Local Government in Bulgaria

Author:Angel-Manuel Moreno
Pages:69-90
 
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1. Brief historical evolution

The history of Bulgarian municipalities and local self-government has its own specific and peculiar features. Bulgarian municipalities existed even before the restoration of Bulgarian statehood and the Liberation (1878). At that time, the municipality was a church - school community and had no public legal powers. The municipality was established as a legal institution by the Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria, adopted on April 16, 1879. (Prom. SG.15|1 January 1893). Art. 3 stated that «the territory is divided into administrative regions, districts and municipalities. A specific law is enacted to regulate this administrative division self-government of municipalities». With this declaration, self-government was initiated in municipalities for the first time. Its historical evolution is a record of positive and negative phases in the development of self-government at the local level. Several laws are significant to this process, including the Rural Communities Act of 1886, the Urban Communities Act of 1886, the District Councils Act of 1907, etc. In 1911, the Constitution was renamed to the Constitution of the Bulgarian Kingdom.

The legal-historical genesis of local self-government is contained in a series of basic laws of the country that were enacted at different times.

Thus, a special chapter entitled «Local bodies of state authorities» was established in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria in 1947 (Prom.SG.284|6 Dec 1947) Article 48 stated that the bodies of national self-government were the municipal, district and regional public councils, elected by the population of the respective administrative-territorial unit. These elected bodies were a kind of symbiosis of state power and self-government, and had greater impact than earlier figures.

The Constitution of 1971 (Prom.SG.39| May 18, 1971) established a two-step administrative territorial structure, consisting of municipalities and coun-

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ties. «Public council» charters were set up. Electoral authorities in municipalities and counties were considered to be public bodies of state authorities and national self-government. The Executive Committee was established as an executive body of the Public Councils. The Executive Committee was elected by the councils and was composed of the councillors.

The Constitution of 1991 (Prom. SG. 56|13 Jul 1991 with amend.), stipulates a broad legal basis for extensive development of local self-government. The constitution defines the content and forms of manifestation of local self-government, and establishes the political and legal guarantees for its implementation. The Constitution also stipulates the constitutional legal status of the major governing bodies at local level of government: the municipal council as the governing body, and the mayor as the executive body.

2. Basic facts and figures

The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is divided into 246 municipalities and regions. Other administrative territorial units and bodies of self-government are established by law.

A municipality (in Bulgarian, [c22][c15][c2d]?[c21][c14][c03]- obchtina) is a legal entity and is the basic administrative territorial unit through which self-government is implemented. Citizens participate in the government of the municipality through their elected bodies of local self-government and, directly, through referendums or general meetings. The municipality consists of one or more neighbouring settlements, and the territory of the municipality is comprised of all its settlements. The name of the municipality is the name of the settlement that is its administrative centre. The boundaries of a municipality are established following a public referendum. Municipalities are entitled to own municipal property, which is to be used in the interest of the territorial community. A municipality has its own budget. A municipality is a juridical person and a legal entity. There are 264 municipalities in Bulgaria.

A region [c0b][c22][c15]~[c14][c25][c26][c03]- oblast) is an administrative territorial unit that is responsible for the development of regional policy, the implementation of state legislation on a local level, and the harmonisation of national and local interests. The region consists of one or more neighbouring municipalities, and its territory is determined by the territory of the municipalities included in it. The region is named after the settlement that is its administrative centre. Regions are established according to the following criteria: the physical-geographic specific features of the territory; the presence of a town defined as a traditional cultural and economic centre with established social and technical infrastructure and access to other settlements of the region. The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is divided into 28 regions, whose boundaries and administrative centres are proposed by the Council of Ministers and approved by an edit of the President.

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Local self-government is performed at the municipal level through two elected bodies. The body of local self-government within a municipality is the municipal council, elected directly by the population, for a term of four years. The mayor is the body of executive power and he is elected directly by the population, also for four years. At the regional level, each region is governed by a governor, who is appointed by the Council of Ministers and is assisted by a regional administration. The regional governor ensures the implementation of the state’s policy, safeguards the national interests, upholds the law and ensures public order, and exercises administrative control over local authorities (see infra, point 9).

The territorial administrative subdivisions of municipalities are the mayor-alties and the districts. While municipal councils and mayors are elected in the municipalities, only mayors are elected in the mayoralties. A «mayoralty» [c0b]?[c20]?[c26][c25][c26][c16][c22] [c10][c03][c4e][c50][c48][c57][c56][c57][c59][c52]) can be established in the territory of a municipality by a decision of the municipal council. The mayoralty consists of one or more settlements, and its territory is defined by the territory of the settlements included in it. The mayoralty is named after the name of the settlement that is the administrative centre. The requirements for establishing a mayoralty are: stable population of over 150 people in the settlements that form the mayoralty and the capacity to fulfil the functions assigned by the municipality.

Quarters ([c24][c14]?[c22][c21] - rayon) are established in the capital and in cities with over 300,000 inhabitants, and may also be established by decision of the municipal council in towns with populations over 100,000 people. The territorial division of the capital municipality and of the cities with populations over 300,000 inhabitants are endorsed by law. At present, there are 24 quarters in Sofia ([ce6][c22][c28]?[c13]), 6 in Plovdiv ([ce4]~[c22][c16]??[c16]), and 5 in Varna ([cd7][c14][c24][c21][c14]). The territory of the quarter is part of the territory that defines the boundaries of the town. The name of the quarter is approved by an act of establishment. To establish quarters, cities must fulfil the following requirements: active population of at least 25,000 inhabitants; capacity to develop regional planning according to current general urban development plans (including compliance with natural or constructed divisions); and available infrastructure in the quarter to meet administrative, social and sanitary-hygiene needs.

Therefore, there is a two-step administrative-territorial division in Bulgaria. Administrative territorial units include regions and municipalities and composite administrative territorial units of the municipalities, consisting of mayoral-ties and quarters.

Apart from the administrative-territorial units, there are other territorial units in Bulgaria, which can be called in English «settlements» and «settlement formations». A settlement ([c21][c14][c25]?~?[c21][c22][c03][c20][c13][c25][c26][c22][c03]- naseleno miasto) is a historical and functional territory, with a stable resident population, artificial or natural boundaries, and social and technical infrastructure. Settlements are identified as towns [c0b][c17][c24][c14]? - grad) and villages [c0b][c25]?~[c22][c03]- selo).

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At the end of 2009, there were such 5302 «settlements» in Bulgaria, of which, 255 are towns and 5047 are villages. At the moment, there is a tendency toward an increase in population in towns: 72% of the population lives in towns and 28% lives in the villages. Some hundred years ago, the situation was quite different, with 80% of the Bulgarian population living in the villages.

The «settlement formations» [c0b][c25]?~?[c2d][c21][c22][c03] [c22][c15][c24][c14]?[c27][c16][c14][c21]??[c03] - selichno obrazuvanie) are territories outside the established boundaries of the settlements, and were developed for specific functions, and defined by artificial boundaries. They don’t have permanent residents. Territorial units differ significantly from administrative-territorial units. They don’t have resident elected bodies of self-government, nor ownership, a budget, administrative staff etc.

3. Legal framework of local self-government

The Constitution of...

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