On 14 January 2014, the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev, addressed the country’s Constitutional Court, claiming that the 20% fee on solar and wind power plants does not comply with the Bulgarian Constitution and should therefore be revoked.
On 9 December 2013, the Parliament approved with a final vote the national budget law for 2014 and the amendment of the renewable energy law incorporated in it. The latter was regarded as highly controversial, mainly because it imposed a 20% fee on the income of solar and wind power plants, including operating projects financed under the expectation of a guaranteed income from a set preferential feed-in tariffs.
Mr. Plevneliev, having expressed serious concerns about the amendment, had two main options when reacting against it. The first was to veto the amendment within two weeks after the vote, thus forcing the Parliament to reconsider or summon a majority of at least half of all members to surmount the veto. The President chose not to act during this timeframe and the amendment became effective from 1 January 2014.
Nevertheless, on 14 January 2014, the President exercised his alternative option by addressing the Constitutional Court, stating that the 20% fee was unconstitutional and should be revoked. The President is one of the few authorities entitled to address the Constitutional Court, which holds the exclusive powers to review claims related to compliance of a law with the Bulgarian Constitution and respectively to declare a law unconstitutional and revoke it.
The proceedings before the Constitutional Court are similar to standard court proceedings, except for the fact that the Court’s decision is final and cannot be subject to control or review by any other institution. The first stage of the proceedings is the admissibility check, when the Court rules on whether the claim is duly filed and whether it is within the Court’s competence to resolve it. If admissible, at the second stage the claim is reviewed and clarified in the course of a hearing before the Court during which the interested parties can plead and present their arguments in favour of or against the claim. Upon the completion of the hearing, the Court is to issue a decision within two months (though the term is recommended, not obligatory).
With respect to the 20% fee, a Constitutional Court decision can be expected at the earliest at the end of April 2014. If the court rules that the 20% fee is unconstitutional, it will be deemed revoked from the date on which the decision of the Court becomes effective. In such a case, the Parliament would then have to settle the consequences of its application until that date.
Nevertheless, until revoked with an effective decision of the Constitutional Court, the renewable energy law as amended remains effective and enforceable.