Bulgaria's Ruling Majority Limits Access to Business Registry

Politics » DOMESTIC | April 14, 2011, Thursday // 13:12
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Ruling Majority Limits Access to Business Registry File photo

The currently unrestricted public access to the Business (Trade) Registry of Bulgaria's Registry Agency will be limited and paid as of the beginning of 2012.

This is envisaged by amendments to the Trade Registry Law, which parliament conclusively adopted on Thursday in a highly controversial move with the votes of the MPs from the ruling party GERB and their allies from the nationalist party Ataka.

„What we do does not spell the closure of the Trade Registry. We want to make the access to the files traceable. We believe this measure is balanced and temporary," Deputy Justice Minister Zhaneta Petrov said from the parliamentary rostrum.

There are two types of business databases in Bulgaria - one contains general company data and the second stores contracts, protocols, shareholders' decisions, etc. While the former will remain open to the public, the latter will be restricted, under the adopted amendments.

Information pertaining to business and company cases will be accessible only at the very Registry Agency after producing a request in writing and an ID card. Bulgarians, who want online access to the full information of a company, will be able to do so only after obtaining a digital certificate, issued by the agency, or an e-signature.

It is still unclear how much the certificate will cost. The price for getting an e-signature is BGN 60 for physical persons and BGN 100 for companies.

According to the new amendment, full access will be provided only to the Court, the investigation, personal data operators, lawyers, notaries public, law enforcement officers, legal advisors, and tax agents. Their access would also be monitored and there will be a log of who accessed what information and when.

Opponents have argued that the changes could seriously curtail investigative reporting on the process of privatization and company takeover. Data from the register has been used for journalists' investigative reports and the amendments violate the Constitution where it is written that all Bulgarians have the right to seek, receive and distribute information, they say.

Proponents strike back by saying that the restricted access to companies' case data would be a safeguard against fraud. Currently, all companies in Bulgaria are required to re-register by 31 December 2011.

The author of the proposal, the GERB Member of the Parliament, Emil Radev, explains the move will halt the more and more frequent cases of abuse of personal data.

Radev is a former navy seal from the secret navy unit "Tihina", the unit known as the place of military service for the bosses of the shady, controversial and very powerful Varna-based business group TIM.

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Tags: Agency, GERB, MP, Radev, Emil, restriction, public access, trade register, business, registry, NGO, investigative reports, amendments, Access to Information, Parliamentary Legal Committee, Todor Dimitrov, TIM, Alexander Kashamov, Ataka, trade
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