At a meeting with the media, Speaker of Parliament Georgi Pirinski summarizes the activities of the 40th National Assembly during its complete 4-year mandate
12 June 2009
Speaker of Parliament Georgi Pirinski gave a final briefing for the media on 12 June 2009. He summarized the activities of the 40th National Assembly during its complete 4-year mandate.
In his statement before the parliamentary journalists Georgi Pirinski said:
„Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for having accepted the invitation to one last meeting at which we shall attempt to make a recapitulation of the work completed by the 40th National Assembly throughout its 4-year mandate that has started on July 11, 2005.
As a fairly large amount of materials provided by the National Assembly Press-centre are at your disposal, I will limit myself to touching upon what I deem are the most substantial figures, describing quantitatively the volume of work fulfilled by the 40th Parliament.
Taking into account the bills adopted by the National Assembly earlier today, the Parliament has passed a total of 718 bills. It would be interesting to note that two of these are amendments to the Constitution, six are codes, including the Family Code, 97 are completely new laws and, if I am not mistaken, 388 are bills on amendment and supplement to existing laws while 228 are ratifications. The two amendments to the Constitution are counted amendments and supplements to a law.
The comparison with the 39th National Assembly proves that the 40th Parliament has carried out a tangibly bigger amount of work. The 39th Parliament has adopted 630 acts, with a bigger share of ratifications - 304.
However, the number of bills passed is not the most important characteristic to the work of a parliament. We have to take account of the fact that the 40th National Assembly has a number of distinctive features as well as a number of novelties introduced by it which so far have not been part of the Bulgarian parliament’s practices. Firstly, that was the overall activity related to the EU membership. You recall the period from mid-2005 through the end of 2006, which was dedicated to the harmonization of the Bulgarian legislation with the EU Acquis, to the adoption of acts in connection with the requirements to Bulgaria’s EU accession. That premised both more intensive and more complex parliamentary activity. In this regard, a new element of the National Assembly’s work was the implementation of the European Union program – within the EU Affairs Standing Committee and within all bodies of the National Assembly; a whole new chapter to the NA Rules of Procedure and Organization was introduced regulating the relations between Parliament and the Executive.
It is worth mentioning that completely new acts on the entire range of taxes – direct and indirect, were adopted. The amendment to the Constitution allowed the local authorities to determine the level of local taxes, something that happened for the first time ever. The institution of the Ombudsman was also introduced by that amendment, vested with the power to apprise the Constitutional Court. I am far from claiming to be exhausting all characteristics of the quality and complexity of Parliament’s activity, however it seems to me that the above mentioned are substantive enough in showing the specificities of this activity.
The parliamentary control was intensive too. The questions, as you could see in the materials disbursed, are over 2,600; the inquiries – nearly 1,180. I would like to underscore that the parliamentary control has yet another aspect. During the two-year period (April 2007 – May 2009) 111 hearings of representatives of the Executive have taken place in the parliamentary committees with reports on the hearings subsequently presented. Parliamentary control has been performed at 148 plenary sittings. It is true that at 21 sittings no control has taken place, however on 20 plenary days the control has continued from 9 a.m. till the end of the plenary day.
It is an interesting fact that the biggest number of questions was addressed to the Minister of Agriculture. Serious interest has been also displayed to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Interior, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment.
You are well aware that apart from legislation and parliamentary control the parliament has another very important function, i.e. constituting the executive bodies and participating in the constitution of other authorities and committees – a function that has been successfully carried out by the National Assembly. With regard to the judiciary, it was for the first time to adopt the practice of hearing and taking decisions on reports by key judiciary bodies such as the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Judicial Council, with extended opinion statements presented by the Legal Affairs Committee on issues that over the past years have always been extremely sensitive to our public from the perspective of the law enforcement system functioning.
The National Assembly has adopted acts widely commented on and expected by our society. I would mention, starting with the latest ones, the Law on Referendums entitled “law on the direct participation of the people in governance”, the Law on Conflict of Interests – all new matters that are yet to be affirmed as practice in public life.
There are issues and questions related to the 40th Parliament’s activities, which deserve special attention with a view to the impending work of the 41st National Assembly. First of all, we cannot neglect the persisting low level of public confidence in the parliamentary work. It is subject to comments in the press, including over the past few days. This low level – only one out of ten interviewed, shows that our society has a skeptical not to say negative perception of the parliamentary activity. This issue is as much important to the National Assembly and the M.P.s as it is to the general public. As without a reputable parliament passing laws that enjoy the authority of normative acts our society cannot hope for a legal order, for rule of law, for sufficient reliability of legal norms as a defender of the rights of citizens and society as a whole. The reasons for that evaluation are many. One of them is the necessity for substantial improvement of the quality of acts. The second is that the quality of debate also needs to be other than what we witness at present. Thirdly, of course, the arrear issue of voting of bills. That is a problem that has throughout the entire period been subject of serious efforts, including on my behalf. The system of voting has been amended. Regrettably, all these efforts could not result in the desired outcome. I hope that the steps undertaken at the end of this parliament will see realization at the onset of the next National Assembly, overcoming the problem of voting by using other M.P.s cards.
Another issue deserving serious consideration and solution is the communication of the National Assembly with the civil society. During these 3-4 years I have had numerous contacts with representatives of associations, societies and other public organizations expressing their concerns and protests – regrettably, in most of the cases those meetings would happen whenever there was a conflict or crisis. I am convinced that with a more active dialogue between the parliament, the parliamentarians and the non-government sector, with discussing the issues and defining their possible solutions, with drafting relevant bills, we shall have a different quality of public trust in the National Assembly.
At the end of April, as you may remember, a subscription to a proposal for holding a national referendum on amending the election system in Bulgaria - an issue also discussed by some media, was deposited at the National Assembly. The list contained over 69 thousand signs. A relevant review of the submitted documents was performed and I would like to assure you that they will be kept in accordance with all requirements. Although the subscription does not comply with the newly passed law on the referendums, neither in the form it was made nor in the number of signs collected, we cannot neglect the very substance of the issue it raises, as it relates to the quality of representation of our citizens at the National Assembly and the truth is they feel inadequately represented at present. What would be the mode of addressing and discussing this issue remains up to the 41st Parliament. One thing is clear - the problem necessitates a serious debate and careful consideration by both, the general public and the National Assembly.
In conclusion I would like to highlight yet another aspect of the Parliament’s work which I deem necessary to develop further. And that is holding of various parliamentary fora and conferences. Throughout these years we have organized a number of such fora on a series of subject matters related to parliamentarianism and constitutionalism. I would like to remind you the conference held in Veliko Tarnovo on 9 February 2009 on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the Constituent Assembly and the Tarnovo Constitution. This conference, in my view, deserves to become traditional and an annual one, comprising serious academic studying of parliamentarianism in Bulgarian society and of constitutions and their role in our life. And to settle around this theme a whole branch of legal research to be jointly developed by the National Assembly and the relevant academic and scientific centres.
The last such forum was held on 15 May 2009 at the National Assembly. That was a discussion of the report by the National Audit Office on the EU funds audits. A very analytical report and quite critical one. The Chairman and Members of the National Audit Office, Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Plugchieva, other representatives of the Executive, M.P.s, and Members of the EU Parliament took part in the discussion. The key finding shared was that the system of EU funds acquisition established in Bulgaria in the past several years is inefficient and does not work in the way needed by the country. Therefore it is necessary to introduce stepwise a much more centralized and effective system. This is an issue that must be given preferential treatment by the next National Assembly at the beginning of its work. The concluding document of this conference contains a declaration signed by Mrs. Plugchieva and myself, by Mr. Chervenyakov and Mr. Ivanov. It could be seen on the webpage of the National Assembly.
I wouldn’t like to take more of your precious time. I wish you pleasant work, colleagues!”