Bulgaria’s Parliament voted on August 2 to overturn the veto imposed by President Rossen Plevneliev on the amendments to the Special Surveillance Means Act, which regulates when and how law enforcement can use eavesdropping.
The motion in Parliament gathered the minimum amount of votes necessary to overturn the veto. The motion passed with 121 MPs voting in favour, including 11 votes from ultra-nationalist party Ataka.
The party denies accusations of working in concert with the ruling coalition between the socialists and the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (a frequent target for Ataka leader Volen Siderov’s attacks over the years), but routinely provides enough MPs on Parliament benches to ensure parliamentary quorum.
In his reasoning for the veto, Plevneliev said that he welcomed the goals of the bill, namely increased oversight on the use of eavesdropping and limiting their unjustified use, but said that some of the provisions of the amended law overstepped the constitutional separation of the different branches of government, potentially infringing on the authority of the judiciary branch.
The two specific examples given by Plevneliev are the national bureau tasked with oversight of all eavesdropping – not yet created, but mandated by the amendments – and Parliament.
Under the amended eavesdropping law, the bureau will have the right to give outright orders to the institutions that authorise the use of wire-taps, namely the courts, and carry out such activities. “The introduction of the legislative possibility for an institution outside the judiciary to interfere in the internal decisions of the magistrates threatens the independence of the judicial system and could drastically impede the functioning of those institutions,” Plevneliev said.
In the same vein, allowing MPs to oversee court orders and interfere in court matters was unacceptable, he said.
Plevneliev can still challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court, as can the country’s two high courts – the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation. If the Constitutional Court decrees the challenge admissible, it has to rule on the issue within a period of two months.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)