In 2013, AIP has continued to provide legal help to citizens, journalists, and nongovernmental organizations in access to information cases. In some of these cases, AIP has provided legal help at the initial phase of the search for information and the legal team has given advice and/or has prepared a request for access to information. In other cases, we have helped after a refusal for provision of information.
Number of Cases Referred for Legal Help
We have witnessed an increase in the number of cases referred to AIP for legal help – in 2013, there were 405, while in 2012, they were 311. The number of consultations provided in each particular case has also increased – for 2013, it is 853, while in 2012, that number was 643.
Out of the total number 19 were referred from AIP coordinators in the country. In the rest, the information seekers have requested assistance in our office, by e-mail, or by phone.
Depending on the characteristics and the legal qualification, four types of cases are identified:
- The majority are related to practices of non-fulfillment of the Access to Public Information Act obligations by public bodies – 325 instances;
- Next largest group of cases is related to violations of the right of personal data protection granted by the Personal Data Protection Act – 48 instances;
- In a few cases, we have given legal advice with regard to violation of the fundamental right to seek, receive and impart information – 25 instances;
- Cases related to freedom of expression – 3 instance, etc.
Most Active Groups of Information Seekers
AIP experience shows that most frequently the APIA is used by citizens, journalists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In 2013, again the largest number of consultations was provided to citizens who had sought the assistance of AIP - 207 instances. In 103 cases, journalists and AIP coordinators (all of them journalists) from central and local media asked for legal assistance, while 54 cases were referred to AIP by NGOs.
From Which Public Bodies Do Information Seekers Mainly Request Information?
The number of cases in which information seekers request information from the central executive power bodies and the local self-government bodies (mayors and municipal councils) is the largest - 135 and 101 cases respectively.
Less frequently, information was sought from the judicial power bodies – 27, public-law organizations – 25, regional units of the executive power bodies – 25, independent government bodies – 14, etc.
Most Frequently Used Grounds for Refusal
In 2013, again the number of registered silent refusals is high – 30. Out of the grounded refusals, the most are related to the third party interests’ exemption – 21, and the personal data protection – 12. The preparatory documents exception under Art. 13, Para. 2 of the APIA gave grounds to 14 refusals and the trade secret exemption – to 4.
Review of and Tendencies in the Access to Information Practices
We hereby will describe some of the most interesting cases, referred to AIP for legal help and consultation. The specific examples illustrate how the APIA is efficiently used by citizens, journalists, and NGOs for making an analysis of important public events, for journalistic investigations, or for finding solutions of every-day problems.
The past 2013 was marked with immense public discontent and distrust in government. During the protests and the public debates held during the year, issues related to the deficiency in transparency and the lack of efficient mechanisms for civil control over the decision-making were raised. All those processes had an impact on the topics on which information was sought – with a focus in the public environment and particular sensitivity towards all issues that were being resolved in darkness.
In the spring of 2013, preterm general elections were held which were also marked with conflicts and contradictions between members of political parties, as well as discussions on the necessary amendments to the elections legislation with the purpose of guaranteeing fairness and transparency of the election process. In general, we observe a positive development in the practice of the Central Election Commission which has published the protocols of its sessions in the Internet – the beginning was set in May 2012. Thus, the Commission unambiguously declared its willingness to disclose its decision-making process to the public. We remind that the publication of this type of information has become possible due to the public campaign run by the nongovernmental organization Institute for Public Environment Development which called upon the Commission to publish the protocols from its sessions thus giving an opportunity to the citizens to learn the arguments behind one or another decision. After the Commission refused access to a request filed by the NGO and an appeal was submitted with the help of AIP, the Central Election Commission started to publish the protocols from its sessions in the Internet.
During the year, there was an increased interests towards issues related to the spending of public funds; the prevention of or revealing of corruption and wrongdoings; the decision-making process; and the accountability of institutions. Out of the referred cases, it is apparent that information about signals and the results of succeeding inspections remains difficult to access, as well as the results from competitions – most often for public positions. The obtaining of the so called construction documents (construction permits, etc.) from the municipal administrations and the National Construction Control Directorate also remains difficult. It is still problematic to obtain information about signed contracts between a public body and a private body for the performing of specific services. We have witnessed plenty of and various practices in this area – from granting complete or partial access, to refusals grounded most often in the protection of the third party’s interests – parties of the contract. Obtaining information from a number of regional units of executive power, regardless of the explicit legal obligation for them.
During the year, we have also witnessed several cases when information on specific topics was provided but could be classified as incidental transparency – very often such disclosures are made by politicians within their campaigns and unfortunately they do not turn into practices afterwards. Several such cases are described in the text with specific examples below.
INFORMATION ABOUT PUBLIC ISSUES AND EVENTS
Protests of Scientists Against Unlawful Distribution of Funds
In the end of 2012, serious suspicions about unlawful distribution of funds from the “Scientific Research Fund with the Ministry of Education emerged in the public domain. The fund supports activities, programs, and projects which encourage scientific research in the country by announcing periodic calls for proposals. As a result of the emerged suspicions, protests of scientists started against the ranking of projects with questionable qualities submitted by candidates close to the Fund management. The questions set forth were related to the unclear evaluation and selection criteria; lack of sufficient information for the selected projects (only their titles are published); as well as lack of data about the scores given to each project. The Ministry of Education denied that any violations were found by them. Subsequently, an inspection held by the Council of Ministers found over 60 violations which resulted in the resignation of the minister. In the course of several months, the APIA was the main tool of the scientists who had taken part in the contestable call to obtain information related to the evaluation of the proposals. In one of the cases, Prof. Dimitar Bakalov requested from the Fund, the scores given to each proposal; the evaluation criteria and the way they were applied; the names and the qualification of the members of the temporary evaluation committees; the number, the names, and the qualification of the reviewers; the full text of the projects.
A similar request was filed by the Ass. Prof. Daniela Koleva who filed a request for the results of a call for proposals procedure in the priority area "Cultural and historical heritage" and specifically on the evaluation and ranking of all submitted projects, as well as on the reasons for approving or rejecting projects. As a result of the numerous requests and the disclosure of information about the call for proposals, the protests stopped and the publication of information practices were changed.
Protests Against the Government
The year of 2013 was a year of protests. The initial discontent stemmed from unreasonably high winter bills for electricity and heating. Subsequently, the focus was extended to other government sectors. The first demands of the citizens who went out on the streets were related to the way by which the prices for electricity and heating was formulated. We have noted the permanent public interest in those issues in our previous year report. The non-transparent policies in this area, the ambiguity around the formulation of the end price for the customers of electric power and heating triggered the protests in February. As a result of the active public pressure, a decision was taken by the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission to publish all protocols of its open sessions and public discussions on its web site. 
Traditionally, the interest of citizens and media towards the documents of the energy distributing companies is high. In 2013, AIP has been several times addressed by citizens who tried to obtain information from those companies about the methodology for formulation of end price of electric power and heating, as well as about the way the so called sharing of the expenses between more customers was calculated. The capital of most of these companies, however, is private, and although they are monopolists, they are not obliged bodies under the APIA. Exceptions are several such companies which are municipal property. In the end of February, journalists from “Reporter” daily filed an access to information request to the Heating Company “Toplofikatsia Sofia” EAD. They demanded information about the amount of money spent by the company for advertisement in printed and electronic media. The company refused to grant access to the requested information grounding its decision in the comprehension that they were not an obliged under the APIA body. We would like to emphasize that the refusal was unlawful since there is a persistent court practices establishing that “Toplofikatsia Sofia” EAD is an obliged under the APIA body in its capacity of a public-law organization as the company was established with the purpose to satisfy public interests and as the municipality is the sole owner of the company’s capital. One of the morals of the February protests for the governments from now on is that the accessibility of documents and decision-making transparency, especially in such sensitive areas, should be a consistent practice and not incidental action when people go out on the street.
The second wave of citizens’ protests was triggered by the unreasonable and ungrounded proposal for appointing a new director of the State Agency for National Security without any public debate. Despite the demands during the February protests for greater transparency and public participation in the decision-making processes, apparently, the lesson has not been learned by the new government. In the end of May, in violation of the effective Law on Normative Acts, amendments to the Law on the State Agency for National Security were adopted. The powers of the Agency were strengthened, practically leaving it without regulated control. The requirements for the appointment of a Director were changed. Particularly, those changes which were made in the lack of any transparency and public debate, caused the second wave of protests, which did not end till the end of 2013. Cases of citizens and journalists who have used the APIA to obtain official information related to the ongoing protests and the accompanying events were referred to AIP during the whole second half of 2013. In the current report, we would emphasize several cases which testify for the public trust in the efficiency of the APIA and the exercise of the right of access to information. Right after the beginning of the June protests, journalists from the Capital weekly used the APIA to obtain information about Delyan Peevski with different officials from the Ministry of Interior.
The following access to information requests related to the protests were filed after information was spread in the public domain that attempts were made for exercising pressure over the only public TV – Bulgarian National TV – in its coverage of the protests by an official institutions, more specifically – the Ministry of Interior. In order to cast light over the issue, a group of lawyers filed 2 requests – the first to the management of the Bulgarian National TV and the second to the Ministry of Interior. They demanded to know if a letter/instruction/order or any other written document was sent to Bulgarian National TV by the MoI, containing instructions or any kind of requirements towards the BNT for the shooting, covering or broadcasting scenes from the protests in Sofia during the period June – July 2013. The received response stated that no such written instructions were issued by the MoI which practically disproved untruthful information which was introducing additional tension in the society.
On November 12, 2013, during the protest of students in front of the National Assembly, great number of security police and gendarmerie were assembled. There were street fights between the police and the protesting students, and arrests of citizens. At the same time, the Minister of the Interior was on an official visit abroad. The journalist Hristo Hristov, owner of the web site www.desebg.com, who was a participant in the incident, requested information about whose and what orders were executed by the police. The journalist was advised on the phone by the Presscenter of the Ministry of Interior to send his questions by e-mail. After doing that, he was advised to file a written request under the APIA. Hristov did so and demanded access to the following information: has the minister delegated powers to anyone within the Ministry of Interior during his absence and if “yes” – to whom; the list of documents (orders, instructions, plans, etc.) related to the security of the National Assembly provided by the Ministry of Interior on November 12, 2013; the names of the officials who had issued the above documents, as well as the level of their secrecy grading; what was the number of detached MoI officials from the country to provide the security of the National Assembly and which regional directorates were they from. The journalist did not receive a response within the legal framework and filed a complaint against the silent refusal. Subsequently, it turned out that a response had been prepared, but was not sent to the journalist. The reason – the MoI did not have a contract with the postal offices for delivery services. In the end, after a series of clarifications on the questions in the request, information was provided. It became clear that a surprisingly big number of policemen were detached in Sofia on that day.
Politicians in the Focus
In 2013, we have witnessed a number of political quakes – firing, government resignation, preterm elections, followed by new citizens’ protests and demands for resignation. Those events resulted in increased public attention towards particular political persons. Their actions were followed “with a magnifying glass,” their political moves – discussed and criticized over and over again. With the help of the APIA, a number of inconvenient questions were raised and studied by both citizens and journalists. Answers to a big number of questions were not received and the court had to decide on them instead of the politicians. The court decisions in several such cases are an important step forward in the debate about the disclosure of information about figures.
When and how many times did Delyan Peevsky met ministers of interior
In the summer of 2013, the journalists Rossen Bossev filed a request under the APIA to the Ministry of Interior. He wanted to know when the member of parliament Delyan Peevsky (who was the government appointee for the director’s position of the State Agency for National Security) has entered the premises of the ministry, who has he visited, and what the purpose of the visit has been. The reason for the request was the leaked information in the public domain that Peevsky had met several times the minister of interior in several governments. Information was requested for the period July 2009 – June 2013 and was refused by the director of the Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Interior on the ground that Delyan Peevski had expressed dissent for the disclosure. The refusal was appealed. The court decided in favor of transparency pointing out in its decision that regardless of the dissent of the third party, there was an overriding public interest in the particular case since “the provision of the requested information would aim at the increase of transparency and accountability of the obliged body.” The requested information was about a public figure – a member of parliament. Furthermore, the information about his visits in the Ministry of Interior, as they were registered under the respective procedure, and the disclosure of information about their number and purpose would not have disclosed his personal information.
Is the MP Volen Siderov authorized to carry a gun?
The request was filed in July by the journalist Julian Cholakov from the online media OFFNEWS. He wanted to know from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) if the member of parliament Volen Siderov had a permission for acquiring, storage and usage of a firearm and armory, when was it issued, which body had issued the necessary medical certificate finding that the person did not have psychological disorders. The reason for the journalistic interest was that Siderov appeared with a firearm in the National Assembly in June 28, 2013. The Ministry of Interior refused access to the information, pointing that the request was inadmissible and should not be processed. According to the ministry, the requested information was not public and did not relate to the work of the ministry under the APIA. Furthermore, these were personal data of Volen Siderov. The refusal was challenged before the Administrative Court Sofia – City. In this case gain, the court decided in favor of the overriding public interest in the disclosure of the requested information. According to the court, contrary to the grounds stated in the refusal, the request did not demand access to personal data as it explicitly stated that no specific documents are sought, or any data about the health conditions of the person. In the particular case, there is overriding public interest in the meaning of § 1, item 2 of the Additional Provisions of the APIA, as the obtained information would have increased the transparency and accountability of the member of parliament (in view of the possibility for a public assessment of his actions), who was also an obliged body under Art. 3 of the APIA as well.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN THE ENERGY SECTOR
Renewable Sources of Energy
The access to information in the energy sector appears as an issue in AIP reports several successive years. During 2013, we signify the unwillingness of the institutions to cast light and provide transparency in the decision and policy making in the sector. The topic is traditionally close for discussion – the refusals for granting access to information about projects like the “South Stream” and “Belene” are numerous. The practice of the Ministry of Economics and Energy to refer access to information requests to the National Electricity Company which explains that the company is not an obliged under the APIA body because it is a company is very common.
In our last year report, we have signified the efforts of business organizations – the Bulgarian Photovoltaic Association (BPA) and the Bulgarian Wind Energy Association (BWEA), to cast light in the decision making of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission in area. In 2013, the efforts of the two organizations continued. In the spring, due to the decreased usage of electric power, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) ordered that several photovoltaic and wind energy centrals in different regions of the country are disconnected. The BPA and the BWEA filed a request to the Regulatory Commission and to the ESO demanding access to information about how many electric energy producers had worked in a decreased power regime in the beginning of the year and how many had been switched off completely. The two organizations requested information about the criterion on which the restriction was made, inviting the regulatory body to publish the data in the Internet. Information was neither received, nor published. During 2013, the BPA and the BWEA filed over 10 access to information requests to the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, to the ESO, and to the Ministry of Economics and Energy. The requests demanded access to diverse categories of information – quantity of energy produced for specific period of time by types of producers; data showing the generation and the burden over the electricity power system for a specific period of time; information about the prices in the electricity sector which were to be set for the regulatory period (July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014. Decision for the provision of the requested information was not received on neither of the requests. Often no response was received, in other cases, the refusal was grounded in the fact that the access to documents was requested, not access to information. Some refusals were grounded in the third party’s interest exemption.
Nuclear Power and Transparency
A final stop of the reconstruction of the nuclear reactor in Sofia
In the summer of 2013, the legal dispute about the lawfulness of the Environmental Impact Assessment for the reconstruction of the nuclear power reactor built to serve the needs of the Bulgarian Science Academy in the territory of the neighborhood Mladost in Sofia. Due to information obtained under the APIA after a request of the National Movement Ecoglasnost, it became clear that the Ministry of Health had not been consulted on the issue regardless of the apparent necessity for such a procedure. With a decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, the approving Environmental Impact Assessment report for the reconstruction of the reactor issued by the Ministry of Environment and Waters was repealed. The court found a number of deficiencies in the procedure for issuing the EIA – lack of data for any consideration of alternative actions, including the “zero” option of not having a reactor at all; there was not risk impact assessment from the point of view of the seismic character of the region; risks related to incidents and natural disasters; terrorist attacks; explosions; falling aircrafts (as the reactor is close to the airport); no safe zones were determined as stipulated by the effective legislation, etc. The court proceedings were started by Peter Penchev, deputy chairperson of the National Movement “Ecoglasnost” with the help of the APIA as early as 2010. The victorious ending was another evidence that the APIA is an important weapon for obtaining documents which reveal government wrongdoings. In the particular case – the lack of the required agreement with the Ministry of Health.
Transparency of the issue about the safe storage of radio-active waste
In 2013, finally light was cast on the topic related to the safety of the National Radioactive Waste Storage (NRAWS) at the “Radiana” site close to the town of Kozloduy. A five member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court repealed the affirmative statement of the minister of environment and waters on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the NRAWS. The decision of the Ministry of the Environment and Waters approving of the investment proposal for the construction of the storage was issued on October 10, 2011. The decision was appealed in court by the ecologist Peter Penchev. With a decision No. 15645 as of November 28, 2013, the court has delivered a final decision in favor of people’s health and life. One of the arguments for the repealing of the decision of the MEW was the lack of a reasonable, public, and informed debate for the preparation of the EIA of the NRAWS. The court found that the EIA report had been reworked and supplemented after the public discussions. It was also found that several institutions – the Ministry of Health, the Basin Directorate, and the Executive Environmental Agency had presented negative statements, notes and recommendations which were not presented or accessible to the citizens during the public discussions. Those and other contradictions with the legal procedure for the preparation of the EIA, found in the course of the legal process, led to the conclusion that the contested administrative decision had been taken in violation of the law. The court found that “a number of issues of particular importance for the environment protection and the current and future generations had not been clarified in their entirety and had not been put out for public discussion.” As a results, one of the taboo topics in the Bulgarian transition period – the nuclear energy sector, is now open for not only public and political debate, but also for independent judicial control over the lawfulness of the respective administrative decisions.
TRANSPARENCY OF ADMINISTRATION
In our work of providing legal help in specific cases, we have observed persistent interest towards topics related to the transparency of the administration. This interest has two directions – towards information about the appointment of public officials, and towards information about the remunerations they receive.
Remunerations of Public Officials
While in 2012, the interest of the society was directed towards the bonuses received by the public officials, in 2013, the interest of citizens and journalists was aiming at enhanced transparency of the remunerations received by public officials as a result of their work on EU funded projects. It turned out that according to a “tacit” practice in a number of municipalities, part of the officials work simultaneously under on labor and civil contracts – performing their main responsibilities under a labor contract, while their work under European projects is paid additionally under civil contracts. The lack of transparency regarding the amount of the received money under those projects has become a source of suspicion for the lawful spending of the funds. The active search of information under the procedures of the APIA helped the clarification of a number of vague issues and created a prerequisite for a persistent transparency of information in the area. In some cases, serious revelations were made of officials receiving indecent high amounts, or working 12-16 hours per day on paper. In one of the cases, Emilia Dimitrova from the “Sevlievo Dnes” newspaper requested from the mayor of Sevlievo information about the remunerations received by municipal officials, hired in the management teams of EU funded projects, who are implemented by the municipality. She also wanted to know if persons from the management teams were appointed to work less than 8 hours under their labor contract at the expense of their work on projects. After several months’ correspondence – because of provision of incomplete information and the filing of additional requests – the journalistic investigation reached results with serious public reverberation. It turned out that one of the deputy mayors had worked on a half-working day, while receiving a serious remuneration under another 8-hours labor contract for his work on a EU funded project.
In another case, after the submission of a request by the journalist Pavlin Ivanov from the online media “Lovech Today,” it turned out that part of the officials in the Municipality of Lovech had received a total of 171,761.33 BGN in the course of two years working on EU funded projects. Information about the remunerations of officials for their work on EU funded projects was requested from the Sofia Municipality by the citizen Ivan Petrov. Access to the information was refused and court proceedings were initiated. With a decision of the ACSC, the refusal of the secretary of the Sofia Municipality was repealed.
A significant impact on the transparency of public officials’ remunerations has had the court practice. With several court decisions, the consistent statement of the magistrates was reached that when information about the remunerations of state and municipal officials by positions is sought, there is no restriction for its disclosure. It is assumed that the information is public as it gives opportunity to citizens to form their own opinion about the way authorities and municipalities function and how accountable they are in terms of public money spending.
Appointment of Public Officials
In several cases, the issue of the appointment of public officials was raised. AIP experience shows that there is a tendency of nontransparent decision making process in terms of appointing officials at key government positions. Difficult to obtain is the information related to the competitions for vacant positions for government officials – often there is no information about the participants in the competition, there is no information about the grounds for selecting one applicant instead of another. In a number of cases, information is refused to participants in the competition. All these circumstances create preconditions for suspicions about the competencies of the selected applicants and questions the impartiality of the selection.
With a request filed under the APIA, in 2013, it was revealed that the director ad interim of the Customs Agency did not have a classified information clearance despite of the legal requirement for such. Among the successful cases is the provision of information by the Ministry of Interior after a request of the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives about the appointment of officials within the ministry. In response to the request, the MoI provided a big number of orders for the appointment of officials, as well as their job descriptions.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND JUDICIARY
Publicity of the conflict of interest declarations of the magistrates
The topic related to the transparency of the conflict of interest declarations of judges, prosecutors, and inspectors was widely discussed during the past year. The reason for that interest was that on 25 April 2013, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) decided to remove from its website the conflict of interests declarations of more than 6,000 magistrates for the period January 1, 2009 – till the current date. The decision was taken after consultations with the Commission for Personal Data Protection which stated that if the declarations contained personal data different from the three names of the magistrates, the consent of the person should be sought for the publication of the document. Due to the active and timely position taken by the Access to Information Programme, the Center for NGOs Razgrad and the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives, a public debate was initiated as regards the applicability of the SJC decision in light of the spirit of the Prevention and Establishment of Conflict of Interests Act (PECIA) aiming at the prevention of conflict of interests, dishonesty and corruption through publicity and transparency. The three organizations filed a complaint on the docket of the Supreme Administrative Court, claiming that the restriction imposed on the free access to information equaled to censorship and information monopoly after the terminology of the European Court on Human Rights. The repealing of the decision was requested as it contradicted the Constitution and created circumstances for nontransparent environment which fosters corruption. The complaint quoted Decision No. 4 as of March 26, 2012 of the Constitutional Court of Republic of Bulgaria on constitutional case No. 14/2011, according to which the protection of personal data of persons holding public positions is much lower in comparison to the protection of other citizens.
In September 2013, as a result of negotiations between the SJC and the three organizations, an agreement was reached. The SJC decided to withdraw its previous decision and to publish again all magistrates’ conflict of interests declarations. The step taken by the SJC deserves a positive evaluation. The practice shows an open and European attitude towards the issues related to the transparency, integrity and trust in the judicial system, without which the judiciary could not function in the democratic society.
The Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office reports on the Wiretapping – difficult access with unclear reasons
The issue about the lawfulness of the use of special surveillance means (SSM) has been set forth numerous times during the years in the context of wiretapping scandals. In 2013, the topic was again in the public agenda as a result of the use of the SSM for wiretapping of high-positioned politicians. Then, at a press conference the Chief Prosecutor announced that an inspection was carried out by the Prosecutor’s office and some of the findings were classified, others – public. However, up to now, a year later, the public part of the inspection report remains closed to the society. The lack of information about the inspection reports of the Prosecutor’s Office is a serious problem. Very often, no grounds are given for withholding the information. One of the cases referred to AIP in 2013, is of the journalist Rossen Bossev who requested from the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office the reports on inspections carried out by the institution in 2001 and 2008 with regard to the lawfulness of the activities of bodies which use special surveillance means. The information was refused and court proceedings were initiated. The decision for refusal of the deputy chief prosecutor did not mention anything about the 2001 report, while stating that the documents related to the inspection carried on in 2008 and the results of it contained both classified information graded at different levels, and public information. Furthermore, the term of the documents containing classified information had not expired and they could not be provided. In the course of the court proceedings, after the court review over the lawfulness of the classification grades, it turned out that the 2001 report had not been classified and there had been no legal grounds for its withholding. As regards the 2008 report, it had been declassified due to the classification term expiration, i.e. it should have also been public. As a result of the court case, the two reports were made publicly available. However, the issue about the silence of the Prosecutor’s Office and the unwillingness to disclose such type of information remains problematic.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND MUNICIPAL COMPANIES
Several specific cases have raised the issue if the so called municipal companies are obliged to provide information under the APIA. Although the majority of them fall within the scope of the APIA in their capacity of public law organizations, their work have till recently remained aside of the scope of the law. The case of the journalist from “Sega” daily, Maria Koicheva, deserves attention in that context. She requested information from the “Chistota – Iskar” EOOD company (a waste management company) about the public procurement contracts signed by the company during the past five years, the names of the contractors, the prices of the contracts, the contracted activities, etc. The request was filed to the Sofia Municipality in its capacity of a sole owner of the company’s capital. The municipality referred the request to “Chistota – Iskar” EOOD. The company responded that they would not provide access to information since they were not obliged to respond to APIA requests, namely, they did not fall within the scope of obliged under the law bodies. With the help of AIP, the refusal of the company manager was appealed in the court. As a result, the court decided that “Chistota-Iskar” EOOD is obliged to provide information under the APIA as a public law organization, since, following the company’s statute, it performs activities of public interest. The manager was obligated to provide access to the requested by the journalist information.
City planning, the design and construction of public buildings, parks, children playgrounds, and emblematic city places, especially when it is related to the spending of public money and funds under European programs, are issued that are of interest to the citizens and NGOs, working in that area. We have observed active seeking of related information. We have also assessed the level of the implementation of the mandatory for proactive disclosure in the Internet master city plans and detailed city plans within the annual audits of the active transparency. Results show very low level of implementation. In 2013, the Varna based Association for optimization of Justice and Administration (SOPA), has been regularly filing requests to the Municipality of Varna for access to information related to city plans, reconstruction works, and funding of different city-planning projects. With one of their requests, the SOPA demanded access to public procurement contracts between the Municipality of Varna and different companies about the construction and reconstruction of the road covering and marking within the city road networks, as well as information about the control exercised over the execution of those activities. Again in Varna, an informal citizens' group - “Open Council of the Protesters” – filed a request for access to information related to the issuing of the so called energy passports of several buildings in the city. Access was granted to the whole information in the form of a review on spot. Due to the persistent public interest and pressure, in 2013, the Municipality of Varna launched a special section on their web site “Directorate Architecture, city-planning and development,” where city plans, projects, construction permits, etc. are being proactively disclosed.
AIP has observed more difficult access to information about city-development projects of the Sofia Municipality, especially in the preparatory phase. The Association “City Group,” initiator of the so called City debates, related to the planning and development of Sofia city, filed several requested for access to information about different city projects. Some were targeted at the reconstruction of one of the main pedestrian streets in Sofia, Vitosha Boulevard. The reconstruction had started, but there was no public information about the author of the project, who is the executor, how the designers, architects, and executors had been selected. The other search for information related to the project for the reconstruction of the emblematic for Sofia Lions' Bridge. With their request, they demanded a copy of the reconstruction plan, information about the author of the project, what the selection criteria were, as well as information about the money spent up to that moment. The Sofia Municipality refused access to the requested information, and the NGO challenged the refusal in the court. As a result of the public pressure, the plan for the reconstruction of the Lions' Bridge was amended.
INCIDENTAL TRANSPARENCY – Publication of Information of Public Interest
We have observed an emerging tendency of proactive publication of specific categories of documents on sensitive topics during the year. On one hand, we would acclaim such disclosures. On the other hand, we could not deny the fact that such actions are sporadic and partial, having a political tinge and rarely becoming practices. Which were the specific actions of proactively disclosing declassified documents in 2013?
Publication of documents in the Energy Sector 
In the beginning of the year, as a reaction to the February protests, the Parliamentary Anti-corruption Committees, published a considerable volume of documents related to the energy sector. The latest financial reports of the National Electricity Company were published, as well as agreements and contracts for the purchase of electric power, correspondence between state bodies and electric power distribution companies, etc. The next step was taken by the caretaker government, when in April, the Ministry of Economics, Energy and Tourism opened a new section on their web site “Declassified contracts in the energy sector.” A total of 112 contracts between the National Electricity Company and private companies were disclosed in the section. Among the published. Among the published documents are contracts between private and state companies – electric power distribution companies, Bulgartransgas, “Arsenal,” “Ideal Standard,”, BTK, heating companies, etc.
Disclosure of information related to the construction of “Ski Zone Bansko”
The Ministry of Environment and Waters published on their web site the concession contracts with the company “Iulen” Ltd for the construction of a “Ski Zone with a Center – town of Bansko,” as well as the Supreme Administrative Court decision regarding the investment proposal for the reconstruction of the facilities in the ski zone. During past years, those documents have been of particular interest to environmental organization, but were disclosed in their entirety for the first time.
Publication of contracts with media
In the beginning of their term, the newly elected government published on its web site a complete list of all media and other companies, which had received money under the communication strategies of EU operational programs. The list encompasses the period of 2007 – 22 May 2013 and all seven EU operational programs, along with the Rural Development Program. We should emphasize that disclosure of similar contracts signed by the current government was not made.
Disclosure of the declassified part of the “Galeria” File 
The State Agency for National Security published the declassified part of the file “Galeria,” which became known as a case of massive wiretapping of politicians and journalists. The “Galeria” file was partially declassified a year ago, but the Agency denied access to the documents regardless of that fact. With the help of AIP, journalists from the Sega daily filed an official request demanding access to the declassified information contained in the file. As a result, the orders for the start of the operation, as well as the names of the people who had been wiretapped, were published. The disclosure was made after the end of all prosecutor's investigations ended with an official conclusion that there was no crime committed.
Declassification of the Report about the Incident in Kerbala
The Ministry of Defense declassified the investigation report on the assassination attach in the Bulgarian military base in Kerbala in 2003, when 5 Bulgarian officers died and 27 were seriously wounded. The report studied details around the incident, including the security measures undertaken for the protection of the base, the mistakes made by the then military experts, the reaction and the actions of the Bulgarian military officers. The whole text of the report was declassified and access is granted under the procedure of the APIA. The question about the availability of the report was raised in the beginning of 2013, when with the help of AIP, the journalist Dobromir Videv filed a request to the Ministry of Defense for access to the report. A refusal was issued on the grounds that the requested information had no significance of its own. The refusal was not challenged in court, but apparently, the Ministry of Defense had reconsidered their position and eventually declassified the report.
PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION
Personal data of citizens in the Police Registers
Participants in the street protests in Sofia turned to AIP for legal help because they were concerned that policemen were checking their identification documents and writing down the data from them. At the same time, no statements for finding administrative violations or protocols were made. The citizens were worried that the police had taken down their data and their names had entered a mysterious police registers. The problem with the collection and writing down of personal data by the police was outlined as early as 2008 in AIP annual report in relation to then ongoing street protests.
The issues that have been raised are several. Under what circumstances the police are allowed to require citizens to show their identification documents? Under what circumstances the police are allowed to write down data from the identification documents of the citizens? After being taken down, are these data processed and how? Are they entered into a special police register? The cases referred to AIP gave reason for the submission of a request to the Ministry of Interior (MoI). We demanded information about the collection and processing of the personal data. We received a response, in which the MoI quoted an instruction pursuant to which they perform the ID checks, assuring us that the protection of personal data within the ministry is in compliance with the effective legislation.
AIP statement on the particular case is that the Ministry of Interior Act does not contain a specific provision which authorizes the police to write down data from citizens identification documents without the purpose of issuing an act within their responsibilities. The quoted provision in the MoI response, namely Art. 61, Para. 1, item 1–4 of the Ministry of Interior Act, covers only the checking of the ID documents, not writing down data from them.
Personal Data or Public Information
In the beginning of the February protests in the city of Varna, the 36 years old Plamen Goranov set himself on fire with the demand for the resignation of the mayor and the municipal council. The security cameras of the municipality had recorded the incident. A pre-trial investigation was initiated, and the investigating bodies required and obtained copies of the video cameras records from the municipality. A day after the death of Plamen Goranov, with the help of AIP, the correspondent of the media Dnevnik.bg Spas Spasov filed a request under the APIA for copies of the video records. The request was addressed to the Municipality of Varna and to the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, as according to the speaker of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office – Varna, those were the institutions which held the hard disks of the CCTV recordings. The journalistic interest was triggered due to alleged doubts that Plamen Goranov had set himself on fire. The Municipality of Varna refused access to the requested information within the legally prescribed time frame on the grounds that the request contradicted the purview of the Constitution, guaranteeing the protection of citizens private life, the Protection of Classified Information Act and two Regulations of the Council of Ministers.
In that case, the extremely sensitive content of the requested records should be taken into account, as well as their re-use. The refusal of the Municipality of Varna to provide copies of the CCTV cameras is adequate and relevant. The dissemination of the record would have violated the right of private and family life if the successors of the departed. There exists a real danger of amateur editing of the record which would have added to the negative effect. We should also take into account that the public interest was eventually satisfied by the official statements of the investigative bodies and the journalistic publications.
In 2013, the court finally resolved the issue if the information related to the receiving of an award by the chief prosecutor from the Ministry of Interior in his capacity of a Chairperson of the District Court – Plovdiv is protected personal data. The Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives (BILI) filed a request to the Ministry of Interior with the questions if the Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov had received an award during his term as a Chairperson of the District Court – Plovdiv for assisting and cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, and if awarded, what were the grounds for that, the type of the award, when was it presented and for what merits.
The court ruled in favor of the requestors. In their judgment, the court emphasized that the magistrates are persons holding public, high government position. Hence, the legal requirements for declaring in public their assets and to endure the transparency of the checks for affiliation to the former state security services. Similarly, the court resolved the issue about the access to the information about the political parties to which the independent members of parliament had transferred their state subsidies. The case was initiated by the journalist Victoria Petrova from bTV against the refusal of the Ministry of Finance to provide the requested information on the ground of the personal data protection exemption.
The number of consultations is twice higher – 853, since in some cases more than one consultation was provided.
 Decision of the Administrative Court Sofia – City No. 2598 as of May 14, 2012.
 Pursuant to Art. 26 of the Law on Normative Acts, every draft normative act with the reasons for its issuing should be published in the Internet site of the respective institution. Within minimum of 14 days, a public discussion should be held. Every draft law should be accompanied by reasons or a report which should contain impact assessment, including benefit and expenses analysis – Art. 28 of the Law on Normative Acts.
 Decision No. 7522/2.12. 2013, adm. case No. 9332/2013 of the Administrative Court Sofia – City.
 Ruling No. 219/15.01.2014, adm. case No. 8306/2013 of the ACSC.
 The full name of the Commission is Parliamentary Inquiry Commission for Studying Cases in which there are facts, data and document-proven public investigations, including abandoned prosecution for high government levels corruption, which have caused personal gains, damages and considerable harms for the state.