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A Push to Modernize Bulgarian Courts: A Buzz Interview with Kina Chuturkova of Boyanov & Co.

A Push to Modernize Bulgarian Courts: A Buzz Interview with Kina Chuturkova of Boyanov & Co.

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Bulgaria, Boyanov & Co. Partner Kina Chuturkova highlights progress made in Bulgaria in terms of reforming the judicial system but areas where improvements are still needed remain.

"The most significant current developments, from a dispute resolution perspective, pertain to the progress of the e-Justice initiative," Chuturkova begins. "First proposed in 2012, it only gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting a long-overdue need for a reform in court procedures," she posits.

Tackling specific changes impacting Bulgarian judicial procedures, Chuturkova mentions that "between 2020 and 2021, we saw major reforms in the Judicial Power Act and procedural codes–covering civil, administrative, and criminal procedures. These changes are still ongoing to this day and include improvements in how parties are summoned to court and how certain communications are handled," she explains. "However, we still need substantial upgrades in material and technical capabilities to fully modernize our system," she stresses.

Further, Chuturkova focuses on upcoming changes to the civil procedure code. "Starting July 1, 2024, amendments to the civil procedure code will take effect, particularly concerning the order for payment proceedings, which will be fully electronically processed. This change aims to expedite debt collection processes, making them quicker and smoother by utilizing a system that randomly assigns cases to regional courts, thus preventing the overload we've seen in Sofia and promoting a fairer distribution of cases," she explains. Until recently, the regional courts in Sofia found themselves as the primary pick for these proceedings, with most claims being steered their way. "This led to a nationwide disbalance in terms of courts' workloads and an overload of cases in Sofia. While they were able to deal with it, a personnel shortage was becoming evident," Chuturkova reports.

Still, despite these advancements, there are areas that still require improvements. "For instance, if a party to a court proceeding is physically unable to attend a hearing and prefers to use video conferencing, they still need to travel to the nearest regional court, which is not feasible for everyone," Chuturkova explains. "This is just one example where the system fails to accommodate all needs, demonstrating that while procedural steps are evolving, they are not yet sufficient." Furthermore, she reports a "critical need for better material bases and technical equipment in all courts. The procedural reforms are an important first step, but they must be supported by adequate resources to be effective. Since COVID-19, progress has slowed considerably, exacerbated by the ongoing political flux that has been paralyzing legislative developments since late 2022," she says.

Finally, focusing on politics, Chuturkova shares that "the political instability is severely affecting legislative changes, including those related to the tax framework. This uncertainty is slowing down investments and foreign direct investments, which have been stagnant for a few years," she says. "Despite Bulgaria's potential Eurozone membership in 2025, the economic outlook remains bleak, with high consumer prices and median salaries under strain from inflation, but hopefully things will take a turn for the better in the back half of 2024," she concludes.

Bulgaria Knowledge Partner

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