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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 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC(2002) 1400 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 676 final - SEC(2003) 1210 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2004) 657 final - SEC(2004) 1199 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2005) 534 final - SEC(2005) 1352 - 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 Commission stressed that Bulgaria would have to make major efforts to conform to the European Union's rules in all sectors. In particular, it would have to introduce reforms regarding the right of asylum for foreign nationals, border checks, the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking.
In the November 1998 Report, it recognised the progress made by Bulgaria, but asked it to pursue these efforts with the utmost rigour; with regard to medium-term objectives, legislative and administrative actions would be needed.
The October 1999 Report noted that Bulgaria had made significant progress in the area of justice and home affairs, especially by strengthening the legislative framework in most sectors in this field. The most significant progress was noted in immigration and justice. On the other hand little progress had been made in the fight against corruption.
In the November 2000 Report, the Commission noted that progress had been made with regard to the approximation of legislation and the drafting of new laws in line with the acquis. However, further efforts were needed to modernise equipment and to guarantee additional training for the police forces.
In the November 2001 Report the Commission noted that Bulgaria had made substantial progress in bringing its legislation into line with Community law as regards visas, immigration, border controls, judicial cooperation and customs cooperation. However, further efforts were needed to strengthen administrative capacity.
The October 2002 Report acknowledged that Bulgaria had made good progress in aligning its legislation in most areas of justice and home affairs. However, substantial efforts were still necessary to strengthen administrative capacity.
In the November 2003 Report the Commission noted that Bulgaria had made undeniable progress in transposing the Community acquis. But considerable efforts are still needed on reinforcing administrative capacities and combating various forms of organised crime, drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
The October 2004 Report recognised Bulgaria's progress in transposing the acquis into national law and in the approximation of laws. Negotiations on justice and home affairs had been brought to a close provisionally, as Bulgaria already complies with most requirements in this chapter. However, the Commission noted that there have been delays in the reform of the legal system and the fight against crime and corruption.
The October 2005 Report indicates that there is a high level of compliance with the European Union's requirements. Important legislative measures have been taken in judicial matters. However, progress is limited as regards reform of the investigative stage, and the judicial system continues to suffer from a lack of accountability.
The Treaty of Accession was signed on 25 April 2005 and accession took place on 1 January 2007.

COMMUNITY ACQUIS

Free movement of persons

The principle of free movement and the right to residence of all European citizens is provided for by Article 14 (former Article 7a) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty), as well as by the provisions on European citizenship (Article 18, former Article 8a). Among the matters of common interest to the Member States, the Maastricht Treaty included asylum policy, the crossing of the external borders of the Union and immigration policy. The Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force on 1 May 1999, incorporated these into the EC Treaty (Articles 61 to 69). Free movement of persons is a key element of an " area of freedom, security and justice ".

At the same time, common rules are being laid down relating to checks at the external borders of the Union, visas, asylum and immigration policies.

Member States already apply common rules in these areas under the Schengen agreements. These intergovernmental agreements have been incorporated into the European Union (EU) following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and now form part of the Community acquis to be adopted by the applicant countries. However, most of the Schengen acquis will not be applied to the new Member States as soon as they join but later, once this has been specifically decided by the Council. This is the aim of the plan of action for adopting the Schengen criteria on the basis of a realistic timetable for implementing the Schengen Agreement.

The binding rules which new Member States must have in place as soon as they join include some of the rules on visas, the rules governing external borders and migration, asylum, police cooperation, the fight against organised crime, terrorism, fraud, corruption, drug trafficking, customs cooperation and legal instruments relating to human rights. As regards such issues as border control, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, money laundering, organised crime, police and legal cooperation, data protection and mutual recognition of court judgments, the new Member States should be administratively capable of dealing with them. It is also crucially important to organise the judiciary and the police in an independent, reliable and effective manner.

Asylum policy

European asylum policy, a matter of common interest since the Maastricht Treaty, has been a Community as well as a national responsibility since the Amsterdam Treaty came into force in 1999.

At the Tampere European Council in October 1999, the European Union leaders decided on a two-stage strategy. The first stage - laying down minimum rules - should be operational by 1 May 2004. The aim of the second stage is to set up a common European asylum system based on a common asylum procedure and equal asylum status valid throughout the European Union.

Immigration policy

Immigration policy, a matter of common interest since the Maastricht Treaty and a Community responsibility since the Amsterdam Treaty, is currently being drawn up. Article 63 of the EC Treaty stated that the Council should have adopted, within a period of five years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (i.e. by 1 May 2004):

  • measures relating to conditions of entry and residence and to procedures in Member States issuing long-term visas and residence permits, including those for the purpose of family reunion;
  • measures defining the rights and conditions under which nationals of third countries who are legally resident in a Member State may reside in other Member States.

As regards "legal immigration", the Conclusions of the Tampere European Council (1999) state that the European Union should:

  • approximate national legislations on the conditions for admission and residence of third-country nationals;
  • ensure fair treatment of third-country nationals who reside legally on the territory of its Member States;
  • step up its efforts to ensure the integration of immigrants.

As regards "illegal immigration", the Tampere European Council agreed in 1999 to combat illegal immigration and the organised crime which takes advantage of it. In February 2002 the "plan of action to fight illegal immigration" was adopted. In June 2002, at the Seville European Council, the member States undertook to speed up the implementation of the programme adopted at Tampere by developing a common policy on separate, but closely linked, asylum and immigration questions.

Judicial cooperation in civil matters

The main instruments to facilitate civil judicial cooperation have been drafted at international level (the Brussels and Rome Conventions, for example). The Maastricht Treaty was an important first step, providing a legal basis for judicial cooperation in civil matters between Member States and allowing the adoption of several conventions. Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which places judicial cooperation in civil matters at Community level, these conventions have been gradually replaced by regulations of which the most significant are:

  • the Regulation on the service in the Member States of documents in civil or commercial matters in the European Union;
  • the Regulation concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility.
  • the Regulation creating a European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims.

In 1999 the Tampere European Council described the principle of mutual recognition as the cornerstone of the construction of the area of freedom, security and justice. Finally, the Nice treaty extended co-decision to judicial cooperation in all civil matters except family law.

Police, customs and judicial cooperation in criminal matters

The existing legislation in these fields stems mainly from the cooperation framework defined in Title VI of the European Union Treaty or the " third pillar ". The Amsterdam Treaty amended the legal provisions in the matter by creating a link with the " area of freedom, security and justice ". Now Title VI deals mainly with police cooperation, the fight against organised crime, the fight against drug trafficking, the fight against corruption and fraud, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and customs cooperation.

The objective of setting up an area of freedom, security and justice (set by the Amsterdam Treaty) should be achieved by:

  • closer cooperation between police forces and customs authorities through the European Police Office (Europol);
  • closer cooperation between judicial authorities including cooperation through the European Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), which was set up by the Nice Treaty;
  • approximation, where necessary, of the rules on criminal matters in the Member States;
  • mutual recognition of decisions (European arrest warrant).

The existing legislation relating to justice and home affairs presupposes a high degree of specific cooperation between government departments as well as the preparation and effective application of rules and regulations. To this end, several programmes have been launched in recent years: Grotius II-Criminal, OISIN II, Stop II, Hippokrates and Falcone. All of these programmes have been taken on by AGIS, a single framework programme for co-financing projects submitted by promoters from Member States and the applicant countries in the fields of justice and home affairs.

The Europe Agreement and the White Paper on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the internal market

The Europe Agreement with Bulgaria includes provision for cooperation in the fight against drug abuse and money laundering.

The White Paper does not deal directly with third-pillar subjects, but reference is made to matters such as money laundering and freedom of movement of persons, which are closely related to justice and home affairs considerations.

EVALUATION

The process of aligning data protection legislation with the Community acquis is now almost complete, thanks to two measures. First, the Protection of Personal Data Act entered into force in January 2002. Second, the Bulgarian National Assembly has adopted a decision on the ratification of Council of Europe Convention No 108 for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. And in December 2002 the provisions for the implementation of the Classified Data Act came into force. The rules on the retrieval and protection of data in the common judicial area changed in February 2003. However, as the administrative capacity of the Commission on Personal Data Protection is still weak, there is a risk that the acquis in this field will not be fully implemented.

The Commission notes that visa policy has been largely brought into line with Community law. Since 10 April 2001 Bulgaria has enjoyed visa-free entry to the Schengen Member States and since 2004 it has also had visa-free arrangements with Malaysia and Switzerland.

During 2005 Bulgaria made progress in aligning its policy on the European Union's "positive" list. An agreement introducing visa exemption arrangements was signed with Uruguay in January and entered into force in May 2005. Visa exemption agreements were signed with the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao in April 2005. The preparatory measures necessary for the abolition of the visa obligation for the other countries were continued.

The country must start to prepare the implementation of the visa information system (VIS), with a view to abolishing the internal frontiers once it accedes to the Schengen process. Moreover, the visa classification system is in line with the Schengen classification. To reduce misuse and falsification, an automated fingerprint identification system has been introduced, as has a database showing all visas issued by the visa centre.

An action plan for the adoption of Schengen requirements was approved in November 2001 and updated in 2004. In November 2003 the Law governing the Ministry of Home Affairs was amended so as to regulate the powers of the authorities responsible for border control, as well as the flow of passengers through international ports and airports. Adopted in July 2005, the Law on foreign nationals contains provisions on the entry and residence rules for foreigners. Bulgaria suspended the agreements on the simplified arrangements for the crossing of frontiers, which were in force with certain neighbouring countries.

As regards control of the Union's external borders, one of the main achievements was the gradual withdrawal of conscripts from the border police by December 2002. Specialised short-term training courses were given to new border police officials in April 2003. In the modernisation of facilities, priority is being given to external borders with Turkey and the Black Sea. In April 2003, the Council of Ministers adopted new agreements with Greece and Romania in the field of border police cooperation with neighbouring countries, based on Article 7 of the Schengen Implementing Convention. In addition, senior officers of the border police of the countries around the Black Sea have signed a protocol providing for the setting up of an international coordination and information exchange centre. A protocol on cooperation has also been signed with the Turkish border police. The 2005 Commission Report notes some shortcomings in the procedures currently applied and the resulting level of control, in particular at airports and seaports. The surveillance capacity along the international river Danube needs to be enhanced, preferably in close co-ordination with the relevant Romanian authorities.

In the area of immigration policy, important amendments entered into force in 2000 (family reunification, marriages of convenience, admission of self-employed persons). A human trafficking task force was established by the Ministry of the Interior in May 2001. The new ordinance on work permits for foreigners, which entered into force in June 2002, brought Bulgarian legislation further into line with the acquis. On 9 April 2003 Bulgaria adopted amendments to the Foreign Nationals Act to transpose the Community rules on carriers' liability, to provide for special reception centres for foreign nationals awaiting expulsion, and to establish a register of foreign residents in Bulgaria. A regulation on the organisation of these centres was adopted in January 2004.

Bulgaria has signed readmission agreements with all the Member States of the European Union, including the United Kingdom (February 2003), the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as with Albania, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Georgia, Norway, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine. Negotiations with Tunisia are in progress. In 2005 the level of cooperation with neighbouring countries as regards readmission is satisfactory overall, although certain agreements have not yet been concluded with Russia and Turkey.

In November 2003 the Immigration Department was set up within the Ministry for Home Affairs. It is responsible, inter alia, for issuing residence permits and granting Bulgarian nationality, implementing the administrative aspects of measures relating to foreign nationals and expelling persons unofficially present in the country. Finally, a memorandum on joint measures was signed with the International Organisation for Migration in February 2004.

With regard to asylum policy, Bulgaria finished aligning its legislation on the Geneva Convention of 1951 by adopting in March 2005 a law amending the Law on the Right to Asylum and Refugees. These amendments introduced a clear distinction between refusal, discontinuation of the procedure and withdrawal, in line with the Geneva Convention. A national programme for the integration of refugees was adopted in May 2005. The number of asylum applications continues to fall in the country. Bulgaria must also speed up its preparations for implementing, from accession, the Eurodac Regulation.

2003 was a crucial year for police cooperation and the fight against organised crime in Bulgaria. In June it signed a cooperation agreement with Europol, and in May amendments were made to the Code of Criminal Procedure. In February 2003 the legal basis was established for setting up the national contact point which is to incorporate the Sirene and Europol bureaux.

January 2004 saw the entry into force of the Law on Trafficking in Human Beings. In February 2005 the government adopted a national programme of preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, which lays down measures for the better application of the current law, alerting the population, providing aid and new employment possibilities for victims and strengthening international cooperation, as well as other, complementary measures.

In addition, administrative capacity has been boosted, especially in the area of human rights protection. October 2003 saw the adoption of a Code of Conduct for officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs. In March 2004 a strategy on police careers and the optimisation of human resources at the Ministry of Home Affairs was drawn up. A working party has been set up in the national police to devise a community policing strategy. In November 2002 the national crime strategy for 2002-2005 was adopted. The resultant work programme followed in February 2003 and the national strategy was updated in January 2004. Bulgaria had already ratified the 2000 UN Convention against transnational organised crime (Palermo Convention). In 2005 two new services were established and the Supreme Judicial Council obtained extra offices.

As far as the fight against fraud and corruption is concerned, Bulgaria adopted a national anti-corruption strategy in October 2001. It has also ratified the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and is stepping up preparations for full cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on accession. In May 2003 Bulgaria signed the additional protocol to the Council of Europe criminal-law Convention on corruption. A Code of Conduct for police officers was adopted in October 2003 to combat corruption among transport and border police. In February 2005 the national strategy for combating corruption was amended to include a number of measures designed to combat high-level corruption. The deadlines for implementing these measures have, however, been exceeded. The overall picture regarding the implementation of anti-corruption measures remains very limited.

As regards the combating of offences detrimental to the European Community, a specialist coordination council was set up in February 2003. In March 2004 its first report was adopted by the Anti-Fraud Coordination Service. The latter also set up a working party to identify the amendments needed to the Criminal Code so as to bring it into line with the Convention on the Protection of the European Communities' Financial Interests.
Finally, an agreement on the forgery of the euro was concluded between the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) and the Ministry for Home Affairs. In addition, an analysis centre was set up within the National Bank and a coordination centre within the Ministry for Home Affairs. In March 2005, amendments to the penal code were adopted to bring it more into line with the 1995 Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests and its protocols and with the Council Framework Decision on increasing protection by criminal penalties and other sanctions against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro.

In the fight against terrorism, Bulgaria has ratified the most important conventions. The provisions applying the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters came into force in April 2005. Ratification within the prescribed time limit of the new Council of Europe Convention, dating from 2005, on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism would constitute additional progress in this respect.

Good progress has been observed on drugs, with the adoption of a national drugs strategy for 2003-2008 in February 2003 in accordance with the European strategy for 2000-2004. Bulgaria must now align its strategy on that of the European Union for the period 2005-2012. Likewise a plan of action to put the strategy into effect was adopted in April 2003. In December 2002 the national drugs council adopted a decision providing for the national focal point to be set up as required by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The decision to set up a national drugs information unit was taken in September 2003, and in December of the same year a coordination and analysis unit was set up within the Ministry for Home Affairs. Finally, in September 2004 Bulgaria signed an agreement with the EMCDDA on its participation in the latter's work.
In February 2003 the Ministry of the Interior Act was amended to extend the powers of officers working to combat organised crime to engage in covert operations and controlled deliveries. And in May amendments were made to the Code of Criminal Procedure. Secret service officers can now be questioned as witnesses in criminal proceedings, providing their anonymity is preserved. Also in May 2003, Bulgaria signed the Council of Europe agreement of 1995 on trafficking by sea, to give effect to the UN Convention against illicit trafficking in narcotics and psychotic substances. The May 2003 amendment to the Narcotics and Precursors Act lays down stricter rules on narcotics and precursors. Controlled deliveries and undercover operations for the purposes of international legal cooperation were recently introduced into the Code of Criminal Procedure, which entered into force in April 2005

With regard to money laundering, a bureau of financial intelligence has been established which collects, analyses and reveals information related to money laundering activity. As part of Bulgaria's ongoing public administration reforms, it has since been transformed into an agency. In December 2003 this agency signed a joint instruction on cooperation with the Public Prosecutor's Office. Since early 2004 it has been using a new system for the electronic transmission of reports and the analysis of transactions. Internationally, Bulgaria signed a protocol with Finland in May 2003. In October of the same year, the Director of the Customs Agency drew up internal provisions on the control and prevention of money laundering and funding terrorism.

In July 2001 Bulgaria adopted a new strategy for rationalising border operations performed by the customs authorities. It also concluded bilateral customs cooperation agreements with Albania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and the US. As a result of amendments to the Road Traffic Act introduced in July 2002, the customs authorities now have greater scope for carrying out checks and inspections. An amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure empowering customs officers to conduct criminal investigations into customs offences came into force on 24 June 2003. In March 2004, an instruction was signed on interaction between the Customs Agency and the Tax Administration, as well as an agreement on cooperation and interaction between the Office of the Public Prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Agency. The amendments to the Customs Law adopted in May 2005 extended the powers of customs officers in regard to investigations and customs controls, which will make it possible to apply more fully the rules laid down in the Convention. Preparations for the adoption of the Customs Information System related to the CIS Convention are well on track and should continue.

As regards judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters, Bulgaria has continued to ratify the international conventions included in the acquis. As regards judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters, Bulgaria has continued to ratify the international conventions included in the acquis. The European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children entered into force on 1 October 2003. In addition, the European Convention on the International Validity of Criminal Judgments and the European Convention on the Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters were ratified in January 2004. Bulgaria also adopted the additional protocol on the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and the second additional protocol on the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. In 2005 much progress was made on alignment with EC legislation: in February of that year, Parliament adopted a law amending the constitution which made it possible to hand over Bulgarian citizens under a European arrest warrant, and then in May a law on extradition and the European arrest warrant, thus completing the preparations for implementation. Also in May 2005, a new Code on Private International Law, which is aligned with the various provisions of the EU acquis, was adopted. Bulgaria has set up a Eurojust contact point.

Bulgaria is a party to all the human rights instruments that are within the justice and home affairs acquis.

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

 
Last updated: 31.01.2006
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