To Your Europe Advice, 2 March 2014

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Key message: There are serious legal problems with multiple certification of document translations in Bulgaria which involve EU companies willing to start business in Bulgaria into unnecessary legal battles with the Bulgarian Registry Agency.

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I am a Bulgarian citizen and translator, a university graduate. My problem is that I cannot understand how long the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take to realize that authorization for doing certified translations is normally given to a specific person based on that person's proficiency in a specific foreign language. Authorisation is not given to private translation agencies. It is not given indiscriminately for any and all possible foreign languages. And above all, it is not given by means of entering into illegal contractual relations with private companies through signing a contract for provision of translation services to the Bulgarian MFA between a Client (the Bulgarian MFA) and a Contractor (a Bulgarian private company) without carrying out a public procurement procedure (tender).


The situation could jokingly be described like this. You are a translator? You want authorization for certified translations? Please, register a company and come to our Consular Relations Department. All you need to do is sign a contract with the ministry! Ah, you are not a translator? Don't worry, we'll grant authorization to you as well! Just follow the same steps as for translators above. We grant authorization to anyone who wants. 


It is not a joke, though. For over 20 years, the Bulgarian MFA has generously been granting "authorization" of this frivolous type to thousands of private translation companies by signing with each of the candidates a contract for provision of translation services without a public procurement procedure. The contracts have been signed on the grounds of Art. 2a, para. 2 of the so-called Rules on Legalisation, Certification and Translation of Documents and Other Papers 1958, last modified in 1990. Now, when I am writing this, the MFA has signed 653 such contracts with 653 private translation companies, most of which of the one-man-show type. They are listed on the foreign ministry website (in Bulgarian):


The company I work for had also been in such unlawful contractual relations with the ministry from 1994 to end of 2012. My boss is a translator, very highly qualified and very experienced: Sofia University graduate, Slavic Languages Dept, Serbian and Croatian languages, over 4,000,000 words translation and hundreds of hours interpreting, including at court.


Of these Rules, the Ombudsman of Bulgaria wrote in May 2013:

"It is inadmissible that matters of great significance, such as the control over quality of certified translations of public documents, which commonly guarantee essential legal and proprietary rights, should be regulated by a normative act non-compliant with the Hague Convention [abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents]."


Link to the scanned letter from the Ombudsman of Bulgaria to a fellow Bulgarian translator, where the above citation can be found (in Bulgarian):


Of these Rules, a prosecutor from the Supreme Administrative Prosecutor's Office of Bulgaria wrote in September 2013 to my boss:


„There is no legal requirement for the MFA to announce a tender before signing the contracts under Art. 2a, para. 2 of the Rules on Legalisation, Certification and Translation of Documents and Other Papers" (in Bulgarian)


A month before, however, the Committee on Petitions had taken a contrary stance on the public procurement aspects. The Committee made it clear that a contract between a ministry and a private company may only be signed after carrying out a tender: (in English)


Of these Rules, a Bulgarian lawyer, Mr Milen Hristov, wrote in October 2013: "One of the most shocking facts is that this Regulation [the Rules, my note] is obsolete as it was last amended in 1990 i.e. 11 years before Bulgaria actually adopted the Apostille Convention." In a few emails exchanged between us afterwards (I contacted him to express my respect), the lawyer described foreign companies' tribulations involved in a number of nonsensical court cases turning around the Rules in a really vicious circle and bringing much embitterment and disappointment to prospect foreign investors, not to mention expenses incurred or time wasted.


Bulgaria Breaches the Apostille Convention by M. Hristov: (in English)


Of these Rules, the head of Consular Relations Dept at the Bulgarian MFA wrote in a letter to the Bulgarian Council of Ministers in November 2013:


 "the Rules do not comply with the present-day legal requirements and contradict the legislation in force". The Rules, the letter continued, "are not issued to implement a law or a decree* and, therefore any possible changes or additions would appear at the moment legally and practically groundless." (in Bulgarian)


*NOT issued to implement a law or a decree, Cf art. 7 (1), Bulgarian Normative Acts Law:

Article 7 (1) Rules shall be issued to implement laws or decrees in their entirety, for organization of Government and local bodies or for by-laws governing their activities."



Clearly, the Rules are sort of a legal freak. Non-existent in the legal sense, non-compliant with modern legislation - Bulgaria's, EU's, and international, and yet there is no way to get rid of them "at the moment", as the head of Consular Relations put it. Sad, but true.


This sad admission made, and a full stop duly placed, the head of the Consular Relations Dept at the Bulgarian MFA tuned the tone of his letter to a more optimistic melody. "We are going to make a new act. Actually, it is already in the making". Yes, it has been in the making for more than a dozen of years, I should agree, since around the year of 2000.


Unfortunately, there has always been something to thwart the best intentions of the Ministry. The internet keeps memories of the MFA's multiple promises and failures to keep their word. 

Meanwhile, the Rules have been infiltrating modern Bulgarian legislation. Today they are virtually omnipresent. There is hardly an act, or decree, or whatever, that will not say "The translation must be done pursuant to the Rules", including the Public Procurement Act, which says, "An official translation is a translation done by a translator who has signed a contract with the MFA for doing official translations". A translator, right? Mission impossible, unless the translator has their own company!


Why must a translator register a company? Because the Rules postulate: "The ministry may assign the translations [it does] through a contract to state, public, cooperative and private companies." (the notorious Art. 2, para. 2!) Translators who do not have a company are automatically thrown out of the free competition (this is contrary to the Constitution; The Rules keep provisions from the times of the Old Constitution, the Communist one.)   


The Rules on legalization, etc. (in Bulgarian):

"Art. 2a, para 1. All translations of documents and other papers in Bulgaria are done by the MFA. All translations of documents and other papers abroad are done by the Bulgarian diplomatic and consular officials." This paragraph is contrary to the Constitution of Bulgaria as well.


A sample contract for doing official translations between the MFA of Bulgaria and a company (in Bulgarian):

"Art 1. The ministry assigns and the company accepts to do official translations of documents (public acts) and other papers from and into foreign languages"


All this is more than ridiculous; it is grotesque. Over a year has it taken the Bulgarian MFA to admit that there is a problem with the Rules. So far, however, it has not admitted yet that there is a problem with the contracts signed on the grounds of the said Rules without a public procurement procedure (tender). Nor has the ministry shown even the least intention to terminate those contracts in a foreseeable future.


The translation company I work for was invited to renew its contract at the end of 2012. My boss refused to do so. Since December 2012 he has been asking the Foreign Ministry to do away with the practice of signing such contracts and since the same time he has been imploring the Prosecutor's Office to exercise its supervising functions. To no purpose so far.


Meanwhile other translators and I have been writing to various authorities, such as the Ombudsman of Bulgaria, the Commission for Protection of Competition, the Union of Translators in Bulgaria and others. They have all acknowledged that there is a problem and consequently fallen into inexplicable silence.  


A link to my boss's official correspondence (in Bulgarian):

A key letter of his to the present Bulgaria's foreign minister (in Bulgarian) (sent in June 2013, the MFA has not replied yet)

"Please, immediately stop signing contracts under Art.2a, para. 2 of the Rules" "For 6 months I have been suffering tolerable material and intolerable moral damages"


A link to my official correspondence (in Bulgarian):

A key letter of mine to the Commission for Protection of Competition (in Bulgarian) (sent in August 2013, not replied yet)

"The Rules prevent free competition between Bulgarian translators and Bulgarian translation companies"  "A contract of this kind gives a company the power to certify the signatures of freelance translators in violation of the Bulgarian Law on Notaries and Notarial Acts"


Perhaps one of the most heinous aspects of these Rules is that Bulgarian diplomatic and consular officials use them as justification to certify the signatures of sworn translators in EU countries, such as Romania, France, Germany and others in violation of the local laws.


In short, I and other translators have contacted a number of national authorities/bodies since July 2012, such as: the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council of Ministers, the Parliament, the Supreme Administrative Prosecutor's Office, the Union of Translators in Bulgaria, the Commission for Protection of Competition, the Presidency, as well as a few Bulgarian Embassies and Consulates in the EU and Canada. I have also been campaigning since June 2013. The positive results from all actions taken are listed here: (in Bulgarian)


My question is:

How could possibly the Bulgarian authorities/bodies, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria in particular, be persuaded that it is a normal EU practice to authorize individual translators for doing certified translations?


Or, to make it clear, my question is, how could possibly they be made to stop using those preposterous Rules 1958, last modified 1990 (23 years ago), to terminate the contracts with companies signed under Art. 2a, para.2 of them without a public procurement procedure, to remove the register of falsely authorized translation companies ("authorised" by signing a contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for doing official translations from and into all foreign languages under Art. 2a, para.2 of the Rules without a public procurement procedure)? That should have been done a lot of years ago. No further delay, please. No more hollow promises, please. Now is the time!


Thank you in advance,



Reneta (Rennie) Todorova Stoyanova

My blog, dedicated to Bulgarian translators' problems:




My email:
My mobile phone: +359 888 60 90 72
My stationary phone: +359 52 988 600







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This page contains a single entry by Rennie Stoyanova published on March 2, 2014 1:33 AM.

До КЗК - напомням, че очаквам отговор от над 6 месеца и любезно ги каня на дискусии за свободната конкуренция, 26.02.2014 was the previous entry in this blog.

From Your Europe Advice, 2 March 2014 is the next entry in this blog.

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