On 22 June 2017, a bill amending the Bulgarian Administrative Procedure Code was adopted upon its first reading. The proposed changes mainly aim to speed up and modernise administrative justice and to introduce e-Justice to Bulgaria. The proposed changes are significant and require multiple secondary actions by different bodies and institutions. If finally approved, the bill will enter into force on 1 January 2019.
The changes affect the main institutes and principles of the administrative process and can be categorised as follows:
- Introduction of e-Justice. The bill provides the mechanism for complaints and notifications on administrative cases/procedures to be filed/sent electronically. Parties in administrative cases must designate an email address and mobile telephone number for correspondence. Failure to comply with this obligation will result in a presumption that the party received notification. The bill also provides for the creation of electronic administrative files and cases to which the parties will have secure remote access. All institutions, including courts, are required to create and maintain a website with a search function where they should publish any messages related to pending administrative proceedings.
- Refinement of the regulation of the administrative contract and agreement. The bill clearly defines the civil law nature of the administrative contract, the application of contract law, and the special jurisdiction of the administrative courts to deal with disputes related to administrative contracts.
- Possibility to introduce the principle of “silent consent” instead of “silent refusal” in certain laws. The principle of silent refusal remains. However, if silent consent is included in a special law, then failure to act within the legal deadline shall be considered silent consent equivalent to the issuance of the requested administrative act.
- The bill clarifies that in claims for nullity of judgments, the administrative court that issued the contested decision is competent to hear the action for nullity. Further, the decision of the first instance court is subject to a cassation appeal before the Supreme Administrative Court.
- Improved efficiency of cassation proceedings. Under the bill, all cassation appeals and responses to cassation appeals must be countersigned by a lawyer or a law degree holder – in theory improving compliance with procedural rules. The bill also provides the possibility for the Supreme Administrative Court to hear cassation appeals in a closed session, as well as to issue decisions in relative short period.
- New grounds for annulment of an enforceable decision. The bill provides for a first time that an enforceable decision on an administrative case can be annulled if the decision is contrary to a judgment of the European Court of Justice.
- Increase of state fees for cassation appeals and annulments of final decisions. In cases involving a material interest of up to BGN 10 million, the fee will be 1% of the material interest, but not more than BGN 3400. For cases with a material interest over BGN 10 million, the fee will be capped at BGN 9000. These new rates do not derogate consideration of the separate fees for appeals required under other laws (such as the Public Procurement Act and the Concessions Act).