The Bulgarian Legal System and Legal Research
By Angel Panayotov, Lora Kapelovska, and Nikolay Bebov
Lora Kapelovska practices law in Sofia. She works for the law firm Landwell Bulgaria. She graduated as an LLM student from the Burgas Free University in 1995. She is a holder of LLM in European Law from the University of Stockholm, Sweden. Lora Kapelovska is an expert in competition law.
Angel Panayotov practices law in Sofia; he was admitted to the Sofia Bar in 2005. He now works for the law firm Landwell Bulgaria. He graduated as an LLM student from the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ochridski” in 2004. His area of legal practice is law of corporations and law of contracts.
Nikolay Bebov practices law in Sofia; he was admitted to the Sofia Bar in 1999. He works for the law firm Landwell Bulgaria. He is a LLM graduate from the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ochridski” in 1997. With some 10 years of experience as practicing lawyer, Nikolay Bebov is focused mostly on financial services law and securities regulations. He also lectures at seminars on Bulgarian securities regulations.
Published August 2006
Table of Contents
2.1. The Constitution
2.6. The legal custom
2.7. Case law
3.2. The executive branch
3.2.1. The council of ministers
3.2.2. The President
3.3. The judicial branch
3.3.1. The courts
3.3.2. The public prosecution
3.3.3. The investigation offices
4.1. The Ombudsman
4.5. The Bar
The process of formation of the contemporary legal system of Bulgaria starts with the liberation of the country from Ottoman political domination in 1878. It is marked by the adoption of the first Bulgarian constitution – the Turnovo Constitution signed on 16 April 1879, a founding document upholding the most progressive and democratic principles dominating in Europe in the nineteenth century.
The modern Bulgarian legal system is influenced by two very important factors: the democratization and liberalization of the country’s economy, which started after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, on the one hand, and the integration of Bulgaria into the EU, on the other. The Bulgarian legal system evolved through a profound and strictly-monitored alteration in order to achieve coherence with the acquis communautaire. The country signed an EU Accession Agreement on 25 April 2005 in Luxembourg and the expected date for Accession of Bulgaria to the EU is 1 January 2007 (the final report of the European Commission on accession of the country to the EU will be issued in October 2006). Upon accession the EU legislation will become an integral part of Bulgarian legal system.
For more information refer to: www.evroportal.bg
A typical representative of the Romano – Germanic legal family, the Bulgarian legal system recognizes the Acts of Parliament as a main source of law. The Bulgarian jurisprudence does not regard the judicial precedent as a source of law. Nevertheless, the legal doctrine sometimes refers to the so called direct sources (Acts of Parliament and subordinate rules) and indirect sources (or “subsidiary” sources) of law such as: case law (the practice of the courts); the legal doctrine; the legal customs, moral rules, and equity (“justice”). In addition, two types of decisions of the Constitutional Court (refer to 2.5. below) are clearly a source of law (but they cannot be regarded as case law). In terms of direct sources, the Bulgarian legal system is based on a strictly defined hierarchy of the sources of law as follows below.
“The Constitution is the supreme act and other acts may not contradict it”, reads art. 5, para. 1 of the Bulgarian Constitution adopted on 12 July 1991. The Constitution provides for the basic rights of the citizens as well as embeds the structure, functions and collaboration between the branches of government.
Amendments to the Constitution may be adopted through a majority of three quarters of the National Assembly (the single-chamber Parliament); some constitutional provisions of major relevance may only be amended by a Grand National Assembly (refer to 4.1. below). The Constitution has been amended three times so far, never by a Grand National Assembly.
According to art. 5, para. 4 of the Constitution: “The international treaties, ratified in compliance with the constitutional procedure, published and entered into force for the Republic of Bulgaria are part of the domestic law of the country and have supremacy over those provisions of the domestic law which contradict them”. This rule has been applied consistently by Bulgarian courts.
The main sources of law, according to the Bulgarian legal doctrine, are the Acts of Parliament. Legislative initiative is vested in any Member of Parliament, as well as in the Council of Ministers (refer to 3.2.1. below). Annual budgets bills can be drafted only by the Council of Ministers.
Some major branches of the legal system are codified, even though codes (enacted by the Parliament) have no higher standing than but are equal with the Acts of Parliament. The codes having the ranking of an Act of Parliament currently in force in Bulgaria are: the brand new Administrative Procedure Code 2006 (dealing with the procedures for the issuance and appeal of administrative acts and, among others, for the procedures for indemnification of private parties who have suffered damages from administrative instruments, acts or omission to act); the Civil Procedure Code 1952 as amended many times (dealing with all civil proceedings in court, with enforcement of judgments, with injunctions, among others; it also contains the law on evidence in civil matters), which will shortly be replaced by a new code; the Tax and Social Insurance Procedure Code 2005 (dealing with procedures for the issue of tax assessments and social security levies assessments, their appeal and enforcement, among others); the Insurance Code 2005 (codifying all matters relevant to the taking up and pursuit of the business of insurance and reinsurance, including in the EU context); the Social Insurance Code 1999 as amended many times (regulating the so called three tiers of social insurance: obligatory state-run; obligatory private-run; and optional private-run; also regulating the matters relevant to the taking up and pursuit of the business of a pension insurance fund and a fund manager); the International Private Law Code 2005 (a codification of most of the conflicts of law rules in Bulgarian civil and business law); the Labour Code 1986 as amended many times (the paramount piece of legislation concerning employment law); the Maritime Code 1970 as amended many times (dealing with the bulk of matters in maritime law, including contracts, vessel registrations, flags); the Criminal Code 1968 as amended many times (dealing exclusively with all matters falling within substantive criminal law); the brand new Criminal Procedure Code 2006 (dealing exclusively with all mattes falling within criminal procedure law, including the law of evidence); and the Family Code 1985 as amended several times (dealing exclusively with all legal aspects of civil marriage, divorce, origin, lineage, among others, but not inheritance).
The texts of these are available in English at the following sites:
The Constitution provides for and a number of Acts of Parliament delegate to the Council of Ministers, the Ministers separately, to other public bodies and/or officers the issuance of decrees, regulations, ordinances and instructions and thus regulates of specific areas of economic or social activity.
If such subordinate statutory instruments contravene an Act of Parliament or the Constitution they can be appealed before (and possibly revoked by) the Supreme Administrative Court (refer below).
According to art. 149, para. 1, p. 1 of the Constitution: “The Constitutional Court gives compulsory interpretations of the Constitution”. The Constitutional Court is also entitled to declare provisions contained in an Act of Parliament anti-constitutional. Those two types of decisions of the Constitutional Court are a very important source of law in Bulgarian legal system. (for details about the Constitutional Court please refer to Section 3.4.)
This is a subsidiary source of law which main characteristics are: a continuous implementation by many persons and its “opinion necessitatis” i.e. the common understanding of its binding force. It is not uncommon in business relations.
The judgments issued by Bulgarian courts in individual proceedings have no overall applicability, i.e. they are binding on the parties involved, on the other courts in Bulgaria and on the administration but not on any other third parties (some exceptions apply). Thus court judgments are not case law. Needless to say, even individual court judgments may have very significant practical value and are thus often of interest to practitioners and are cited in other legal proceedings. They remain, however, only arguments in another, independent trial.
At the same time, three types of court decisions have a meaning, legal strength, and practical value very similar to that of a law. Firstly, those judgments of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) by which it abrogates statutory instruments which contradict an Act of Parliament or the Constitution (refer to 2.3. above). Secondly, each of the Civil, Commercial or Criminal Colleges (each consisting of the justices belonging to the respective College) of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) can issue Interpretative Decision, which are binding on other courts and on the executive branch of the government. Such are issued where the respective college finds that an interpretation of an Act of Parliament or of a statutory instrument is needed (because of the lower courts issuing flawed judgments by misinterpreting such Acts or instruments, or because of dissenting judgments of different courts on similar cases). Thirdly and similarly, the justices in the Supreme Administrative Court can issue Interpretative Decrees, which are binding on the Judiciary and the Executive Branch of the Government (including the local authorities) as well as on all public bodies which are entrusted with the right to make delegated legislation (e.g. the Central Bank). The latter two acts are dealt with in the Judicature Act 1994 and are traditional for the Bulgarian legal system.
The legal doctrine regards morality and equity as subsidiary sources of law, which are applicable in case of normative gaps.
According to art. 1, para. 1 of the Constitution, Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic, with the legislative branch taking supremacy. The National Assembly exercises the legislative power as well as the right to parliamentary control. A very important prerogative of the Parliament is to elect the Prime-Minister and its cabinet. The mandate of the National Assembly is four years and it consists of 240 directly elected members.
A Grand National Assembly consists of 400 directly elected members. The Grand National Assembly is exclusively entitled to exercise the following powers: to adopt a new Constitution; to resolve on the matter concerning a change of the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, and to ratify any international treaties providing for any such changes; to resolve on the matters concerning changes in the form of state governance (parliamentary republic) the structure of State (unitary state and not a federal state); and to amend and supplement certain other major constitutional provisions.
The Council of Ministers or the Government, is the main body of the executive power, headed by the Prime-Minister. The Government conducts the internal and foreign policy of the state, secures public order and cares for the national security, exercises control over the public administration and the military forces and has legislative initiative.
The Prime-Mister is nominated by the largest parliamentary group, after which the President hands him a mandate for formation of cabinet.
The Government consists of Ministers who would normally be in charge of a Ministry. The number and names of Ministries change over time, sometimes even within the mandate of a single National Assembly. Ministries take charge of the respective sectors of economic or social life.
Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria
1194 Sofia, 1 Dondukov Blvd
central switchboard: (+359 2) 940 29 99
Government Information Service
tel. (+359 2) 940 27 70 fax. (+359 2) 980 20 56
Address: 1000 Sofia
1, Dondukov Blvd.
Phone: (+359 2) 940 29 99
Address: 1000 Sofia
2A Dondukov Blvd.
Phone: (+359 2) 9217513
Address: 1040 Sofia
55 Hristo Botev Blvd.
Phone : (+359 2) 985-11-255
Address : 1000 Sofia
17 Alexander Stamboliiski Blvd
Phone : (+359 2) 94 00 863
Address : 1000 Sofia,
3, Dyakon Ignatii Str.
Phone: (+359 2 ) 922 09 22
Address: 1000 Sofia,
1, Dondukov Blvd.
Phone: (+359 2) 940 2782 / 940 2041
Address: 1000 Sofia,
8, Slavianska Str.
Phone: +359 2) 940 71
Address: 1000 Sofia, 67 Gladstone Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 940 6331
fax: (+359 2) 988 59 13
Address: 1000 Sofia,
2 Al. Zhendov Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 948 2110
102 Rakovski Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 9859 2024
Address: 1504 Sofia,
117 Evlogi Georgiev Blvd.
2 Al. Zhendov Str.
Phone: (02) 948 2999
5 Sveta Nedelia Sq.
Phone: (+359 2) 930-11-52
Address: 1000 Sofia
29, 6th September Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 9825000
Address: 1040 Sofia
1 Slavianska Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 91 408
2 Triaditsa Str.
Phone:(+359 2) 8119 443
Address: 1000 Sofia,
17-19 Cyril and Methodius Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 940 5430
Address: 1000 Sofia
1 Aksakov Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 940 11 50
fax (+359 2) 940 11 01
Address: 1000 Sofia
9 Diakon Ignatii Str.
Phone: (+359 2) 987 – 5750
The president is the Head of the State and is directly elected for a term of five years. He can hold no more than two consecutive terms offices. The President is entitled primarily with representative functions, with some important executive prerogatives such as: to veto Acts of Parliament, to conclude some of the international treaties specified by law; to afford asylum; to exercise the right of pardon etc. (see also art. 98 of the Constitution).
The Bulgarian Judiciary is independent of the other branches of government (art. 117, para. 2 of the Constitution).
The Judiciary is composed of three separate systems of law-enforcing or law-protecting authorities: the system of the courts; the system of the public prosecution and the system of the investigation offices (preliminary investigation).
The Supreme Judicial Council is the administrative body running the Judiciary. It is composed of 25 members, lawyers of high repute, of whom 11 are elected within the Judiciary, 11 by the National Assembly, and three are members by law: these are the presidents of SCC, of SAC and the Chief Prosecutor. According to art. 129, para. 1 of the Constitution: “Judges, public prosecutors and investigating magistrates are appointed, promoted, reduced in rank, moved and discharged from office by the Supreme Judicial Council.”
As a matter of principle the legal procedure in Bulgaria is a three-instance one, although there are many exceptions to this rule. The system of the courts is decentralized, i.e. courts of various ranks are distributed throughout the country. Only SCC and SAC are based in the capital city, Sofia.
The structure of the Public Prosecution follows that of the courts. Public prosecutors act for the State in criminal cases and defend the public interest in many administrative and civil cases.
Preliminary investigation magistrates carry out preliminary investigation proceedings in the criminal cases.
Among others, the Constitutional Court determines if laws and international agreements (before their ratification) are in compliance with the Constitution. The Constitutional Court consists of 12 judges. One-third of the constitutional judges are elected by the National Assembly, one-third are appointed by the President, and one-third are elected at a general meeting of the justices of the SCC and of the SAC. The Constitutional Court may be approached at the initiative of at least one-fifth of the members of the National Assembly, of the President, of the Council of Ministers, of the Supreme Court of Cassation, of the Supreme Administrative Court, of the Prosecutor General and of the Ombudsman.
The third amendment of the Constitution (promulgated in the State Gazette No 27/31.03.2006) created the institution of the Ombudsman which is new for the Bulgarian legal system. The Ombudsman may intervene by the means, envisaged by law, when citizens' rights and freedoms have been violated by actions or omissions of the State and municipal authorities as well as by public officers. The Ombudsman Act 2003 contains the rules on his powers and duties.
Bulgaria’s Central Bank, BNB, is one of the oldest such institutions in Europe, it was established in 1879. BNB has important regulatory, monetary and supervisory powers (above all, over banks as credit institutions). BNB is managed by a Board of Governors, with a Governor ant three Deputy Governors, elected by the National Assembly, and three other Governors, appointed by the President. After election/appointment the governors become independent from the National Assembly/The President and may be released from office only on objective grounds.
The Commission is a specialized government body for regulation and supervision of the financial services sector other than the banking sector (securities firms, issuers, insurance companies, pensions insurance companies and others). The Commission consists of seven members, all elected by the National Assembly, including a Chairman and three Deputy Chairmen. Similarly to BNB’s governors, the members of the Commission become independent from the National Assembly after their election.
CPC is the specialized State authority overseeing business entities with a view to ensuring fair competition practices and to pursuing anti-competitive practices. It consists of seven members, including a Chairman, two Deputy Chairmen and four other members, all elected by Parliament. Similarly to BNB’s governors, the members of the Commission become independent from the National Assembly after their election. CPC authorizes state aid granting. As of 1 July 2006 the commission will hear appeals against decisions, acts and omissions in reference with public procurements and concessions.
Bulgarian legal system regards the Bar as an important institution which is entitled to protect the rights and the interests of the persons of law. Therefore the Constitution and the Bar Act 2004 proclaim that the Bar is a free, independent and self-regulating body.
The Notary Chamber in Bulgaria is a non-government organization which aims to organize and to improve the activities of the notaries public in Bulgaria.
The Court of Arbitration with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry-BCCI is a 109-year old well-regarded institution for out-of-court dispute resolution providing arbitration and, lately, other alternative dispute resolution services.
There are ten law schools in Bulgaria. The course of studies continues for five years and the successful graduates obtain an LL.M. degree.
For more information see this site.
Faculty of Law – Sofia University “St Kliment Ochridski”
Address: 15 Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd., Sofia 1504
Phone: +359 2 9308577
Fax: +359 2 9443293
Dean: Assoc. Prof. Dimiter Tokushev, Ph. D.
Faculty of Law – University of National and World Economy
Address: Studentski grad, Sofia 1700
Phone: +359 2 629509
Fax: +359 2 9623903
Dean: Prof. George Boyanov, Ph. D
Address: 21 Montevideo Str. Building I, room 410, Sofia 1618
Phone: +359 2 8110410
Dean: Prof. Rumen Vladimirov, Ph. D.
Faculty of Law – Plovdiv University “Paisii Hilendarski”
Address: 24 Tzar Assen Street, Plovdiv 4000
Phone: +359 32 628792
Fax: +359 32 628390
Dean: Assoc. Prof. Ventsislav Stoyanov, Ph. D.
Faculty of Law – Varna Technical University
Address: 1 Studentska Str., Varna 9010
Phone: +359 52 383647
Fax: +359 52 302771
Dean: Assoc. Prof. Rumiana Kurteva
Address: Chaika resort, Varna 9007
Phone: +359 52 355058
Dean: Prof. Tamara Hinova, Ph. D
Faculty of History and Law – St. Cyril and St. Metodius University of Veliko Turnovo 5000
Phone: +359 62 628025
Fax: +359 62 628023
Dean: Assoc. Prof. Mincho Minchev, Ph. D.
Address: 1 Georgi Izmirliev – Makedoncheto Square, Blagoevgrad 2700
Phone: +359 73 35017
Fax: +359 73 35017
Dean: Prof. Alexander Vodenicharov, Ph. D.
Address: 101 Alexandrovska Street, Burgas 8000
Phone: +359 56 813904
Dean: Dr. Emilia Kandeva, Ph. D.
Faculty of Law – Russe University “Angel Kunchev”
Address: 8 Studentska Str., Russe 7071
Phone: +359 82 888258
Fax: +359 82 483 047
Dean: Assoc. Prof. George Stefanov, Ph. D.
The major Bulgarian legal periodicals include:
· The Bulletins of the Supreme Court of Cassation
· The Bulletins of the Supreme Administrative Court;
· The Informational Bulletin of The Commission on Protection of the Competition;
· Contemporary Law magazine;
· Legal Doctrine magazine;
· Commercial Law magazine;
· Juridical World magazine;
· 4 legal digests: Law and Property; Law and Labour; Law and Market; Law and Finances;
· Advocates Review ;
Online information is limited but annotations can be obtained from:
The legal treatises of prominent Bulgarian legal theorists and/or practitioners are published in the specialized legal journals, magazines and digests mentioned above (see 6.). Some major legal researches and works on current issues concerning the Bulgarian jurisprudence are published as legal manuals for students and practicing jurists. The latter are also available online here.
Online resources about Bulgarian legal treatises are insufficient but still some data may be obtained at:
Some more important treatises of Bulgarian legal scholars are:
“Shares and Methods for Their Assignment” by Kamelia Kasabova
“Commentary of the Commercial Act” by Ognian Gerdjikov
“Commentary of the Public Offering of Securities Act” by Angel Kalaidjiev
“The Prosecutor in the Civil Process” by Ognian Stamboliev
“The Notary Deed” by Zhivko Stalev
“The Legal Grounds for the Civil Liability” by Traian Konov
“The Law of Obligations” by Angel Kalaidjiev
“Theoretical Fundamentals of Penal Lawmaking” by Nikola Filchev
“The Prosecutor’s Office as a Body of the Judicial branch in Bulgaria” by Margarita Chinova
“The Elements of Crime” by Alexander Stoinov
Herein we have outlined only a few of the great number of publications concerning the legal matter and many of those we have not mentioned may be of equal importance for the researchers.
 The Constitution was built on the basis of the principles of contemporary constitutionalism such as: national sovereignty; division of the public power; political pluralism; supremacy of the law; free economy; equality among the people non-discrimination etc.
 The Statutory Instruments Act (SIA) and Decree #883 on its implementation, a somewhat unique Bulgarian laws, regulate the structure, preparation, promulgation and implementation of Acts of Parliament and of statutory instruments, as well as the interpretation, abrogation, correction of factual mistakes, and the application of legal provisions by way of analogia legis and analogia juris.
 In addition, the various Colleges of SAC can issue Interpretative Decisions, which unlike of those of the Colleges of SCC are solely guidelines to the other courts and the administration.
 The State Gazette (???????? ???????) is the official publication of The National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria. According to the State Gazette Act its content is divided into official section and non-official section. All acts of legislation, international treaties, decisions of the Constitutional Court, and those of SAC which proclaim subordinate legislation incompatible with an Act of Parliament, are published in the official section, and so are the acts of the President. The non-official section contains the individual administrative acts of ministers and heads of central and local government bodies; some notifications and announcements of ministries, other departments, academies, higher schools and research institutes, municipalities; court subpoenas (in specific case); some court decisions; invitations to corporate general meeting, among other officially required notifications. For more information refer to: http://dv.parliament.bg/