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Municipality training seminar: Human Rights Promotion and Protection through the Institution of the Local Public Mediator
On June 24, 2004 a municipality training seminar on human rights promotion and protection through the institution of the local public mediator took place in Varna. The event was organized jointly by CSD, Coalition 2000 and the Initiative for Sustainable Development Local Agenda 21 in cooperation with Human Rights Step by Step Association – Varna.
The seminar was aimed at acquainting the participants with the possibility for establishment on municipal level of the institution of the local public mediator, introduced by the latest amendments of the Law on Local Self-Government and Local Administration, and raising their awareness on the important part the institution can play for betterment of the administrative services and curbing corruption on local level.

Mayors, municipal councillors, representatives of the municipal administration of Aksakovo, Balchik, Beloslav, Dolni chiflik, Dulgopol, Biala, Suvorovo, Vulchi dol, Dobrich and Varna as well as representatives of the Association of the Bulgarian Black Sea Municipalities and the European Information Centre in Veliko Turnovo took part in the event.

The seminar was opened by Ms. Elka Krusteva, Program Director of the Human Rights Step by Step Association, who greeted the participants and presented in brief the objectives of the seminar.
Ms. Dragomira Paunova from CSD Law Program presented the activities of the Center for the Study of Democracy and Coalition 2000 for promoting the establishment of the institution on both national and local level. She underlined that despite the efforts of NGOs, the adopted legislative framework (Law on the Ombudsman, Law on the Local Self-Government and Local Administration) suffers from several shortcomings which need to be overcome, including through incorporation of provisions on the institution in the Constitution.
Prof. Mariana Yovevska from Veliko Turnovo University St.St. Cyril and Methodius presented the European dimensions of the human rights protection mechanisms and the role of the European ombudsman in that field.
Ms. Antoaneta Tzoneva, Public mediator of the Sofia municipality acquainted the participants with her two year -experience and underlined the main problems which may arise within the relations of the public mediator with the local administration and the way they can be resolved. She spoke also on the main conflict areas in the sphere of providing administrative services by local administration and provided some examples from her work.
Ms. Teodora Kaleynska from the Initiative for Sustainable Development Local Agenda 21 presented the activity of anti-corruption ombudsman in Veliko Turnovo municipality. She marked some of the practical problems in the course of establishing such an institution and gave some recommendations how they could be avoided.

In the discussion that followed different questions were raised concerning:
  • the financing of the institution on local level and debating the most appropriate option as to guarantee its independence;

  • whether it is necessary to establish local public mediators in small municipalities and the specific features of their activity;

  • the European experience and different European practices;

  • the interaction between the public mediator and the administration and the need of cooperation and goodwill by both parties for achieving the objectives of the activities of the institution;

  • the accumulated experience in Bulgaria and the positive and negative lessons drawn from it.

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