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Bulgaria

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REFERENCES

Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2008 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 707 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1999) 501 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000) 701 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC(2001) 1744 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002) 700 final - SEC(2002) 1400 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 675 final - SEC(2003) 1210 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2004) 657 final - SEC(2004) 1199 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2005) 534 final - SEC(2005) 1352 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 157 of 21.06.05]

SUMMARY

In its Opinion of July 1997, the European Commission underlined the lack of reforms in the social system and also called for an improvement in the social dialogue. The level of compatibility of Bulgarian legislation with the Community rules was low, and application did not always conform to Community practices.
The November 1998 Report confirmed this initial assessment. The Bulgarian Government still faced considerable problems, particularly with regard to poverty.
The October 1999 Report once again noted this problem and stressed the need to devote additional resources to health. Bulgaria was encouraged to pursue its efforts, especially to bring its legislation on health and safety at work into line with the existing Community rules and to strengthen its institutions.
The November 2000 Report deplored the lack of progress in employment and social affairs.
In November 2001, the Commission noted that Bulgaria had made modest progress in this area.
The 2002 Report stated that sufficient progress had been made in this area to close the chapter provisionally. Bulgaria was nevertheless encouraged to continue to transpose the Community acquis on prevention of discrimination, equal opportunities, labour law and health and safety at work.
The 2003 Report stated that negotiations on this chapter had been provisionally closed and concluded that Bulgaria was generally meeting its commitments and the requirements arising from the accession negotiations in this field.
The 2004 Report specifies that, in order to complete the preparations for accession, Bulgaria must now focus its efforts on implementing the acquis effectively and on putting the necessary implementing structures in place in the areas of labour law, prevention of discrimination, equal opportunities and public health. It is also necessary to strengthen the social dialogue and increase financial resources.
The 2005 Report indicates that Bulgaria is meeting the commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations in the areas of equal treatment of women and men, health and safety at work, social protection and employment policy. However, some legal adjustments are needed, and implementing structures must be further strengthened, in particular in the fields of the equal treatment of women and men and health and safety at work.
The Treaty of Accession was signed on 25 April 2005 and accession took place on 1 January 2007.

COMMUNITY ACQUIS

In the social affairs field, apart from the various specific action programmes, such as those in the area of public health, and the European Social Fund, EU legislation covers health and safety at work, labour law and working conditions, equal opportunities for men and women, coordination of social security schemes for migrant workers, and tobacco products.

In all these areas, the EU's social legislation lays down minimum requirements, accompanied by safeguard clauses for the most advanced Member States.

In addition, the consultation of the social partners and the social dialogue at European level are enshrined in Articles 138 and 139 of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

EVALUATION

In September 1998, Bulgaria signed the new European Social Charter. It subsequently ratified it. However, the social dialogue remained fragile, especially as regards the capacity of employees in the private sector to engage in collective bargaining. The absence of social dialogue in the public sector continues to be the subject of regular complaints.
In late 2001 and early 2002 Bulgaria adopted a body of legislation promoting the social dialogue.
Amendments to the Labour Code in December 2002 achieved some progress by establishing criteria for representation in tripartite consultations and by further clarifying the mechanisms for tripartite cooperation.
An amendment to the law on the Economic and Social Council, adopted in March 2003, transformed this body into a proper consultative body for economic and social issues, involving the social partners and representatives of civil society.
In April 2003, the structure and activities of the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitration, whose job is to help settle labour disputes amicably, were clarified. National Council for Employment Promotion was set up in 2002 as a body for cooperation and consultation with a view to drafting employment policy.
The 2004 Report specifies that the provisions drawn up in 2003 to implement the Labour Code led to the recognition of five trade unions and two employers' organisations.
The 2005 Report concludes that the administrative framework is in place (the National Economic and Social Council and the National Council for Employment) but that the dialogue within these institutions needs to be strengthened. The social dialogue is still not very developed, either within undertakings or at sectoral level.

Since 1998, a number of employment programmes have been in place in the public sector. At the beginning of 1999, a business-creation programme was also launched in order to provide training and assistance to unemployed people. Other programmes have been launched in order to support the most vulnerable groups on the labour market and to improve the integration of the most marginalised groups (gypsies, the long-term unemployed). In 2000, Bulgaria drew up a national plan for employment that is broadly based on the Community approach. The national action plan for employment adopted in April 2003 focuses particularly on measures to create long-term employment and on training which leads to a qualification. Its budget was three times higher than in 2002. In November 2003, the Bulgarian Government adopted an employment strategy for the period 2004-2010, setting out priorities and measures intended to stimulate the economy and gradually reduce the rate of unemployment to less than 10%. A national action plan for employment, based on this strategy, has been adopted for 2004. New employment programmes have been introduced, focusing mainly on agricultural producers and on self-employment for women. Measures have also been taken to modernise the Employment Bureau's structures. Additional work is still needed in order to implement the joint evaluation of employment policy priorities and to promote the development of human resources, particularly by means of education and training. The 2005 Report emphasises that the integration into the labour market of minority ethnic groups, especially the Roma, needs to be improved. Bulgaria must also improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its public employment services and must encourage the large number of individuals not participating in the labour market to take up work.

The labour market situation has worsened in recent years, with unemployment rising from 16.3% in 2000 to 19.9% the following year, a high percentage of this being long-term unemployment. In 2002 unemployment fell slightly but remained relatively high (18.1%). More measures are needed to actively promote employment and these measures should systematically involve the public authorities. The national employment strategy should also be adopted. The unemployment rate continued to fall in 2003. It remains relatively high, at 13.6% in 2003.

In order to prepare the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to act as managing authority for the Human Resources Development Operational Programme, the department dealing with the European Social Fund (ESF) within the Ministry was reorganised. With a view to implementing the ESF following accession, Bulgaria must focus on policy coordination and interdepartmental coordination, while at the same time putting substantial investment into developing human resources. The 2005 Report emphasises that Bulgaria urgently needs to put in place an operational programme to improve the institutional capacity and the efficiency of public administration with a view to management of the ESF.

As far as social security is concerned, the law on the social security budget entered into force in January 1999, introducing major amendments in the legal framework. It also governs the application of the social security schemes for employees, the self-employed and members of their families who move within the Community.

Rules on the application of the law on social assistance were adopted in November 1998. An edict on the structure and activity of the inspectorate under the responsibility of the state social assistance service was adopted in March 1999. In 2000, a three-pillar pension system was introduced. The amendments to the Social Assistance Act entered into force in 2003. The State Social Assistance Service became the Social Assistance Agency, and several standards were introduced for the provision of social services. The amendments also introduced a differentiated approach in terms of the support provided to various vulnerable groups, with the aim of better targeting social assistance. Lastly, a national strategy to promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities, designed to improve their quality of life and raise public awareness, was adopted in 2003. The 2004 Report states that an action plan on equal opportunities for people with disabilities and a law on the integration of people with disabilities were adopted in September 2004. The 2005 Report notes that Bulgaria needs to synchronise its various social assistance schemes and that social protection still needs improving, particularly in the pensions field. It emphasises the lack of resources available.

In 2002 the Commission and Bulgaria began to work together to prepare the country for its future participation in the Community social inclusion process following its accession. This coordination exercise involves jointly identifying problems relating to social exclusion and poverty together with the appropriate political responses.
A strategy to tackle social exclusion, with a view to pursuing EU policies in this field, was adopted in October 2003, followed later by an accompanying action plan. The Joint Memorandum on Social Inclusion is to be signed in the autumn of 2004. Further work is still necessary in order to ensure coordination between the agencies and ministries responsible and to guarantee sufficient financial support.
The 2005 Report emphasises that sustained efforts are needed to ensure the full implementation of the Joint Memorandum on Social Inclusion. Bulgaria must improve the situation of vulnerable groups, especially children and people with disabilities.

In the course of 2001, some areas of labour law were amended, such as the organisation of working hours, protection of workers' rights and contractual working relations.
The Labour Code was amended to give greater autonomy to bipartite social dialogue, particularly by giving greater emphasis to collective agreements. An economic and social committee was set up in April 2001. Progress in relation to labour law was made in 2003 with the introduction of new provisions on the posting of workers and the protection of young people at work. In particular, a national action plan against the various forms of exploitation of children was adopted in 2002. The 2003 Report pointed out that further alignment was nevertheless necessary, specifically for the acquis on part-time work, the employer's obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the employment contract, protection of employees' rights in the event of transfers of undertakings or redundancies, and certain aspects of the organisation of working time.
The 2004 Report notes that good progress has been made in transposing the acquis on the protection of workers in the event of the employer's insolvency, on the protection of employees' rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, on collective redundancies and on certain aspects of the organisation of working time.
The 2005 Report notes that the recent acquis in the form of the Directives concerning the Statutes of the European Company and the European Cooperative Society as well as the Information and Consultation Directive still needs to be transposed, as does the directive on European Works Councils.

No effort was made in 2001 to tackle discrimination. The October 2002 Report repeats this assessment but notes that the January 2002 law promoting employment contains provisions to tackle discrimination.
Significant progress was finally made in the course of 2003, with the adoption of the law on protection against discrimination, which is intended to transpose a number of key directives in this field (equal pay, equal treatment in employment, equal treatment for pregnant workers, etc.). Moreover, the law on protection against all forms of discrimination was adopted and provides for an independent committee to be set up to implement it. The 2005 Report notes that the equality body required by the acquis has been established and the legislation has started to be applied by Bulgarian courts. The Commission for Prevention of Discrimination has also been established but it is not clear whether it has sufficient human and financial resources in order to perform its functions independently. Despite continuous efforts, the situation of the Roma minority still requires fundamental improvements.

In the area of public health, although a national programme to restrict smoking was adopted in January 2002, the 2002 Report stated that further work was needed despite some progress in transposing the acquis. The 2003 Report suggested that Bulgaria introduce a national plan to monitor and control communicable diseases and revise its legislation on epidemiological surveillance. This report also highlighted the fact that significant work still had to be done in order to improve the population's health, which was markedly worse than the Community average.
The 2004 Report notes that a national action plan for 2004-2007 was adopted in July 2004 in order to consolidate the system for the monitoring and control of communicable diseases. Despite significant progress noted in 2004 in transposing the acquis on human blood, blood components and cells and tissue of human origin, efforts must be made in order to guarantee proper implementation of the legislation. A new law adopted in July 2004 serves as a basis for the development of a national health system. The 2005 Report notes that, despite the inclusion in the new Law of a chapter on mental health, Bulgaria still needs to improve the conditions prevailing in care institutions and make more progress towards "de-institutionalisation".
The 2005 Report notes that the legislation on communicable diseases urgently needs to be updated and that further sustained efforts are required to fully implement the acquis on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products.

In 2002, some progress was made in the area of health and safety at work, as new legislation was adopted on the protection of workers against risks arising from exposure to biological agents in the workplace, display screen equipment, exposure to asbestos, exposure to noise, temporary or mobile construction sites, work equipment, the health and safety of workers in surface and underground mineral-extracting industries and medical assistance on board vessels. The Bulgarian Government has also reorganised its labour inspectorate to ensure improved application of these new provisions. The 2004 Report states that legislation has been adopted in order to transpose the acquis on carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, risks related to chemical agents, and minimum health and safety requirements on board fishing vessels. In addition, a plan to increase the administrative capacity of the General Labour Inspectorate for the period 2004-2007 was approved in April 2004. In August 2005 the recent acquis on exposure of workers to noise was transposed. The 2005 Report notes, as did the 2004 Report, that the system of compensation for poor working conditions has yet to be abolished.

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

Last updated: 04.01.2006
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