Olivier Marquette: “Rule of Law is an Urgent Matter Now!”

Olivier Marquette’s Opening Remarks at the Rule of Law and Business Environment Conference, Jan 20, 2023

Minister Zarkov,
Ambassador Mustafa,
Your Excelencies,
Distinguished members of the chambers,
Dear Media,

At AmCham one of our missions is to improve the business environment in Bulgaria. And when talking about business environment, rule of law is a foundation. How can businesses strive in a country where rule of law is weak.

We all know that rule of law in Bulgaria has to be strengthened. We all have our owns experiences of dealing with rule of law issues. At AmCham we are tacking this issue. Last year, we decided to create a new committee to deal with Rule of Law, called “Rule of Law and Legislative Reform Committee”, led by our board member Omourtag Petkov, Partner at law firm DGKV. We have been organizing events with partner chambers and officials.

The purpose of this event is to accelerate our involvement in improvement of rule of law. At AmCham we have tackled over the past years a number of issues by producing non-biased non-partisan studies to provide concrete solutions in the field of health care and energy. Rule of law is next.

And this is an urgent matter. I will quote the statements from the European Parliament, which issued in October 2020 a resolution on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Bulgaria. The resolution states that the European Parliament:

  • Is deeply concerned by the fact that some systemic issues in the judiciary system identified by the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission remain unresolved, in particular as regards the provisions relating to the Supreme Judicial Council and the Prosecutor General, notably the absence of any effective mechanisms for accountability or functioning checks and balances on their work;
  • Is concerned about the continuous lack of high-level corruption investigations yielding any tangible results; notes that corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of accountability continue to be pervasive problems in the judiciary and that public trust in the judicial system remains low because of the perception that magistrates are susceptible to political pressure and render unequal justice;
  • Expresses deep concern at the serious deterioration of media freedom in Bulgaria over the past decade; calls on the Bulgarian authorities to foster a favourable environment for freedom of expression, in particular by increasing transparency of media ownership and preventing the excessive concentration of ownership of media and of distribution networks, including through the proper application of the existing legislative framework, as well as by repealing criminal provisions against defamation offences;

And the list goes on.

Last week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had its Annual State of the American Business conference. Among the critical issues of infrastructure, energy security and digitalization outlined by the CEO Suzanne Clark that aim to strengthen the U.S. economy on national scale and in global market, she pointed out rule of law too.

She said: “If bureaucrats and elected officials don’t stop getting in the way, we will stop them. We will challenge overreach and defend the rule of law at every turn, in every agency, and with every tool at our disposal … in Washington, in the statehouses, and in the courts.”

The Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU presented a long list of priorities, that include democracy and freedom, domestic and continental security, supporting Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression, economy and industry, and rule of law.

Our peers at the American Chamber in the EU this week published their recommendations to the Swedish presidency, have enlisted a long list of hard and soft measures that should guarantee the supreme role of rule of law.

By mentioning just few of the global economic and political organizations and bodies I would like to stress the fact that despite the progress, digitalization, welfare statehood in the Western world, all societies and business desire having rule of law as their guiding principle that is being on the ground in any area of political, business, social aspect of their and our lives.

Dear all,

Therefore, all of us and probably many outside this hall, we have reunited our efforts to restart the public discourse on the rule of law from the business perspective.

We are all certain that business can be a force for doing good, to add value in economic, social, scientific, and professional ways. It is the driving force in any country and it should speak openly about the problems, to push the institutions to work harder, and to provide solutions that are not biased and that benefit all. Our main goal is improving the investment climate and the business environment. I am certain that Bulgaria and our community has the strengths, vision and potential to make it a reality.

Let me state this clear – we speak on behalf of our members among which there are many multinational and Bulgarian companies with which we share same priorities and strive for a better business environment. In the next two panels you will hear their views on rule of law and we will discuss some of its major characteristics and business needs.

Before moving on, I would like to thank our partners:

  • Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE),
  • America for Bulgaria Foundation,
  • AG Capital and
  • iTower Investments.

I would like to thank to those eight chambers that joined us. Thank you, Dear chambers – British, French, German, Greek, Swedish, Swiss, Confindustria and BCCI.

We know that there are many others – bilateral chambers, NGOs, professional ones with which we share the same values and vision. We will be happy to work with them all.

Thank you.