Upcoming Amendments in the Law on Access to Public InformationThe Parliament plans to make amendments in the Law on Access to Public Information in order to adapt it to the norms of the Directive 2013/37/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 26 June 2013 on the re-use of public sector information.

The Directive is built around two key pillars of the internal market: transparency and fair competition. It encourages Member States to make available as much information for re-use as possible. It addresses to the material held by public sector bodies in the Member States at national, regional and local level (such as ministries, state agencies, municipalities and organizations funded by or under the control of public authorities). That generally is all the information that the public bodies produce, collect or pay for. Examples of such data are: geographical information, statistics, meteorological data, data from publicly funded research projects, and digitized books owned by the libraries. The information includes written texts, databases, audio files and film fragments. The Directive 2013/37/EC does not apply to educational, scientific, cultural and broadcasting sectors.

The Directive’s purposes particularly are:
- the use of existing data to create new products and services;
- achieving efficiency in the public sector through sharing data between organizations;
- encouraging participation of citizens in political and social life and increasing transparency of the governments.
In Bulgaria, the public relations concerning the right of access to public information and the right of re-use of public sector information are governed by the existing from 2000 Law on Access to Public Information and its subsequent amendments. With the changes concerning the re-use of information the law focuses on the information use in the public sector and its use for commercial or non-commercial purposes different from the initial purpose for which it has been created within the public sector’s body authority or functions. Sometimes this information has an external origin and it is collected and produced in connection with the specific activity of the administrative unit. In other cases the information is created by functionaries in the organization but what is characteristic for this type of information is that it is related to specific "public" activity of the administrative unit and not to internal management, control and work organization.

In response to the requirements of the Directive 2013/37/EC the draft law submitted to the Parliament on 29.04. 2015 provides:
- setting a fee limit for information re-use which doesn’t exceed the material costs for its reproduction and provision;
- legal possibility for free information re-use at the discretion of the public sector’s organization;
- extending the scope in order to include certain cultural institutions such as libraries (including university libraries), museums and archives. For these institutions some specific rules are being introduced that differ from those applicable to other subjects, including the pricing;
- gradual conversion of the existing data from their original format in machine-readable format and concerning the information created after 1 October 2015 to be maintained directly in electronic form;
- possibility at the applicant’s request for digital access to public information;
- possibility of restrictions for re-use of information for commercial purposes and in ways that would lead to unfair competition of information representing commercial or industrial secrets when there is an overriding public interest;
- exclusion from the scope of the information for re-use of classified information leading to unacceptable treatment of personal data, of commercial, manufacturing, statistical confidential data and any information whose access according to specific laws requires a particular legal interest (quality) of the subject. The transported Directive itself expressly excludes (for re-use) from its scope "in cases in which citizens or companies have to prove a particular interest in order to access to documents."

The upcoming discussion and adoption of the law amendments is in accordance with the European Commission’s recommendations to the Member States on the Directive’s transportation in the national laws within two years after its adoption in order to ensure digitization and easier re-use of public information by citizens and increased transparency in the organizations’ activities.

Sabina Popova

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