Darina Palova, AIP

In each issue of the Monthly FOI Newsletter, AIP presents the most recent developments on AIP supported FOI court cases. You can also find links to relevant court decision (in Bulgarian only).

With a Decision No. 5654 as of December 12, 2011 (in Bulgarian), the Administrative Court Sofia – City (ACSC) repealed the silent refusal of the executive director of the National Center for Information and Documentation to provide information about the validity of the university degree diploma of the former executive director of the State Fund Agriculture, Ms. Kalina Ilieva.
The refusal was issued after the request of two journalists, Darinka Nikolova and Daniela Teofanova, from 168 Hours weekly. The request was filed at the time when information was spread that the diploma of the former executive director of the state body operating the EU farm aid for Bulgaria had been falsified. It appeared that Ms. Kalina Ilieva had not graduated from the German university signified in her diploma which meant that she did not have the necessary education to hold that former government position. Pursuant to Bulgarian legislation, education completed abroad should be recognized by an authorized body which had been done in the case. At the end of 2010, the two journalists turned to AIP for legal advice with regard to an access to information request by which they aimed to reveal the facts around Kalina Ilieva’s education abroad.

The journalists requested the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Science to provide access to information regarding the recognition of Ilieva’s education completed at a German university, more precisely documents proving the graduation of the particular university, the name of that university, which was the year of earning a Master’s Degree, etc.  The ministry transferred the request to the responsible National Center for Information and Documentation, while in the meantime the consent of Kalina Ilieva was sought for disclosing the requested information. Since such consent had not been given, the Center explained that they would not be able to decide on the request and left it without a response.   
With the help of AIP, the silent refusal was challenged before the Administrative Court Sofia – City. In the meantime, the suspicions about the falsified diploma were confirmed by a representative of the Berlin Institute of Mechanics and Economics. 

After an 8-month delay, the Council of Ministers informed a requestor that they did not dispose of the information sought.
At an open session held on December 14, 2011, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) accepted the withdrawal of the complaint of the National Movement Ecoglasnost against a silent refusal of the Council of Ministers (CoM) and ordered the latter to pay the court costs and expenses since the administration's unlawful act had become a reason for the proceedings. 
In March 2011, the deputy chairperson of the National Movement Ekoglasnost Petar Penchev filed a request to the CoM demanding access to information related to the Prime Minister’s statement at the National Assembly on February 25, 2011 that the price of electrical power would have increased 18 times if the Nuclear Power Plant Belene had not been constructed. No answer was given by the CoM and the silent refusal was challenged before the court. A day before the court session in October 2011, the CoM sent a letter to the complainant informing him that the request had been referred as provided by Art. 32 of the Access to Public Information Act, to the Ministry of Economics, Energy, and Tourism (MEET) and to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA).  The letter revealed that both the informing of the requestor and the referral took place two days before the court session or approximately eight months after the initial request was filed. Such practices are in discrepancy with the APIA, which provides that whenever the public body does not have the requested information but is aware where it was held, should transfer the request to the competent body and inform the requestor about that within a time frame of 14 days.
The statement made by the CoM that they did not dispose of the requested information made the continuation of the proceedings irrelevant and that was why, the AIP attorney-at-law Kiril Terziiski requested the withdrawal of the complaint and the costs and expenses award, which the SAC respected. In the meanwhile, the MEET explicitly refused to provide information. The refusal is to be appealed.

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