Bulgaria - Monitoring report

Date of the monitoring visit: from 24 to 26 November 2010
Report adopted on: 21 September 2011

This second report on the situation of local and regional democracy in Bulgaria follows upon the first one adopted in 1998. Local democracy has improved noticeably in Bulgaria and consideration is being given to the development of a regional level. The report takes note, however, of the budgetary restrictions on local authority autonomy and the persistent lack of clarity in the division between delegated powers and authorities' own powers. The rapporteurs express concern over the procedure for the direct annulment of administrative activities by governors which runs contrary to the provisions of the Charter.

The report recommends, among others, that the Bulgarian Government give local authorities budgetary autonomy and sufficient financial resources as well as effective judicial protection and a proper right of appeal to ordinary courts. It encourages continuing dialogue between all actors in order to reach a consensus on the most appropriate form to implement decentralisation. The Congress invites the Bulgarian authorities to withdraw its reservation in respect of Article 7, para. 2, since its local government law is already in accordance with the Charter. Finally, it recommends them to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Charter on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority and Protocol No. 3 to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities concerning Euroregional Co-operation Groupings (ECGs).

Article ratified Ratified with reservation Non ratified
Compliance Partial compliance Non compliance To be determined
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Article 2
Constitutional and legal foundation for local self government - Article ratified

The principle of local self government shall be recognised in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution.

Formally speaking, Articles 2 and 3 of the Charter are fully complied with by Bulgaria, both at constitutional level (cf. the provisions of Chapter VII of the Bulgarian Constitution) and at the level of the country’s ordinary legislation (cf. the laws on local authorities).


Nonetheless, the delegation has certain reserves regarding two major points, namely the principle of universal direct suffrage at all levels of local administration and the application of the principle of subsidiarity.


Regarding the first point, the new Electoral Code seems to be encountering numerous problems. The delegation was informed during its visit that the draft of a new Electoral Code was being examined by the Bulgarian Parliament. The aim of this draft code is to harmonise the current electoral laws of all levels of government: it entails changes to the democratic structure at local level.


In the meantime, the draft law has been adopted by the Parliament on 19 January 2011 and the new law was examined by the Constitutional Court, which declared certain provisions thereof contrary to the Constitution of Bulgaria. The Venice Commission, together with the OSCE, has carried out a visit to Bulgaria following the Congress’ application and adopted an opinion on 17 June 2011, which has been taken into consideration in the drafting of this report by the delegation.


At municipal level, a significant reduction of the number of municipal councillors was envisaged in the electoral law. This measure could have reduced the representation of the political parties within the municipal councils, resulting in a weakened democracy. Power tends to become even more concentrated in the hands of a mayor when the council is not very representative of the population. The Constitutional Court of Bulgaria has declared this amendment to Article 19 of the electoral law unconstitutional and the enacted law retained the existing number of municipal council members. The delegation is of the opinion that this eliminates all contradiction with the Charter, in particular with its Article 3, i.e. the general concept of local government and the specific principle of the responsibility of executive organs before assemblies.


At the level of the mayoralties, the Code raises the threshold for the election of a mayor from 150 to 350 inhabitants. Rather than establishing a municipal council alongside the mayor, it seems to have opted to do away with all forms of direct election in mayoralties with less than 350 inhabitants. As a result a deputy mayor will be appointed by the mayor of the municipality.


The Venice Commission has examined the issue of the annulment of the universal direct election of the mayor of a mayoralty and has underlined that no international standards exist which impose direct election of mayors.


In the opinion of the rapporteurs, mayoralties are forms of decentralisation of a municipality and constitute instruments of democratic participation. The Charter does not impose the creation of these forms of participation. Nonetheless, their creation implies the establishment of representative structures based on direct election.


The situation is worrisome in the districts (entities created in large cities in order to decentralise the administration and increase the democratic involvement of citizens). Currently the sole authority in the districts is the mayor elected by direct suffrage. That system will be done away with, and a deputy district mayor will therefore be appointed by the mayor of the municipality. Similarly, instead of having an elected council next to the mayor, another system of election of the mayor by the municipal council was adopted. The rapporteurs think that a switch from direct election to indirect election will result in centralisation of the democratic representation at the level of large city councils.


In both cases (mayoralties and districts), the situation as regards this type of mayor – already heavily dependent on the municipal mayors and with no elected council to provide assistance or administrative support – will probably further deteriorate, weakening the democratic process.


The Congress delegation therefore wishes to express reservations with regard to the provisions concerning the electoral system at local level of this new legislation.


The second point concerns the application of the principle of subsidiarity laid down in Articles 3, paragraph 1 and Article 4, paragraph 3 of the Charter. It is addressed below.


Article 3.1
Concept of local self government - Article ratified

Local self-government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population.

Consult reply indicated at article 2

Article 3.2
Concept of local self government - Article ratified

This right shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.

Consult reply indicated at article 2

Article 4.1
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

The basic powers and responsibilities of local authorities shall be prescribed by the constitution or by statute. However, this provision shall not prevent the attribution to local authorities of powers and responsibilities for specific purposes in accordance with the law.

According to the principle of subsidiarity laid down in the Charter, responsibilities must be allocated in accordance with the specific tasks of local authorities, not those that are delegated to them. The recognition of competences must be seen not in terms of transferring responsibility away from the centre towards the territorial entities, but in terms of verifying that each public function, from the lowest level of governance (that closest to citizens) upwards, is allocated judiciously.


Under the Bulgarian system, the large majority of functions performed by the local authorities, relating to areas of great importance for citizens (education, public health and welfare), are delegated tasks, while in most European countries the relevant tasks are specifically attributed to the local authorities.


The imbalance between specific and delegated functions has negative repercussions for certain key aspects of local self-government.


The first aspect concerns the financing of the municipalities. A delegation of tasks implies that the funding is based on a transfer of resources from the central government. The strengthening of the power to determine local taxes and fees – which is to be welcomed – will only concern the funding of “local functions”.


A second aspect concerns supervision. For delegated functions, more in-depth monitoring, including that of expediency, remains valid. As long as the municipalities are accustomed to most of their activities being subjected to extensive oversight, the system generates an unacceptable degree of subordination to the State which is not in conformity with the provisions of the Charter in this regard.


As to local authorities’ right to consultation, in Bulgaria there is no legislation which generally sets out the process of consultation with local authorities during the legislative process on issues that concern them. The rapporteurs were informed following their visit that “With Decree of the Council of Ministers No. 282 of 27.11.2009, the Council on decentralization of state government /SDDU/ was created as a permanent body of the Council of Ministers in implementing the state policy on decentralization of government. The Chair of its Board is the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, its members are deputy ministers, governors, representatives of local authorities appointed by the Governing Council of the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria (NAMB). Equality between central and local government has been ensured by including an equal number of members of both. One of the main functions of SDDU is to discuss draft legislation that would have a significant impact on regional and municipal administrations, and to make proposals to government bodies. Informal procedures of consultation, however, exist, directly or through the National Association”.


The role played by the National Association of Municipalities in this domain should be taken into consideration. Indeed , the delegation was informed about certain improvements incurred by the Law on Municipal Budgets, adopted in 2003 such as the recognition of more ample consultation in financial matters, obtained once again through the efforts of the National Association (see also the paragraphs pertaining to the application of Articles 9 and 10 of the Charter).


Even if the right to consultation seems to be improving in practice, the fact remains that the rule of law in Bulgaria is still insufficient for compliance with Article 4, paragraph 6 of the Charter. The general law on local self-government needs to include the right of consultation of local governments by central authorities, individually or through the associations, in due time and in an appropriate manner during the process of planning and decision making as regards all matters directly concerning them.


Article 4.2
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Local authorities shall, within the limits of the law, have full discretion to exercise their initiative with regard to any matter which is not excluded from their competence nor assigned to any other authority.

Consult reply indicated at article 4.1 

Article 4.3
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Public responsibilities shall generally be exercised, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen. Allocation of responsibility to another authority should weigh up the extent and nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economy.

Consult reply indicated at article 4.1 

Article 4.4
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Powers given to local authorities shall normally be full and exclusive. They may not be undermined or limited by another, central or regional, authority except as provided for by the law.

Consult reply indicated at article 4.1 

Article 4.5
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Where powers are delegated to them by a central or regional authority, local authorities shall, insofar as possible, be allowed discretion in adapting their exercise to local conditions.


Consult reply indicated at article 4.1 

Article 4.6
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be consulted, insofar as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them directly.


Consult reply indicated at article 4.1 

Article 5
Protection of local authority boundaries - Article ratified

Changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned, possibly by means of a referendum where this is permitted by statute.


The Bulgarian Constitution calls for a referendum on this issue. The Law on the territorial administrative structure of the Republic of Bulgaria describes in detail the procedure to be followed. Consequently, this principle of the Charter is respected.


Article 6.1
Appropriate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities - Article ratified

Without prejudice to more general statutory provisions, local authorities shall be able to determine their own internal administrative structures in order to adapt them to local needs and ensure effective management.

The principle contained in Article 6, paragraph 1 of the Charter on the freedom to determine the internal organisation of municipalities is respected. The law regulates, often in detail, the political bodies at municipal level (the council, the mayor) but broadly leaves it up to them to determine the organisation of the administrative structures, both internal and external (the creation of public establishments and enterprises).

Article 6.2
Appropriate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities - Article ratified

The conditions of service of local government employees shall be such as to permit the recruitment of high-quality staff on the basis of merit and competence; to this end adequate training opportunities, remuneration and career prospects shall be provided.

Article 7.1
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

The conditions of office of local elected representatives shall provide for free exercise of their functions.

As regards the principle of the freedom to exercise the office of local elected representative laid down in Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Charter, the rapporteurs have noted that since 1999 a government minister can no longer directly suspend local officials; she/he can only ask a court to order their suspension. In this area there has been a marked improvement in the legislation and there is full compliance with the Charter.

Article 7.2
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

They shall allow for appropriate financial compensation for expenses incurred in the exercise of the office in question as well as, where appropriate, compensation for loss of earnings or remuneration for work done and corresponding social welfare protection.

Article 7.3
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

Any functions and activities which are deemed incompatible with the holding of local elective office shall be determined by statute or fundamental legal principles.

Article 8.1
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Any administrative supervision of local authorities may only be exercised according to such procedures and in such cases as are provided for by the constitution or by statute.

As far as supervision is concerned three cases of possible conflict between the current Bulgarian legislation and the Charter merit highlighting, namely the excessive scope of delegated competences; the power of regional governors to directly annul a municipal act; and the lack of clarity on the grounds for the removal or dissolution of local elected bodies.


Concerning delegated competences, the power to verify their expediency is consistent with Article 8, paragraph 2, in principle. This may not be the case when delegated competences constitute the lion’s share of local authorities’ responsibilities, as is the case in Bulgaria.


As regards the state of the legislation on supervision by the regional governor over the acts and activities of the municipalities and in spite of Recommendation 45 (1998), there still seems to be a contradiction between, on the one hand, the amendment to Article 71 of the Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act (hereinafter the LSGLAA), which did away with the governor’s power to suspend or directly annul an unlawful act, and, on the other hand, the provision contained in Article 7, paragraph 4, sub-paragraph b) of the Structural Regulation of the Regional Administrations, which gives the regional governor the power to revoke “unlawful acts of mayors of municipalities”.


That change brings Bulgarian legislation closer to the Charter. Hence local autonomy is properly guaranteed with respect to the acts of municipal councils, while that is not the case for the acts of mayors, which are considerably more numerous than those of councils.


 That contradiction needs to be resolved. Indeed, there can be no justification for treating the acts of municipalities differently from those of mayors. The mayor acts on behalf of the municipality and adopts most of its administrative acts. That power on the part of governors needs to be revised, even when it applies to acts adopted in the area of state-delegated functions. For delegated areas, supervision may be based not only on legal provisions but also on central government instructions. Either way, the regional governor should have the same power: to demand a fresh examination of the unlawful acts by the municipal council (or the mayor) or to contest them before the competent administrative tribunal.


The ordinary powers to revoke, suspend or annul the acts of a municipality far exceed the principle set out in Article 8 of the Charter.


Regarding the state of the legislation governing the supervision of the behaviour of local government bodies (mayors, councils and individual councillors) the recommendation made in 1998 aiming especially to do away with the direct power of prosecutors to adopt acts removing or dissolving those bodies has been complied with. The delegation welcomes that improvement to the applicable legislation in this regard.


As regards the second part of the 1998 recommendation, the delegation welcomes the improvements in the current legislation for clearly defining the cases in which an administrative body of a municipality may be revoked or dissolved but would like to see further improvement in order to avoid any possibility of a supervision based on political evaluation -  a situation that would have to be assessed as non-compliant with Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Charter, which stipulates that “The conditions of office of local elected representatives shall provide for free exercise of their functions”.

Article 8.2
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Any administrative supervision of the activities of the local authorities shall normally aim only at ensuring compliance with the law and with constitutional principles. Administrative supervision may however be exercised with regard to expediency by higher-level authorities in respect of tasks the execution of which is delegated to local authorities.

Consult reply indicated at article 8.1

Article 8.3
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Administrative supervision of local authorities shall be exercised in such a way as to ensure that the intervention of the controlling authority is kept in proportion to the importance of the interests which it is intended to protect.

Consult reply indicated at article 8.1

Article 9.1
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, within national economic policy, to adequate financial resources of their own, of which they may dispose freely within the framework of their powers.

The delegation is particularly concerned about the legislative provisions relating to this article which have not undergone any significant amendment since Recommendation 45 (1998).


The Congress recommended more clarity regarding the distribution of competences, notably the delegated competences. It also asked for a better match between financial resources and delegated responsibilities. The rapporteurs note that there is still need for more clarity. They remind the authorities that the financial resources for taking over these competences need to be sufficient, whether they are financed by government transfers or depend on local taxes and fees (of which the local authorities can fix the rates in accordance with Article 9 paragraph 3 of the Charter).


A contradiction remains between the principle set out in Article 141, paragraph 2 of the Bulgarian Constitution (“A municipality’s permanent sources of revenue shall be established by law) and the current funding system based on government transfers.


The improvements observed these past few years are due primarily to the new, more objective system for sharing government transfers among municipalities (adoption of the standard cost method to calculate the level of funds to be transferred to each municipality, and secondly to the growing share of municipalities’ own revenues as compared to that of government transfers (down from 96.1% in 1991 to 54.8% in 2008), but which are nonetheless not sufficient to generate genuine autonomy. Although the municipalities have greater fiscal autonomy, given that financial autonomy is linked to local functions that account for only small share of municipal responsibilities, the expected improvements in the area of local taxation will have only a limited impact.


In the opinion of the rapporteurs, as long as that imbalance persists, the financial autonomy of municipalities will be reduced.


Article 9, paragraph 1 of the Charter comprises the obligation not only to guarantee local authorities adequate financial resources, but also to allow them to freely allocate those resources. The first consequence of that principle is the right of local authorities to have their own budget. The second is the relative independence of the local authorities when it comes to the allocation of their budgetary resources. Independent approval of the budget is the highest expression of local autonomy.


This principle is enshrined in Article 141, paragraph 1 of the Bulgarian Constitution stating that “A municipality shall have its own budget” and in LSGLAA Article 52, paragraph 1, which stipulates that “The municipal council shall adopt independent budget of the municipality, out of the republican one, on the basis of own income sources and subsidies from the state, distributed among the municipalities according to criteria, determined with a law”.


The Congress delegation is concerned about numerous aspects of the current legislation governing the budgetary procedure for Bulgarian municipalities, which appears to contradict this important legal provision. Before the municipalities are authorised to adopt their budget, the government must prepare and approve the “State-consolidated budget”.


In the 2009 State budget there were specific provisions defining the exact amount of the supplemental subsidy, the general equalisation subsidy and the capital investment subsidy. The State Budget Act specifies (Article 11): “While developing the municipal budgets and their adoption by the Municipal councils, the funds for financing the delegated by the state activities shall be determined in functions, groups, activities and items, according to the Single budget qualification”. The State budget therefore imposes specific limits on the spending policy of the municipalities, which is not acceptable.


The municipal council is supposed to adopt the municipal budget only after the adoption of the State budget and in accordance with its instructions. In light of the power to monitor the legality of municipal acts (and the more specific supervisory powers of the Finance Ministry), any provision in the municipal budget that does not respect the limits set by the State budget will be deemed unlawful. The State-consolidated budget therefore strongly compromises the “independence of the municipal budgets.


The consolidated-budget method is not specific to Bulgaria, but elsewhere in Europe it gives the State a better overview of global public finances, in order for example, to avoid counting the same resources twice, and to better coordinate the practices of the different administrative bodies. The main difference as far as the Bulgarian system is concerned is that the State-consolidated budget, in addition to being a source of information, also has binding legal effects, inasmuch as the municipal budgets have to be adopted after the decisions have been taken at State level on the allocation of resources.


In times of severe financial crisis it is understandable that the State should accord itself certain extraordinary powers to control the spending policy of all entities, including local entities. Restrictions (a cap on taxes and expenditure) must be proportional and temporary without compromising the principle of local autonomy. The rapporteurs take the view, however, that for an ordinary system to so limit the autonomy of the municipalities with respect to the adoption of their budget is contrary to Article 9 of the Charter and to the spirit of the Charter as a whole.


The principles of adequate resources (Article 9, paragraph 1) and of resources commensurate with responsibilities (Article 9, paragraph 2) were seriously challenged by the difficulties recorded in connection with the current financial crisis. The Congress delegation noted numerous problems in relation to the financial situation of the municipalities. Many of them are in huge difficulties and are no longer able to fund their policies. The largest – and the ones that attract the tourists most – are coping thanks to the process of privatisation. Yet a long-term strategy seems to be lacking. For the moment, the central government does not foresee any structural solution for the funding of the municipalities.


The rapporteurs have received information after the visit to the effect that specific solutions have been developed for municipalities, including a special Fund for Local Self-Government Authorities (FLAG EAD), “with Order No. 4 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria of March 7, 2007, as an instrument of state policy in regional development. The mission of the Fund is to support the efforts of Bulgarian municipalities and municipal companies in the preparation and successful implementation of projects under Operational Programmes (OP)/Rural Development Programme (RDP), for the modernisation and expansion of municipal infrastructure and for the creation of modern and sustainable local communities. The Fund grants loans to municipalities and municipal companies implementing projects approved by the Managing Authorities of OP/RDP, and to municipalities for the preparation of project proposals.” In addition to the above, information received from the Regional Policy and Local Self-Government Committee underlined that the Government had “granted to the municipalities, free of charge, a considerable number of state owned real estate items” and that a series of amendments to legislation had given the municipalities “the opportunity to manage and realise income from both properties granted to them and from properties still owned by the State”.


After the visit of the delegation, the National Association of Municipalities of the Republic of Bulgaria drew attention to the gradual diminution of municipalities’ financial resources, both in terms of their own revenues and government transfers. It would appear that there is a net decrease in public spending capacity at local level (down from 18% to 14% of total public spending).


The situation appears to be particularly difficult for almost all small municipalities, which are in dire financial straits; they do not even have the financial resources to participate in the European co-financing programme. This situation could lead to disparities in the financing of the 264 municipalities, and Bulgaria could be contravening the principle laid down in Article 9, paragraph 5 of the Charter.


Recommendation 45 (1998) referred to the need to “ensure that municipal authorities have sufficient buildings, in both qualitative and quantitative terms, to be able to carry out their financial and administrative functions”.  Major improvements have been made in that area: the law on municipal property has been broadly amended, in compliance with Article 140 of the Constitution, and the municipalities have been given numerous properties and the necessary powers to manage them.


Nonetheless, the Bulgarian local authorities deplore the restrictions imposed by ordinary legislation which obliges them to permit the use of such assets, free of charge, by private enterprises.


Article 9.2
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Local authorities' financial resources shall be commensurate with the responsibilities provided for by the constitution and the law.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.3
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Part at least of the financial resources of local authorities shall derive from local taxes and charges of which, within the limits of statute, they have the power to determine the rate.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.4
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

The financial systems on which resources available to local authorities are based shall be of a sufficiently diversified and buoyant nature to enable them to keep pace as far as practically possible with the real evolution of the cost of carrying out their tasks.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.5
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

The protection of financially weaker local authorities calls for the institution of financial equalisation procedures or equivalent measures which are designed to correct the effects of the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burden they must support. Such procedures or measures shall not diminish the discretion local authorities may exercise within their own sphere of responsibility.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.6
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be consulted, in an appropriate manner, on the way in which redistributed resources are to be allocated to them.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.7
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

As far as possible, grants to local authorities shall not be earmarked for the financing of specific projects. The provision of grants shall not remove the basic freedom of local authorities to exercise policy discretion within their own jurisdiction.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.8
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

For the purpose of borrowing for capital investment, local authorities shall have access to the national capital market within the limits of the law.

Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 10.1
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, in exercising their powers, to co-operate and, within the framework of the law, to form consortia with other local authorities in order to carry out tasks of common interest.

Local authorities’ right to associate is recognised in a satisfactory manner both by the Constitution and the legislation. Provision is made both for the right of association as such, i.e. the right to participate in national and regional associations, and for the right of association and cooperation among municipalities.


The National Association of Municipalities of the Republic of Bulgaria is well-established. It is supported by all local authorities and plays an increasingly important role in the decision-making process at national level. Its role, in particular as regards the financing of local authorities, has been considerably strengthened: It has the power to intervene in the legislation and in central government decisions.


As regards cooperation the positive experience of the so-called regional associations, which are forms of cooperation among municipalities over larger areas, should be noted. The delegation has met with representatives of the Central Stara Planina and Yantra regional associations; it welcomes the development of such initiatives, which increase the administrative and public intervention capacity of the municipalities. 

Article 10.2
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

The entitlement of local authorities to belong to an association for the protection and promotion of their common interests and to belong to an international association of local authorities shall be recognised in each State.

Consult reply indicated at article 10.1

Article 10.3
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, under such conditions as may be provided for by the law, to co-operate with their counterparts in other States.

Consult reply indicated at article 10.1

Article 11
Legal protection of local selfgovernment - Article ratified

Local authorities shall have the right of recourse to a judicial remedy in order to secure free exercise of their powers and respect for such principles of local self-government as are enshrined in the constitution or domestic legislation.

The Bulgarian system responded to Recommendation 45 (1998) by according legal recognition to these rights, for example as regards direct access by local authorities to the Constitutional Court.


The right of direct access is restricted to litigations on competences between local authorities and central executive organs. However, access is not granted in order to put the constitutional legitimacy of a law of the State concerning local self-government in question. For that, access is indirect: the question of the constitutionality of a law can be brought before ordinary judges (Supreme Court of Cassation or Supreme Administrative Court). If they consider the question important, they will suspend the procedure and apply to the Constitutional Court.


In both cases (direct access on competence or indirect access), the Constitutional court can ground its judgments on the Charter because the latter has direct application. It can also declare an internal norm which contradicts the Charter unconstitutional.


As for access to ordinary judges, Article 145 of the Constitution provides that municipal councils can take acts which undermine their rights to court. The problem of a better recognition of these rights in ordinary legislation remains.


to the Council of Europe


of the European Charter of Local Self-Government


Formally speaking, Articles 2 and 3 of the Charter are fully complied with by Bulgaria, both at constitutional level (cf. the provisions of Chapter VII of the Bulgarian Constitution) and at the level of the country’s ordinary legislation (cf. the laws on local authorities).

30Ratified provision(s)
0Provision(s) with reservation(s)
0 Unratified Provision(s)
10Compliant Provision(s)
1Partially Compliant Provision(s)
16Non-compliant Provision(s)