On 4 December 2020, the Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents celebrated 15 years since its creation and since the date on which private enforcement was introduced in the country.
The anniversary was marked by an online international expert conference attended by the President of the International Union of Judicial Officers (UIHJ), Marc Schmitz, the Union’s First Vice-President, Mathieu Chardon, the UIHJ Secretary, Jos Uitdehaag, and the General Secretary of the European Union of Judicial Officers, Dovile Satkauskiene. The expert forum was attended also by the Minister of Justice, Desislava Ahladova, representatives of the executive and the judiciary, judges, and enforcement agents from Bulgaria and nine European countries (Belgium, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, Moldova, Portugal, Romania).
The Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents chose to focus the conference on crisis-relief measures to support debtors and creditors. The main topics discussed by the participants in the forum included protection of the parties in enforcement proceedings during a pandemic, amicable debt recovery, electronic auctions, and statement of fact.
“Thanks to its professionalism and commitment, the Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents has proven itself to be a valuable partner for the Government by contributing to improving enforcement”, stated the Minister of Justice, Ms. Desislava Ahladova, in her opening speech.
Marc Schmitz awarded the gold medal of the UIHJ to the President of the Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents, Mr. Georgi Dichev, and thanked his Bulgarian colleagues for their unfailing support and their fruitful cooperation with the UIHJ over the years. “The judicial officer is the perfect actor to ensure a proper balance between the rights of the creditor and the rights of the debtor and one of the emblematic figures of legal certainty. Social and economic developments in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis will require a different approach to enforcement systems and debt collection. To achieve this, instruments such as mediation and extra-judicial debt recovery will certainly be preferred”, said Marc Schmitz at the opening of the forum.
The President of the Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents, Georgi Dichev, emphasized that over the past 15 years private enforcement in Bulgaria was and continues to be the instrument preferred by creditors in order to protect their judicially recognized rights. He stated that since its creation the organization has collected a total of 6.14 billion euro. Mr. Dichev went on to say that “614 million euro were contributed to the national budget, without the state having to spend a penny“. The Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents collects public receivables – in roughly 30 % of the cases the creditors are public authorities, municipalities, and courts. The profession has been instrumental in speeding up court proceedings as since 2007 private enforcement agents have been authorized to serve notices and subpoenas on civil cases, and since 2017 – all extrajudicial papers. Furthermore, based on a proposal from the Bulgarian Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents, Parliament introduced electronic auctions, which will start functioning in 2021.
“During the difficult 2020 private enforcement agents were the first to propose a suspension of a number of enforcement activities. The restrictions on public auctions, inventories, and freezing of bank accounts lasted for the duration of the state of emergency and two months after it. For this period the Chamber insisted on a solution to the problem of small debts and their growth during court proceedings and supported the introduction of amicable deferred out-of-court settlements. Furthermore, the Chamber supported the proposal to introduce a prescription period of 10 years in respect of debts of natural persons in order to prevent people from becoming debtors for life“, Georgi Dichev summarized.
On the occasion of its anniversary, the Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents is establishing a fund in support of law students which will be financed by the organization and by donations from its members. The collected funds will be used to help students from all over the country. The first initiative of the fund is an essay competition on: “Enforcement – present and future“. The top three participants will receive cash prizes.
In order to raise awareness about enforcement among university students, the Chamber has launched an internship program providing an opportunity for paid internships in private enforcement offices.
The Private Enforcement Agents Act was adopted in 2005. It set the foundation for institutional reform of the enforcement system by introducing private enforcement similar to that which is in place in most European countries. Currently, a total of 195 private enforcement companies are functioning throughout the country employing over 2000 people.