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Workshop: The Local Public Mediators in Bulgaria: the First Year
On April 26, 2005 Coalition 2000 in cooperation with the Center for the Study of Democracy organized a workshop on The Local Public Mediators in Bulgaria: the First Year. The event took place at the Center for Study of Democracy.

The different aspects of the activities of the local public mediators since the introduction of the institution in the beginning of 2004 were discussed during the workshop.

Acting local public mediators, representatives of municipalities, where public mediators are elected or elections are forthcoming, NGO and media representatives participated in the event. Special guests at the workshop were the newly – elected Bulgarian ombudsman Mr. Ginyo Ganev and his deputy Mr. Metin Kazak.

In his opening address to the participants, Mr. Ganev presented briefly his views on the way the institution should be organized and function. He underlined that independence and responsibility are among the most important prerequisites for successful work of the institution. Mr. Ganev emphasized on the necessity of cooperation and interaction between the national ombudsman and the local public mediators. According to him, as the legislation does not explicitly provide for such interaction, relevant provisions should be included in the Rules on the organization and activities of the ombudsman, which are to be adopted soon.

The first part of the discussion was devoted to the activity of the local public mediators in 2004.
The first local mediator after the legal regulation of the institution Ms. Eli Mileva from Kavarna presented her first annual report and summarized the experience, accumulated during the first year of her work. She said that in 2004 148 citizens sought the assistance of the public mediator and the most frequently submitted problems referred to the organization and development of the territory, public procurement, etc. Ms. Mileva explained that the unfounded complaints and the ones beyond the competence of the public mediator had considerably decreased in number as people are becoming better informed of the functions and powers of the institution, thanks particularly to the successful cooperation between the mediator and the media. She pointed also the importance of the good communication not only with the municipal administration, but with other bodies and institutions, involved in providing public services as well.

The public mediator of Shoumen municipality Mr. Hristo Hristov acquainted the participants with his work since his election at the end of September last year. During these six months he had received about 150 complaints concerning a great variety of problems. Mr. Hristov underlined the importance of not admitting any political or partisan influence upon the activity of the public mediator and the good contacts and interaction with the municipal administration. Mr. Hristov pointed out that sometimes people are not well aware of their rights, so the public mediator is often sought for and provide them with advice and consultation how to exercise their rights efficiently.
Ms. Mileva and Mr. Hristov compared the work of the public mediator in a small and a relatively bigger municipality and the common and specific approaches, which ensure the successful functioning of the institution.

The public mediator of Sofia municipality Mr. Angel Stefanov and his deputy Ms. Valentina Taneva briefed the participants on the start and course of their activities since their election last September.

Ms. Nina Pavlova from Future for All of Us Association presented the activity of the Botevgrad public mediator, who was elected under a project, implemented by the association. She pointed out that although the institution had become quite popular among the citizens of the municipality, the public mediator was not able to continue his work due to the lack of sufficient financial resources. The municipal council was only able to guarantee him a scarce funding which prevented the public mediator from continuing his activities.

This fact confirmed once again the main difficulty hampering the establishment of local public mediators, namely the impossibility of many municipal councils to afford the operation of a mediator’s office.

Mr. Dimitar Roussinov from “Regional Fund-IGA” – Pazardzhik spoke about the forthcoming election of the public mediator in the municipality of Pazardzhik and the first failеd attempt. He mentioned that the failure was due to the other key obstacle for introducing the institution on local level – the lack of political agreement among the municipal councilors and the use of the institution for political bargains on municipal level. Mr. Roussinov underlined that the civil society still plays an important role in the process of establishing the institution throughout the country. That is why “Regional Fund-IGA” – Pazardzhik has initiated the creation of a civil coalition, comprising citizens and NGO representatives, to work for supporting the election of a public mediator.

The discussion then focused on the topic of specialized ombudsman institutions as a mechanism for efficient protection of human rights within different sensitive spheres of public life.

The first academic ombudsman in Bulgaria Prof. Dobrinka Temniskova, who carried out her activities under a pilot project at Sofia University “Saint Climent Ohridski”, acquainted the participants with the specifics in the work of such type of ombudsman institution, underlining that the informal communication, good will and confidentiality are among the most important characteristics for successful work.

The activity of similar institutions in several high schools in Plovdiv was presented by Ms. Nadezhda Mahmudieva, project coordinator at the Bulgarian Association for Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution - Plovdiv. She spoke about the main prerequisites for efficient mediation and dispute resolution within the sphere of education, among which is the necessity of specialized training.

The participants agreed that the necessity for establishing specialized ombudsman type institutions exists but their creation should be combined with the strengthening of the national ombudsman and the local public mediators.

Agenda of the workshop
Press release (only in Bulgarian)
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