National ombudsman Sofia_echo - 2003/11/30
ON November 28 to 30, Parliament hosted an international conference called "The ombudsman in South-east Europe." The event was organised by the Ombudsman of Greece in co-operation with the Centre for the Study of Democracy and with the support of the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice.

The conference was attended by ombudsmen from Greece, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, Serbia. Bulgaria, though, has for a long period been among the very few European countries without a national ombudsman institution.

However, with the recent adoption of the Law on the Ombudsman by the National Assembly on May 8, 2003, the necessary legal basis for the establishment of such institutions is already in place. The law is to become effective on January 1, 2004, and within three months following this date Parliament is expected to elect the first Bulgarian Ombudsman.

"This occasion is of particular importance for the democratic development of the countries in the region, because civil control over administration can exist only in rule-of-law societies, the institution of the ombudsman who can be addressed by the nationals after having exhausted all other opportunities to get justice can exist only in democratic societies," Bulgarian deputy justice minister Sevdalin Bojikov said in an opening address to the conference.

The introduction of an ombudsman institution was discussed at the very beginning of the democratic transition in Bulgaria, when the new Bulgarian constitution was adopted in 1991. Two of the 15 constitutional drafts envisaged the establishment of a national ombudsman as a constitutional institution.

Subsequently, in early 1998 the initiative of setting up an institution to control and monitor the administration, was taken up by the center for the Study of Democracy. Instead, three other draft laws, governing the same matter, were submitted to Parliament.

The first draft law was submitted by Ekaterina Mihailova and a group of MPs from the United Democratic Forces. The second draft law was submitted by Lyuben Kornezov from Coalition for Bulgaria. The third was submitted by Emil Koshlukov from the parliamentary group of the National Movement Simeon II.

The three draft laws were adopted on first reading on June 5, 2002, and the Parliamentary committee on Human Rights and Religions, appointed as the leading committee, developed a consolidated version, which was later adopted on May 8, 2003.

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