New NGO Law Enacted in Bulgaria

21 September 2000

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) is pleased to report that the National Assembly of Bulgaria has enacted a new Law on Legal Persons with Non-Profit Purposes, which will govern the establishment of legal status of non-governmental organizations in Bulgaria. This new law represents the culmination of a several years’ effort on behalf of Bulgarian civil society to reform these procedures, headed by several leading Bulgarian lawyers, the community of civil society organizations, and parliamentarians. Technical assistance was furnished by international experts (including ICNL), supported by USAID and the EU.

Notably, parliamentarians from parties across the political spectrum supported enactment of the new law, in recognition of the importance of civil society in the development of modern Bulgaria.

Among the new law’s innovative and important provisions are the following:

  • it identifies and provides a central registry for a distinct category of organizations, “Public Benefit” organizations, which are those entities that, because of their purpose in serving identified public needs, may receive tax and other direct and indirect benefits from the state;
  • it provides an opportunity for NGOs to engage in certain kinds of economic activities to sustain themselves;
  • it clarifies for the first time that civil society organizations are distinct from profit-making enterprises because such organizations are intentionally “not-for-profit” and do not distribute profits among their owners, employees, or directors;
  • it provides rules for internal governance; and
  • it strictly limits state powers over dissolution of the organization.

A working group comprised of representatives of the legal community, civil society organizations, and the Ministry of Justice is developing implementation procedures to assure a smooth administrative transition.