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Municipality Training Seminar: Human Rights Promotion and Protection through the institution of the Local Public Mediator
The seminar took place in Veliko Turnovo on July 5-6, 2005. It brought together acting public mediators and representatives of municipalities willing to establish the institution and of NGOs working in the field of human rights protection. The event was organized jointly by CSD and the Initiative for Sustainable Development Local Agenda 21 -Veliko Turnovo.

While greeting the participants, Ms. Teodora Kaleynska from Local Agenda 21 -Veliko Turnovo underlined the successful cooperation between the two organizations aimed at supporting the establishment of the ombudsman institution in Bulgaria.

Mr. Dimitar Markov presented the process of electing the first national ombudsman and the main provisions of the lately adopted Rules on the organization and activity of the institution as well as the activities of the CSD and Coalition 2000 which contributed for achieving these positive results.

Ms. Dragomira Paunova from the CSD Law Program briefed the participants on the first steps of the institution of the local public mediator throughout the country and the main shortcomings of its scarce legislative framework.

Prof. Stefka Naumova, a Regional Ombudsman for the Central-North Planning region, described the activity of her office. The institution was established under an experimental one- year project, implemented by the Balkan Center for Research and Education in the field of Law and Political Sciences and “Saint George” Foundation – Rousse, as there are no legal provisions for such type of ombudsman in the Bulgarian legislation.

The civic mediator of Pazardzhik municipality Ms. Nedelka Prezhdarova, who is functioning since the May 11, 2005 with the support of a regional NGOs “Civil Activity against Corruption”, also presented her work. She underlined that one of the most significant problems of the local public mediators activities is their lack of powers as regards thе territorial subdivisions of national administrative bodies, e.g. the local offices of the National Social Security Institute.

The only specialized ombudsman for disadvantaged people in Bulgaria, Ms. Vesselina Stoilova, operates in the municipality of Varna. She acquainted the participants with the specific features in the work of such type of ombudsman institutions with regard to the special problems she had to deal with. Ms. Stoilova pointed out as a general observation the lack of capacity of the administration to fulfill its obligations, especially concerning the ensuring of accessible environment to disadvantages people.

Ms. Eli Mileva, public mediator of Kavarna, presented briefly her activity and underlined the necessity of efficient interaction between the public mediator and the administration. She said that her work is much facilitated in this respect by the existence of modern Center for providing information services to the citizens in Kavarna.
Ms. Mileva explained that she was being addressed with complaints and signals on vast circle of issues, sharing with the participants in the seminar as a curious fact the receipt of a complaint connected with events, having taken place fifty years ago.

The newly elected ombudsman of Lesichovo municipality (district of Pazardzhik) Ms. Maria Dimitrova agreed with Ms. Mileva and Ms. Prezhdarova’s conclusion that in the course of the public mediator’s work, consultation function often prevails, especially in the outset. She explained that for about two months she had considered seven complaints but the number of consultations, given to the citizens was much higher.

Mr. Svetoslav Georgiev from the Institute for Public Environment Development spoke on his previous work as a deputy public mediator of Sofia municipality. He marked as very important points to be taken into account by the local public mediators the need that they shall not only consider individual complaints but also try to initiate amendments to the secondary legislation, adopted by the municipal councils as in the course of their work the public mediators identify better their weak points. He also pointed as significant the establishment of different mechanisms for betterment the work of the administration, e.g. achieving uniform standards for rendering administrative services, efficiently working inspectorates at the administrative bodies, introducing quality management systems, etc.

Ms. Radka Danchovska from the Association “Initiatives for Civil Society” briefed the participants on the association’s project for establishing and operating of anticorruption ombudsman in Rousse.

The process of establishing a local public mediator in Popovo municipality was presented by the newly elected (May 19) mediator Ms. Rossitsa Deneva. The rules on the organization and activity of the institution will be adopted by the municipal council of Popovo in the very near future.

The possibility of establishing a network of the local public mediators was discussed at the end of the seminar.

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