On September 9, 1999, the Centre for Social Practices, which is one of the founding partners of Coalition 2000, hosted a conference entitled “The Ombudsman Institution, Civil Society and State Institutions in Bulgaria.” The conference, which took place in Sofia, discussed how the Ombudsman institution could fit into Bulgaria’s social and legal environment.
In the first place, the debate focused on the place of the Ombudsman institution. The issue in the center of the discussion was whether the Ombudsman institution should be a new state body or it can possibly function as an institution of the self-driven civil society intended to exercise control over the working of public administration. Representatives of non-governmental organizations maintained the position that this should a totally independent new institution whereas participating government officials and parliamentarian advisors expressed the view that the Ombudsman institution should be ranked in the same line with other public bodies currently exercising control over various aspects of public life.
Secondly, the conference subjected to discussion the authorities of the Ombudsman institution which can be divided into three major groups:
- scope of control (subject: type of institutions subjected to control and the highest ranks in the hierarchy that can be controled by the ombudsman; area of control) and legal power of the decision taken by the Ombudsman institution;
- right to propose legislative acts;
- right to demand that the constitutionality of certain decisions and regulations is examined.
Participants in the discussion agreed that giving larger authorities to the Ombudsman institution would require changes in the Constitution of the country. At the same time, the view was expressed that the establishment of the Ombudsman institution will help further with the protection of human rights and freedoms in Bulgaria.