved a measure to split the Supreme Judicial Council into one entity to oversee judges and another for prosecutors.

Since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgaria has come under repeated criticism by the European Commission for failing to implement judicial reforms and clamp down on widespread corruption.

The creation of an agency to investigate high-level corruption was shot down by parliament in September.

cw/jil (AFP, Reuters)