Civil participation in local self-government is an indispensable element of the democratic state. The ways and forms of participation of citizens in local self-government in the Republic of Bulgaria are regulated by law. As subjects of local government, citizens can influence the activity of the different territorial authorities and officials of local administrations who assist them. The most common methods to realize their impact are:
- direct participation of citizens in the implementation of state and local government;
- implementation of civil control of the activities of local self-government bodies and local administration;
- realization of public control of the activity of the local self-government bodies and the local administration.
DIRECT PARTICIPATION OF CITIZENS
The Act on the Direct Participation of the Citizens in the State Government and Local Self-Government regulates the following instruments for direct participation, the so-called forms of direct participation:
The referendum can be implemented at national and local level. A national referendum is produced in the Republic of Bulgaria to directly address the citizens of issues of national importance within the jurisdiction of the National Assembly. It is also done at the suggestion of the Municipal Councils and citizensLocal referendum is produced in the municipality, district or mayoralty directly addressing issues of local importance, which the law provided in the competence of local authorities or the authorities of the area or town hall.
- CITIZENS ‘INITIATIVE
The citizens’ initiative can be carried out at national, European and local level, and the general assembly of the population – locally. Through a national citizens’ initiative, citizens make proposals to the National Assembly or to the central executive authorities to resolve issues of national importance. It is performed by a petition organized by an initiative committee on the territory of the whole country. Through local citizens’ initiative the citizens make proposals to the municipal council, the mayor, the area or city hall or district or regional executive authorities to address issues of local importance. It is performed by a petition organized by an initiative committee on the territory of the municipality, district, town or village.
- EUROPEAN CITIZENS ‘INITIATIVE (Art. 2, point 1, REGULATION (EU) No 211/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL)
ECI is carried out by subscription in accordance with the requirements of Regulation (EC) № 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe on 16 February 2011 on the citizens’ initiative.
- GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE POPULATION
General Assembly of the population is held to address issues of local importance, responsibility for whose solution where appropriate is available on the respective municipal council or mayor. On the basis of the decision of the general meeting, the mayor issues an order in which he specifies the measures for his implementation or presents a proposal to the municipal council for the adoption of a corresponding decision or ordinance. If the mayor considers that the decision of the General Assembly of the population is not in the interest of the municipality, he can stop its implementation and refer the matter to the Municipal Council, which addresses the issue within one month and withdraw or confirm the decision suspended
- In accordance with the Law on Local Self-Government and Local Administration, citizens can attend the meetings of the municipal council and its committees by taking up the specially designated places for them. They can speak, ask questions, express opinions and suggestions within the competence of the municipal council, the mayor or the municipal administration and to receive answers in order, manner and time frame specified in the Regulations for the organization and the activity of the Municipal Council. Citizens and legal entities may submit written proposals and opinions to the committees of the municipal council. On these issues the committees accept reports, opinions, proposals and recommendations, which are submitted to the municipal council and to the relevant stakeholders.
- By subscription the citizens of the municipality, district, town, village, neighborhood make suggestions to the municipal council for solving important issues of the municipality. The petition is submitted to the chairman of the municipal council. He is obliged to inform the municipal councilors of the submitted petition and within one month to convene a meeting of the council for its consideration. The municipal council discusses the proposals received and makes decisions on them under the general procedure established in the Law on Local Self-Government of the Republic of Bulgaria, unless otherwise specified in a special law.
- The protection of the rights and legitimate interests of citizens can be carried out by the institute of the public mediator. It is elected by a majority of 2/3 of the total number of municipal councilors and assists in respecting the rights and legitimate interests of the citizens within the bodies of local self-government and the local administration. The public mediator is an independent body elected by the City Council for a term of four years. In its activity, the Public Mediator is subject only to the Constitution, the laws in the Republic of Bulgaria and the Rules and Regulations for the organization and activity of the Public Mediator on the territory of the respective Municipality. In the Republic of Bulgaria, the institution of the public mediator does not occur in most of the municipalities.
CIVIL CONTROL OF THE ACTIVITIES OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
- THE OMBUDSMAN’S LAW
The National Ombudsman advocates the means provided for by the law when acts or omissions affect or violate the rights and freedoms of citizens by the state authorities, local authorities and their administrations, as well as by the persons entrusted with the provision of public services. The ombudsman’s activity is public. The state and municipal authorities and their administrations, legal persons and citizens are obliged to provide information entrusted to them in the service and to assist the Ombudsman in connection with complaints and signals sent to him. Complaints and signals to the Ombudsman may be submitted by individuals irrespective of nationality, gender, political affiliation or religious beliefs. The Ombudsman accepts them by scrutinizing them. He responds in writing to the person who has lodged the complaint within one month. The Ombudsman has the power to make suggestions and recommendations for restoring violated rights and freedoms to the relevant authorities, their administrations and the persons to whom they are entrusted to provide public services. He has the right to express public views and opinions, including in the mass media, but is not entitled to disclose circumstances that have become known to him in the performance of his or her functions, which are state, business or commercial secrets or personal.
- CODE OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE /APK/
Citizens may appeal individual administrative acts of local self-government bodies that create administrative rights and obligations or affect the rights or legitimate interests of individuals or organizations of the immediate superior administrative body. The complaint can be appealed both by the lawfulness and the expediency of the administrative act. Civil control in local self-government can extend not only to administrative acts but also to their implementation. The APK provides for an opportunity for citizens to challenge unlawful actions to implement administrative acts and decisions.
- LAW ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COUNTRY AND OF MUNICIPALITY FOR DAMAGE
The State and the municipalities are responsible for damages caused to citizens and legal persons by unlawful acts, acts or omissions of their bodies and officials in the course of or in connection with the performance of administrative activity. The claim for damages is brought before the courts of the place of damage or residence of the injured against the authorities whose unlawful acts or omissions have caused the damage. The liability of the guilty officials to the state for the compensations paid shall be carried out under the conditions and in the manner provided for in the Labor Code, the Civil Servant Act, or in another law or decree..
- LAW ON ADMINISTRATIVE VIOLATIONS AND PENALTIES
In accordance with the Law on administrative violations and penalties, citizens can appeal against their imposed administrative measures and administrative penalties. The penalty decrees and electronic coupons may be appealed to the district court in the area where it was made or completed offense and for offenses committed abroad – the Sofia District Court. The appeal against the punitive decree and the electronic fiche is filed through the punishing authority that issued it.
PUBLIC CONTROL OF THE ACTIVITY OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
Public control is a manifestation of citizens’ participation in local self-government and the increased role of the public in assessing the functioning of local administration.
A particularly active form of public control in local self-government are critical publications and materials in the public media.
Public control in local self-government can be realized through the following two forms:
- PROVIDING INFORMATION FROM CIVILIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN RESPECT OF INSPECTIONS CARRIED OUT
The importance of this control is mainly reflected in its information and preventive role in the speed of its reactions. Its significance for the local population is expressed in its ability to capture the inconsistencies of the actions and acts of the local self-government with the needs and interests of citizens and society and to express them in the fastest and not always formal way. Anything that a public organization or community group considers to be improper to perform the tasks assigned to the local administration may be the subject of the information they transmit as a result of inspections or observations made by local authorities.
- EVALUATION OF THE ORGANIZATIONS OF CITIZENS ON THE ACTIVITIES OF THE LOCAL self-GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
Public control can be used by local authorities to study the existing situation regarding the assessing the actual situation and the situations that have arisen. This control can also provide useful information in the organization and implementation of decisions taken by local government officials on the opportunities, resources and resources to implement. Also on the alleged difficulties and obstacles that may arise in the course of implementation.
ALTERNATIVE AVAILABLE INSTRUMENTS FOR CIVIL PARTICIPATION
- PUBLIC EVENTS – DISCUSSIONS, ROUND TABLES, CONFERENCES
The aim is to use the significance and resources of the media to inform, influence and attract adherents, to present different positions, and to organize public discussions. The aim is to use the significance and resources of the media to inform, influence and attract people, to present different positions and to organize public discussions.
Advocacy is a set of organized civil actions on a socially significant issue in order to achieve a change in accordance with the interests and rights of citizens and to protect these interests and rights by influencing the formation of a specific public policy. The purpose of advocacy is to achieve social justice, gaining support, access to voting rights in the national and local decision-making process.
- ADVISORY COUNCILS
Advisory Councils function as “civic participation institutions” involving groups of proven and respected professionals, known to the public, and dealing with issues that local government is responsible for solving. Advisory councils are primarily expert bodies, but they are of a public nature. Their members provide expert opinions and recommendations, but the final decisions are made by the authorities.
- PUBLIC COUNCIL
Advisory bodies of government with wider representation of citizens.
- PUBLIC DISCUSSION
Providing information to citizens, with the main purpose of studying and getting acquainted with their opinion on a number of important issues for the municipality..
- PUBLIC FORUM
Conduct a cycle of interconnected and upgrading forums – discussions (sessions). A place to express the views of representatives of different social groups to exchange ideas and suggestions related to the future development of a municipality, region or village, to build partnerships between institutions and improve the quality of life of all residents.
A form of partnership between public authorities (state or local) and civil society structures in which CSS is given the right (and obligation) to carry out activities traditionally falling within the sphere of competence of the public authorities. The Contracting Authority – the public authority, provides financial assistance to the contractor – CSS, in the form of a subsidy or as a contractual obligation under contract. Buildings, facilities, material assistance or other forms of support may be provided.