Gergana Jouleva presented the history of legislation and the role of AIP
Access to Information Programme organized and held a study visit in Sofia to present Bulgaria’s twelve years of Access to Public Information Act implementation experience and good practices to officials from Ukrainian government institutions and NGO representatives during the week 16-20 July 2012. The visit was supported by the Council of Europe and was part of a Joint Programme between the Council of Europe and the European Union.
Within the three-day Study Visit, the Ukrainian group visited the National Assembly of Republic of Bulgaria; the Council of Ministries; the State Commission on Information Security; the Committee for disclosing the documents of the Former State Security. Representatives of the Commission of Personal Data Protection presented on the functions of the Commission.
During the first day, AIP Executive Director, Ms. Gergana Jouleva presented the history of the Access to Public Information Legislation in Bulgaria and AIP role in the process of adoption and good implementation afterwards. Ms. Gergana Jouleva also presented results from the government reports on APIA implementation and from AIP’s monitoring surveys and implementation practices as part of AIP run advocacy for implementation and enforcement of APIA.
Mr. Alexander Kashumov, Head of AIP Legal Team, presented the content and the scope of the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act. He also presented the significance of the Internal Rules for APIA implementation for the good implementation of the law.
The APIA connected legislation was also presented as part of the national access to information framework: Mr. Kashumov focused on the Protection of Classified Information Act, the Law on the Former State Securities Files, and the Environmental Protection Act, while Ms. Fany Davidova, also from AIP legal team – on the Personal Data Protection Act.
The Litigation on Access to Public Information Act in Bulgaria and the most significant court cases supported by AIP were also presented by Mr. Kashumov. The design and implementation of public and educational campaigns with a focus on the Right-to-Know Day Initiative and AIP membership and participation in the Freedom of Information Advocates Network were presented by Ms. Diana Bancheva, AIP Communication Officer.
The participants at the SCIS
During the visit to the State Commission on Information Security (SCIS), the participants were welcomed by the Chairperson of the Commission, Ms. Tsveta Markova. She emphasized the significance of the cooperation between the Commission and AIP.
Mr. Angel Traikov from “Information Volumes and Systems” Directorate presented the legal framework, the structure and the functions of the Commission with regard to the oversight on the implementation of the Protection of Classified Information Act.
Ms. Irina Docheva and Ms. Vesela Hristova from “Protection of Classified Information” Directorate presented the procedure for classification and declassification of documents as official secret.
Ms. Stanimira Chobatarova from “Legal and International Legal Affairs” Directorate focused on the procedure for classification of court cases at the presence of documents or materials containing classified information in the case file.
Most of the questions raised by the participants from Ukraine were related to the criteria for classifying information as official secret and the legally prescribe timeframes, as well as the conditions for accessing classified information contained in court files.
During the visit to the National Parliament, the delegation from Ukraine was welcomed at the Front Office of the Information-administrative Center of the National Assembly by Ms. Marusia Petrinska, Head of the Information-administrative Center and Ms. Nadia Boneva, Head of the “Administrative-legal services and Human Resources” Directorate. The work of the Information-administrative Center in providing public information to the citizens was presented. The new web site of the National Assembly which contains draft laws, transcripts from parliamentary commissions’ discussions, the budget of the Parliament, the list of the permanently appointed assistants to the members of parliament, the latter’s ungrounded absences; etc was also presented as means of increasing the volume of disclosed information to the public. Officials from the Legal Department of the National Assembly shared their experience with the application of the Access to Public Information Act at requests filed by citizens.
During the visit to the Committee for disclosing the documents of the Former State Security, the Chairperson of the Committee Mr. Evtim Kostadinov presented the history of the adoption of the Access and Disclosure of Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Armed Services Act and the results of the work of the Committee. Since April 5, 2007, when the first session was held, the Committee has issued 351 decisions for announcing affiliation to the former security services on the base of checking 124,544 persons. The specialized archive to the Committee contains 817,000 archive units, which is 1,300 mln pages of documents. Ms. Ekaterina Boncheva, member of the Committee, emphasized the significance of the cooperation with Access to Information Programme for the efficient work of the Committee giving several examples of such cooperation. The main questions raised by the participants were related to the protection of the archives from destruction.
Evtim Kostadinov presented the work of the Committee
At the Council of Ministers, the delegation was welcomed by the Director of Directorate “Public Relations’” Mr. Nikolay Boev. He presented the process of provision of access to information by the Government Information Service at the request of citizens. He presented the online accessible legal information system which contains regulations and decisions of the government and the transcripts from the government sessions.
Ms. Tania Petkova presented the methodology for the preparation of the annual report on the state of the administration which contains a separate chapter for the Access to Public Information Act implementation by the executive bodies in Bulgaria.
The last meeting-discussion within the Study Visit was with representatives of the Commission of Personal Data Protection. Ms. Maria Mateva, member of the Commission, Ms. Maria Krumova, Director of the “Legal Affairs and International Activity” Directorate, Ms. Nadia Tsolova, Senior Expert in the same Directorate, and Ms. Silvia Chavorina from the “Legal Proceedings and Representation” Directorate presented the functions of the commission to oversee the implementation of the Protection of Personal Data Act and to decide on complaints for violation of the rights under the law, the Register of Personal Data Administrators and the Procedure for entering the register.
Among the participants in the Study Visit from Ukraine were representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Presidential Administration, the Parliament (Verkhovna Rada), the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance, the State Service on Personal Data Protection, the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, which is the responsible institution for the Ukrainian Access to Public Information Act implementation. There were also representatives of nongovernmental organizations – Center for Political Studies and Analyses, Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, and Media Law Institute. The independent media lawyer, also a co-author of the Ukrainian Access to Information law, Mr. Dmytro Kotlyar was part of the delegation. The delegation was accompanied by Ms. Olga Sedova and Ms. Anna Dmytruk from the Council of Europe – Ukraine.