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Proposed changes to the law on local governments and administration in Bulgaria would give more powers to municipalities, and encourage citizen participation in government.
The proposed new version of Bulgaria's Local Self-Governance and Local Administration Act envisages devolving more powers to municipalities and enhancing citizen contact with local authorities, though some say changes are unlikely to be passed in parliament.
The bill was presented Tuesday at the eighth annual meeting of Bulgarian local authorities in Plovdiv, and will be submitted for review by the Council of Ministers in spring.
The proposed act was drafted by a working group of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria (NAMRB) and the details are still being ironed out, according to dnevnik.bg
Minko Akimov, chair of the Municipal Council in Troyan, who presented the project to his colleagues, said the existing law was 21 years old and outdated.
He pushed for the expansion of municipal powers for the maintenance of public order, public transport, and protection against natural disasters.
He insisted that there must be a clear difference between the three branches of power in local governance – the citizens, the local bodies (the municipal council), and the local executive branch (the mayor and the administration).
Akimov pointed out that the current methods of establishing contact with citizens were highly inadequate and backed the creation of municipal councils on local policy on a territorial principle.
Every town or city should also appoint a municipal mediator, he said.
Akimov said the new law had to provide the opportunity to decide a number of matters via a local referendum, including the total number and the salary of municipal councilors and the merger of municipalities.
In addition, Akimov said, a new version of the law should list the different liabilities of the various local bodies, explaining that the mayor carried administrative and criminal liability, while municipal councilors carried none.
He went on to say that the principles of government in Bulgaria had to be specified, adding that political parties had the habit of forgetting their election promises to municipalities all too easily.
Akimov said that after coming to power, the parties kept taking greater power, shifting responsibilities to local authorities but failing to allocate any resources for their implementation.
Municipalities were urged to send proposals for the revision of the local government law in the coming weeks.
While Akimov was hopeful that a new version of the law will be pushed through in Sofia, Lyuben Tatarski, chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Regional Development, suggested that the bill was not likely to come under review by the end of the GERB government's mandate, despite the ambitions of the NAMRB.
He recommended a "revolutionary" project for a new Local Self-Governance and Local Administration Act, emphasizing that the existing one was drafted a long time ago and that there were many other successful models of governance in Europe.
NAMRB President Todor Popov told dnevnik.bg that no fundamental changes to local self-governance legislation could be expected because of the complicated economic and political situation in Bulgaria.
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