Legislative Amendments Related to the Lifting of the State of Emergency
In accordance with the Transitional and Final Provisions of the Amending Act to the Health Act (promulgated in The State Gazette, No 44 of 13 May 2020), amendments have been introduced to a series of laws in relation to the lifting of the state of emergency on 13 May 2020 and the overcoming of its consequences.
Longer time limits for debtor protection in enforcement proceedings
No public auctions or entries into possession will be brought against natural persons until 13 July 2020. Within the same time limits, bank accounts of natural persons and health establishments, wages and salaries, and pensions will not be subject to distraint, and no lien on medical facilities and equipment will be allowed. Statements of the movable and immovable assets of debtors who are natural persons will not be drawn either, except in cases of alimonies, damages and wages or salaries due.
Longer penalty-free periods for arrears under certain contracts and agreements
In the event of payments overdue by private law entities under loan agreements and other financing arrangements provided by financial institutions (except for bank subsidiaries), including the cases of accounts receivable acquired by banks, financial institutions or third parties, no penalty interest or other charges may be imposed, the debt may nor become recallable earlier and agreements may not be cancelled on grounds of default until 13 July 2020.
Seven-day stay of the time limits applicable until 13 May 2020 as from the promulgation date of the law
The time limits which were stayed under the state of emergency (13 March 2020 – 13 May 2020) will be resumed seven days after the promulgation of the Amending Act to the Health Act in The State Gazette, i.e. 21 May 2020.
Longer duration of the rent reduction for state-owned or municipal properties
Ministers, regional governors and heads of other government institutions letting state-owned properties for rent or use, or municipal councils letting municipal properties for rent or use may decide or order respectively, before 13 July 2020, a reduction of the rent or use fee or exemption from payment, wholly or in part, of the natural persons or legal entities that are tenants or users who restricted or discontinued their operations on the property as a result of the lockdown under the state of emergency.
Tenants or users will be required to produce financial and other docuents to prove the restriction or discontinuation as a result of the lockdown during the state of emergency.
The provisions of the Public Procurement Act will not apply to the purchase of sanitary materials, disinfectants, medical devices, personal protection kits, medical and laboratory equipment and others until 13 July 2020.
Longer protection period for Bulgarian food producers
The Council of Ministers may issue acts on the introduction of provisional measures to protect the production of food within the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, the trade in such food and its placement on the market in retail chains until 31 December 2020.
Export of pharmaceutical products
The time limit for the Minister of Health to order a ban on the export of pharmaceutical products is extended until 13 July 2020.
Wartime reserve stock
Until 13 July 2020, the wartime reserve stock may be released at a decision of the Council of Ministers or an authority duly authorized by the Council of Ministers to allow the State Agency for the State Reserve and Wartime Reserve Stock to sell or distribute stock to meet the needs of the national economy and the population.
Resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds
After the lifting of the state of emergency, the managing authorities of the European structural and investment funds will continue to be entitled to:
- amend grant agreements unilaterally;
- allocate grants under simplified rules, including the option not to publish a call for proposals;
- increase the total commitments for operations above the ceiling approved by the Monitoring Committee for the schemes with eligible measures.
The head of the managing authority may issue a decision with reasons to terminate a grant allocation procedure with a view to providing funding in accordance with the need for measures and for overcoming the consequences.
The time limits within which travel agents have to reimburse the amounts paid for tourist trips cancelled due to the lockdown are extended to 12 months as from the date of lifting of the state of emergency. These amounts are subject to reimbursement provided that the tourists have refused to receive vouchers instead.
Over a two-year period after the lifting of the state of emergency, the Ministry of Tourism will provide travel agents that use air carriers holding a Bulgarian operating license for tourist charter flights to the Republic of Bulgaria with a state subsidy of EUR 35 per seat. The subsidy will be granted for each seat occupied by a tourist service user in the Republic of Bulgaria only on flights with capacity of at least 100 passengers.
Travel agents that use the services of air carriers holding an operating license issued in another country will also be eligible for the subsidy provided that the travel agent proves the absence of interest in the relevant flight on part of air carriers holding a Bulgarian operating license.
There is an option for reducing concession fees.
During the 2020 summer season, concessionaires under concession agreements and tenants under rental agreements for seaside beaches will offer beach accessories to visitors at prices that are reduced by at least 50 % of the 2019 seasonal prices or the maximum rates under the relevant agreement.
Concessionaires or tenants have to notify the Minister of Tourism of the 2020 seasonal prices of beach accessories before 25 May 2020. The Minister of Tourism will notify the relevant concessionaire or tenant of the reduction in the amount of the 2020 concession fee or rental price respectively by 30 May 2020. The fee will be payable before 30 November 2020. Where the fee or price has already been paid wholly or in part, the reduction will be deducted from the 2021 concession fee or rental price respectively.
Concessions or rental arrangements may be renewed beyond the statutory duration by type of agreement.
Concessionaires or tenants failing to fulfill their obligations to reduce the prices during the 2020 summer season may be imposed a penality of BGN 50 000 for a first violation and BGN 100 000 for a repeated violation.
Concessionaires may propose deferral, reduction or rescheduling of any or all investments due to be made in 2020 and 2021 or to propose new investments accordingly. The central or local government authority granting the concession may accept or reject the proposal by giving the reasons thereof.
Excise taxes and tax warehouses
The statutory requirements to tax warehouses have been amended. In accordance with the amendments, a facility is not eligible to serve as a tax warehouse if it includes:
- a petroleum product pipeline and more than one facility for warehousing and/or production of energy products;
- a crude oil pipeline and a petroleum product pipeline with more than one facility for warehousing and/or production of energy products connected/joined to them.
Where the petroleum product pipeline is located within the area of more than one customs office, a separate tax warehouse management license is issued for the pipeline. The pumping facilities needed for the operation of the petroleum product pipeline are considered to belong to the tax warehouse.
Where the petroleum product pipeline crosses the area of more than one customs office, the storage facilities connected to it are considered to be separate tax warehouses.
Warehouse holders have to notify the changes of existing licenses and the issuance of separate licenses for the facilities decoupled from the tax warehouse before 13 June 2020. Failing that, the law provides for withdrawal of the license.
Interest-free loans to municipalities
Until the end of 2020, the Minister of Finance may give interest-free loans to municipalities from the central government budget on the basis of requests by mayors and decisions of municipal councils with the reasons attached thereof. The repayment period may not go beyond the end of 2021.
Ban on works
In 2020, the ban on construction and repair works in the national Black Sea resorts covers the period from 15 June to 1 October.
The unpaid leave of up to 60 working days, which is used in 2020, will be included in the calculation of the length of service.
In 2020, the unpaid leave of up to 60 working days will be recognized in the length of service for social security purposes.
The Amending Act to the Health Act entered into force on 14 May 2020, except for the provisions concerning the amendments to the Excise Taxes and Tax Warehouses Act, which entered into force on the date of promulgation in The State Gazette.