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Public hearing: Establishment of the Ombudsman Institution in Bulgaria: Developing the Legislative Framework
 
On July 15, 2003, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a discussion on the current state and future development of the legislative framework regulating the introduction of the ombudsman institution on the national and local level. The discussion was attended by representatives of the legislature and the executive, NGOs and the media.

The discussion benefited from the contributions and proposals of the following participants: the Minister of Justice Mr. Anton Stankov, Ms. Ekaterina Mihailova, MP from the Union of Democratic Forces, Ms. Tatiana Doncheva, MP from Bulgarian Socialist Party, Ms. Milana Krivachka, Expert, Legal Department of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Kiril Kiryakov, USAID Local Government Advisor and Mr. Michail Boyadzhiev, USAID Judicial Reform Expert, Dr. Silvy Chernev, Chair of the Court of Arbitration with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms. Antoaneta Tsoneva, Sofia Municipality Local Civic Mediator, Mr. Krassimir Dobrev, Journalist, Sega Daily, Dr. Maria Yordanova, Director of the CSD Law Program, Mr. Dimitar Markov, Project Coordinator of the CSD Law Program and other experts engaged in drafting the relevant legislation and the practical establishment of the ombudsman institution in Bulgaria.

The Action Plan, developed by the experts having participated in the study visit to Spain (Madrid and Barcelona) from June 25 till July 2, 2003, was presented for discussion at the event.

The participants arrived at a common vision, namely that the successful establishment and functioning of the ombudsman institution in Bulgaria, both on central and local level, would require improvement of existing legislation and enhancing the awareness among government institutions and the public as to the position, powers and the role of the ombudsman institution. Another shared view that surfaced amid discussions concerned the necessity of the following actions, based on public-private partnership in order to support this process:

  • Drafting constitutional texts stipulating the fundamentals of the ombudsman institution that are to be included in the Constitution upon its forthcoming amendment or any future amendments to it. The following should be set down in the Constitution:
    • function and parliamentary origin of the institution;
    • provisions for election and premature termination of his/her powers, including mandatory requirements to the eligible ombudsman office holders; the persons entitled to make election proposals; the qualified majority needed for the election or premature termination of the ombudsman powers;
    • the right of the ombudsman to approach the Constitutional Court.

  • Related to the proposal for constitutional amendments the relevant amendments and supplements to the Law on the Ombudsman should be elaborated, concerning:
    • the range of persons entitled to submit election proposals for the ombudsman;
    • envisaging of ballot votes in case none of the candidates has been granted the necessary majority after the first voting;
    • introducing additional requirements to eligible ombudsman office holders - a higher minimum age limit, a background in law, etc.;
    • broadening the range of persons entitled to file complaints with the ombudsman to include not only natural persons, but also legal persons and informal organizations;
    • specifying the range of authorities and persons subject to control and inquiries on the part of the ombudsman and exhaustive itemizing of entities and activities outside the ombudsman's scope of activity (the Parliament, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Constitutional Court, the exercising of judicial power, the national security and foreign policy areas, etc).

  • Legislative strengthening of local ombudsman-type institutions through creating a legal basis that would entitle municipal councils to elect local public mediators. It should be provided for either in the Law on the Ombudsman, or in the Law on Local Administration.

  • Launching an intensive ombudsman awareness campaign through organizing information days, round tables, workshops and broad media coverage of its introduction by CSD experts in collaboration with jonalists and other NGOs. This involves preparation and publication of brochures and other information materials, also available on the Internet. In November 2003, CSD, with the support the Ministry of Justice, is hosting a SEE Ombudsmen Regional Conference, with the attendance of the European Ombudsman as well as representatives of the People's Defender institution from Spain.

Special attention was given to the necessity of political negotiations in order to achieve consensus between all political parties represented in parliament regarding the nomination of a compromising person most suitable to be Bulgaria's first national ombudsman and achieving in fact qualified majority in his/her election despite the fact that there are no explicit provisions for that in the present Law on the Ombudsman and no constitutional provisions whatsoever.

Action Plan for Introducing the Ombudsman Institution in Bulgaria
Study visit to Spain: Examining the Spanish Experience in Establishing the Ombudsman Institution
 
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