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European Commission Takes Four Infringement Decisions Concerning Bulgaria

The European Commission on Wednesday announced four infringement decisions concerning Bulgaria.
The Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria for failure to comply with reporting obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Under the Directive, Member States were required to review and update their programmes of measures by March 31, 2022. These programmes are the cornerstones of the Directive as they identify the measures which need to be taken to achieve or maintain good environmental status and ensure that the implementation of these measures is monitored. Bulgaria had promised to complete the review and update of the programmes by the end of 2023, but their internal approval process was delayed. Therefore, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to  Bulgaria for failing to comply with certain obligations of the Regulation on the dissemination of terrorist content online (TCO). The TCO Regulation requires that terrorist content in the EU is taken down by online platforms within one hour upon receipt of a removal order issued by Member States’ authorities. This helps to counter the spread of extremist ideologies online while safeguarding fundamental rights.  The Commission has given Bulgaria two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. 
The Commission decided to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Bulgaria for failing to correctly transpose into its national legislation the Directive on the right of access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest.  This Directive aims to ensure access to a lawyer from the earliest stages of proceedings for persons subjected to a European Arrest Warrant, as well as for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings. The Commission considers that certain national transposition measures notified by Bulgaria do not meet the requirements of the Directive; specifically, the scope of application of procedural safeguards under Bulgarian law is too narrow. The Commission also concluded that there are shortcomings in Bulgarian law as regards the transposition of the right to effective participation by a lawyer during the investigation phase. Additionally, the Commission considers that potential possibilities to derogate from the right of access to a lawyer due to investigative needs go beyond the limits required by the Directive and that the requirement to inform the holder of parental responsibility or other appropriate adult of the deprivation of liberty of a child has not been correctly transposed. Bulgaria now has two months to address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.
The Commission decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Bulgaria for an incorrect transposition of EU rules on racism and xenophobia. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Bulgaria in February 2021. In July 2023, Bulgaria adopted a law amending the criminal code that partly resolved the grievances raised by the Commission. However, the Commission considers that this amendment does not fully comply with Article 4 of the Framework Decision, which requires that racist and xenophobic motivations be an aggravating circumstance for all criminal offences, or to ensure that such motivation is taken into account when determining penalties. The Commission is sending an additional letter of formal notice to Bulgaria, which now has two months to respond and address the shortcomings. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.