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Bulgaria/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.3 Cultural heritage

The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (1991) stipulates the commitment of the state to be responsible for the national cultural and historic heritage preservation. It stipulates that the natural and archaeological reserves defined by law are exclusively owned by the state and guarantees the natural and irrevocable right to access to cultural heritage without discriminative restrictions of any ethnic-cultural and religious nature. The legislative framework of the "cultural and historic heritage" sector was defined by two main pieces of legislation. The state cultural policy's main principles are fixed in the Protection and Development of Culture Act (1999), which is a common legal Act for the entire field of culture. The new Cultural Heritage Act, adopted by the Parliament on 26.02.2009 replaces one of the most outdated operative regulations in the country: the Law of Cultural Monuments and Museums (since 1969). The Culture Heritage Act defines the main scope of cultural heritage (thus replacing the outdated concepts of "cultural monuments" and "cultural and historic heritage") and the main areas of its preservation and protection. The law introduces new categories of cultural heritage: "tangible and intangible, moveable and immoveable, as bearers of historic memory, national identity and which have a scientific or cultural value" (art. 2). The scope of cultural heritage has been enlarged to include intangible heritage, industrial heritage, underwater heritage, audiovisual heritage, landscapes etc., specified in art. 6. It defines cultural values and stipulates equality of access, decentralisation and transparency of management, and protection of cultural heritage (art. 2 & 3). It introduces the national system of protection and preservation of cultural heritage and the different levels of management.

This law was urgent because of the outdated conceptual and statutory system of cultural heritage management in Bulgaria, but its adoption was accelerated also because of the increasing number of archaeological discoveries on the territory of Bulgaria where a large number of cultural values of the Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and other civilisations are situated. The previous Law (1969) gave only the state the right to protect, preserve and promote them. Changes in the social and economic environment demanded that private companies could also participate in these activities. The new law allows the creation of private museums and collections, as well as providing cultural monuments under concession. The law provides for severe penalties for the treasure hunters and smugglers of antiquities (i.e. those who illegally excavate, remove and traffic cultural and historic treasures): up to ten year jail sentences and very high fines. (In recent years this has become a real menace for historical heritage due to the destruction and plundering of thousands of archaeological sites).

Many specialists are of the opinion that the new law on its own would not be able to solve the problems of protecting cultural heritage in Bulgaria. They call for serious reforms of the state and local authority institutions responsible for cultural heritage, which are currently spread under different ministries, the Bulgarian Academy of Science and the municipalities. Legal penalties and the activities of the National Inspectorate based at the Ministry of Culture would not be sufficient if not backed up by specialised police units and adequate penalty actions by the courts.

The Law introduces the EU Council Regulation No°3911/92 regarding the export of cultural valuables. A new chapter has been created on the "Export and temporary export of movable cultural values". The rules for granting export permission are defined as such: while the export of movable cultural monuments which are of national value is not allowed, except temporarily, with the permission of the Minister of Culture and in a thoroughly limited number of cases. The reproduction of cultural monuments in copies is regulated, and the definition of "exact copies" and "copies for educational, representative or commercial use" is given. An Inspectorate for movable cultural heritage is established in order to build a united information system for the management of cultural values together with the Ministry of Interior and the National Customs Agency.

The law also introduces in a coherent way the state's responsibilities under the international conventions in the field of cultural heritage to which Bulgaria is a party.

The regulation of an integrated digital information system in the field of country governance is provided for by Decree No. 36 of 14 February 2001 of the Council of Ministers.

In the field of cultural heritage preservation, although no comprehensive programme exists for establishing interactive information awareness, there are certain developments both in the legislation and in the sphere of practice, namely:

  • digital information system of the archaeological heritage has been set up. Ordinance No. 26 of 10th April 1996 on the Development, Usage and Management of the automated information system "Archaeological Map of Bulgaria", settles the development, management and usage of the automated information system "Archaeological Map of Bulgaria" (AIS "AMB");
  • digitalisation of the National Scientific-documentary Archive of the immovable monuments of culture is provided for by Ordinance No. 5 of 14th May 1998 which stipulates the procedure for announcement of the sites of the immovable cultural-historical heritage as monuments of culture, and for archiving the documentation on them; and
  • the digital entries of the cadastre plans and maps (also containing data about the monuments of culture and their protected areas), of the town-planning schemes and the soil-categories maps, are the subject of Ordinance No. 5 of 10th May 1999, issued by the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works. The digitalisation of these documents is of substantial importance to their preservation in that its structural connection with the territorial development plans of population centres is a significant component of the integrated conservation of immovable monuments.

Chapter published: 20-01-2011

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