Bulgarian President Plevneliev vetoes sections of new Interior Ministry Bill

Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev vetoed sections of the new Interior Ministry Bill approved at second reading by the National Assembly on May 28, his office said on June 9 2014.

The head of state believed that the public needed to hear in-depth arguments about the need for any legislative change and what this would cost taxpayers, Plevneliev’s office said.

This is the latest occasion that Plevneliev, elected in late 2011 as president on the ticket of centre-right party GERB but since taking office careful to steer a non-partisan course, has sent back legislation to the National Assembly – in which since May 2013 the ruling axis of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms has held sway – for further reconsideration.

In all previous cases, the ruling axis has exercised its constitutional prerogative to overturn the President’s veto, and for as long as the highly controversial 42nd National Assembly lasts, is likely to do so again.

Plevneliev’s office said that the explanatory memorandum to the bill lacks a financial statement on the necessary funds for 2014 and on the improvement of the socio-economic rights of employees in the Interior Ministry.

The President hopes that the provisions adopted are to achieve the claimed improvement of employees’ rights in the Interior Ministry, not to achieve a popularity that cannot be financially supported, the head of state’s office said.

As rewritten, the law provides that in carrying out an operational-search activity, the police may investigate the behaviour of individuals and groups in a “controlled environment”.

However, the President’s office points out, the law contains no written definition of what a “controlled environment” is, how and who will put individuals and groups in this environment and what are the implications of a study of their behaviour.

The lack of clarity on this bears the risks of damage to the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.

The constitution provides that no one shall be followed, photographed, filmed, recorded or subjected to any similar action, without his knowledge or despite his express disapproval, except in cases provided by law.

The new law includes provisions which create preconditions for violation of the constitutionally protected right of access to public information, the President’s office said.

According to the constitution and the Public Access to Information Act, public authorities are obliged to provide information to citizens and restricting that right may only be done as an exception. Under the new provisions, a refusal to provide information indicates only the right but not the factual basis for doing so.

It also introduces the possibility of tacit refusal of requests for access to information.

The President’s office pointed out, however, that the Supreme Administrative Court had held that tacit refusal to provide information by public authorities and their administrations should not be allowed.

Plevneliev also rejected provisions that overturned the power of the head of state to appoint the chief secretary of the Interior Ministry, a power that has been in place for more than 20 years.

The law as approved by the National Assembly deprives the President of a mechanism to prevent the appointment of unsuitable figures to one of the highest professional office, the statement said.

The explanatory memorandum to the veto said that as a guarantee of compliance with the constitutional fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, the head of state should maintain his role in protecting the public interest in national security.

The President did not accept the lack of grounds for early termination of the chief secretary because of severe or systematic breaches of duty, or when the chief secretary’s actions undermining the prestige of the ministry. This deficit could open the way for abuses of power, the statement said.

Elsewhere in his objections to the bill, the President said that in creating two directorates-general, “criminal police” and “police” in the stead of the “national police” directorate-general, such changes should be made only after a thorough analysis of the shortcomings established in the 2012 reform.

Plevneliev also objected to the introduction of the concept in the law of the “supernumerary assistant” – which the head of state’s office said was adopted as a blanket concept with no vision as to how and what specific duties external personnel would perform.

The head of state also believed that it should be that a process of competition for higher positions in the Ministry of Interior should be maintained, and the activities of trade unions in the Interior Ministry should not be restricted, the statement said.

Plevneliev also referred back to the National Assembly the clauses on donations to the Interior Ministry. The ban on such donations does not apply, in the new proposed law, to “joint projects” but there was a lack of clarity on such projects and from who such donations could be received, the President’s office said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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