Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1990

The ouster of long-term leader Todor Zhivkov at the end of
1989 brought profound political change to Bulgaria. Within a
few months the ruling Bulgarian Communist party had renounced
one-party rule, formally repudiated the forced assimilation
campaign against the ethnic Turkish and Pomak (Bulgarian
Muslim) minorities, and permitted the formation of rival
political organizations. Changing its name to the Bulgarian
Socialist Party (BSP), the ruling party agreed to roundtable
talks with political opposition forces which established the
basis for political and economic reforms. The BSP won
parliamentary elections in June 1990 with a small majority of
seats. The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) , a coalition of
opposition political groups, won over one-third of the seats,
and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which
represents the Muslim population, won the third largest
block. International observers pronounced the elections free,
but many agreed with opposition claims that intimidation by
Socialists was a factor in their victory. After the
elections. Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov formed an all-BSP
government. In August UDF Chairman Zhelyu Zhelev was elected
President to succeed Petur Mladenov, who had taken over from
The Ministry of the Interior supervises the militia (police),
state security forces, internal security troops, border
guards, and special purpose forces. Early parliamentary
reforms addressed conversion of the Ministry of the Interior
into a legitimate police and security service, removing the
intelligence service from the control of the Ministry and
placing it under the President. Militia forces were
drastically reduced. The Government said it had abolished the
Ministry's notorious sixth department, responsible for
monitoring the political and social activities of Bulgarian
citizens. There are allegations, however, that correspondence
and telephone conversations of opposition activists continue
to be monitored. Police units have committed no known abuses,
but they and other Ministry units failed to react in time when
demonstrators in August got out of control and burned BSP
headquarters in Sofia.
The deepening economic crisis delayed some attempts at overall
reform. Mid-1990 economic statistics publicly confirmed a
large foreign debt, decreased productivity, decreased capital
investment, unfulfilled contracts with trading partners,
increased outlays for social security and salaries, high
unemployment, and inflation. Persian Gulf events magnified
Bulgaria's economic problems, as did the prospect of
conducting Bulgarian-Soviet bilateral trade in hard currency
terms in 1991.
There was significant progress in human rights, particularly
with respect to freedom of speech, press, assembly,
association, religion, and travel. Progress was more marked
in urban areas; in the provinces, there continued to be some
obstruction to freedom of speech, press, and assembly, among
others. Much progress was made in reversing the previous
policy of forcibly assimilating ethnic Turks and Bulgarian
Muslims, but they continued to experience some societal
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom From:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of such killings in 1990.
      b. Disappearance
No instances of disappearance were known to have occurred.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
There were no reports of torture or other cruel treatment.
Several human rights organizations, which were allowed access
to Bulgarian prisons in 1990, reported that conditions were
stark and difficult but did not threaten life or general
health. The Government in 1990 took steps to eliminate some
of the more severe aspects of prison life. Hard labor
reportedly no longer exists as a form of punishment. In the
wake of revelations of "death camps" at Belene and elsewhere,
the Government closed its most notorious facility, the Belene
Island prison, and either amnestied or transferred the
prisoners. Until early 1990, there had been credible reports
of improper sanitary facilities, no heat, and grueling work
and punishment routines for prisoners there. The President
exercised his considerable constitutional authority to pardon
dozens of prisoners.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Early in 1990, the Government and the legislature (Grand
National Assembly or GNA) began the process of bringing the
penal code into line with accepted international norms. The
new constitution and penal code are expected to be completed
by the GNA in 1991. New procedures for detention and access
to an attorney were implemented, but there is as yet no
judicial review of detention. Bail does exist. Cases of
arbitrary arrest and detention have decreased or possibly
disappeared altogether. Summary exile, house arrest, internal
exile, and incommunicado detention no longer exist as lawful
forms of punishment and were not imposed. Ousted Bulgarian
Communist Party leader Todor Zhivkov and two of his
associates, however, have been held under house arrest (in
lieu of being imprisoned) for 10 months pending trial. They
have had access to counsel during this period.
Podkrepa trade union Chief Dr. Konstantin Trenchev was briefly
placed under "city arrest" after being charged with incitement
in connection with the fire that partially destroyed BSP
headqiaarters in August. The "city arrest" provisions
restricted Trenchev 's international travel while his case was
under investigation; however, the President intervened and
persuaded the authorities to waive the restriction and permit
Trenchev to travel. Opposition groups allege the fire may
have been set by the BSP and that charges were brought in
order to intimidate Trenchev. The investigation of the blaze
has been inconclusive thus far.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Bulgarian law and general practice provide for public trial in
criminal cases. Persons suspected of criminal offenses are now
entitled to counsel as soon as a formal investigation begins.
Closed trials may be held in cases involving state security or
to preserve state secrets. Separate military courts and a
special military section of the Supreme Court exist for cases
involving military personnel and Interior Ministry personnel.
There has been no major reform of these judicial bodies.
A number of blatantly unfair judicial decisions, some
involving criminal trials, were reversed in 1990. The Supreme
Court thereby put lower courts on notice that judicial
decisions could not be crafted in a way that ignored or
distorted the relevant laws. Most political prisoners were
amnestied, but their convictions or arrest records remained in
court registers. Podkrepa Chairman Trenchev, Chairman Nikolay
Kolev of the Independent Society for the Defense of Human
Rights, and several other activists sued to have the records
of their cases expunged, but they are still awaiting a
response from the court.
The Independent Society, as well as international bodies, such
as Amnesty International (AI), maintain lists of political
prisoners in Bulgaria. Although the Government claims to have
amnestied all prisoners held on purely political grounds early
in 1990, the Independent Society, as well as AI , claim that
some people remain in Bulgarian prisons for political acts.
In most of these cases, which reportedly number less than 50,
they allege that the prisoners are held on false charges, such
as commission of terrorist acts and common criminal offenses,
only as a means of punishing them for their political acts and
Among those alleged to have been wrongfully convicted and
still being held are ethnic Turks and Muslims convicted of
penal offenses such as weapons charges or terrorism. There
were no reports of such sentences in 1990.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
Sanctity of the home is nominally safeguarded by law, and
police may not legally search property without prior
permission from a court or prosecutor. Several political
activists reported in early 1990 that their homes were still
being entered illegally and that the Government monitors
private correspondence and telephone conversations, as was
common before 1990. Citizens report that now, unlike in the
past, they can generally receive correspondence from Turkey
provided that the letters are not addressed in the Turkish
language or alphabet.
Membership in the Fatherland Front, now Fatherland Union, a
mass organization controlled by the former Bulgarian Communist
Party, is no longer mandatory, and compulsory Marxism-Leninism
courses in schools and universities have been either abolished
or made elective.
As the right to privacy is gradually implemented, the number
of government informers has reportedly been greatly reduced.
The authorities no longer interfere with religious
instruction. President Zhelev abolished the strict residency
decrees which gave the Ministry of the Interior the power to
determine who was permitted to live in Sofia and other major
cities. Forced resettlement and internal exile have been
abolished as forms of punishment.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
One of the most significant human rights achievements in 1990
was the lifting of most restrictions on freedom of speech and
press. Persons were generally free to speak out on political
and other issues and to criticize the Government and its
officials openly without official reprisal.
A genuine opposition press developed in 1990. Among the many
political parties and movements that obtained permission to
publish newspapers were the Union of Democratic Forces, the
Radical Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, the
Green Party, Ecoglasnost, and other groups. All were able to
operate without government interference or censorship and
without improper pressure. The Chief Mufti in Bulgaria was
also permitted to publish the first and so far only issue of a
bimonthly newspaper, partly in Turkish. However, the MRF was
unable to publish a periodical because the Government had not
yet allocated any newsprint to it.
The newsprint issue was a major cause for debate and protest.
Many political organizations received both permission to
publish and allocations of newsprint. Because of the
Govenment ' s control over newsprint, it exercised de facto
control of the press. It claimed that it could not procure
sufficient supplies from the Soviet Union without hard
currency, but circulation of BSP-controlled papers was not
significantly decreased in the face of growing demand from new
publications. Independent purchasers can acquire newsprint
privately if they have hard currency.
Bulgarian Radio and Television, which had initiated steps
toward independence in late 1989, were placed under the
supervision of the GNA in 1990 and, for the first time,
provided a generally impartial and balanced account of news
events. Although still a state monopoly, television and radio
allocated regularly scheduled air time to three political
parties during the election campaign. Throughout the year,
supporters of both the BSP and the political opposition
protested that the television's management was biased in favor
of their opponents. The chairman of Bulgarian television was
forced to resign as a result of opposition protests and
student strikes. Radio and Television workers supported the
November general strike which brought down the Socialist
No fully independent book publisher yet exists. The Kyril and
Methodius Foundation and other presses have taken some steps
toward publication of new Western books and previously
forbidden works. Academic presses are gradually becoming more
autonomous. Similarly, academic freedom is increasing. The
faculties of Bulgarian universities, however, are still
largely politicized although many faculty members supported
the strikes which brought down the Government.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly and association flourished in 1990. While
some fear, intimidation, and inhibition still reportedly exist
in provincial areas, numerous marches, mass meetings, and
demonstrations occurred throughout the year in both large and
small cities. Many took place during the June election
campaign. Despite widespread reports that local government
officials discriminated against opposition groups in granting
permission for rallies as well as the use of public halls,
these groups held many public rallies without complying with
the new law on assembly and without interference from the
A new law on associations provided for legal registration of
independent groups as juridical bodies. Hundreds of political
and social organizations took advantage of the new law and
registered in the courts. Many of them, such as the
Independent Society for the Defense of Human Rights, the
independent trade union Podkrepa, and various political
parties, were quick to establish contacts and affiliation with
international and foreign counterparts without government
interference. Some groups, however, found the road to
official acceptance difficult, if not impossible. In the case
of the MRF, registration was delayed for several critical
weeks before the June election as court and government
officials debated whether to allow an organization representing
an ethnic and religious minority to be registered. The
Constitution and the new law on associations, as approved in
roundtable talks with the UDF and the Bulgarian National
Agrarian Union, forbids registration of groups with a religious
or ethnic profile. Although the overwhelming majority of
members in the MRF are Muslims, both ethnically Bulgarian and
Turkish, its charter carefully avoids religious and ethnic
definition. Ultimately, the organization was registered and
allowed to put up candidates for GNA seats. Its application of
its deputies to operate as a parliamentary group was debated
intensely in the relevant parliamentary commission and
ultimately accepted.
The Ilinden Association, a Macedonian rights group, was
unsuccessful in its application for registration. The courts
deemed it to be an ethnic group with separatist objectives
which is prohibited under the Constitution. The association
has lost its appeal of the trial court's decision.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Bulgaria's Constitution and laws provide for freedom of
religion, but under the totalitarian system this freedom was a
sham. The Communist (later Socialist) government made
substantial efforts before the elections to remove many old
barriers to religious worship. The Patriarch of the Bulgarian
Orthodox Church and the Chief Mufti addressed the nation on
radio and television on religious holy days, and Orthodox
services were broadcast on Easter. The Mufti even spoke in
Arabic in his opening remarks at the time of Ramadan and the
hajj. Also for the first time, Easter services at Sofia's
Nevski Cathedral were opened to the general public. A school
for imams and an institute for the higher study of the Islamic
religion opened in the autumn.
As leader of the Committee for Religious Rights, a constituent
group in the UDF, Father Kristofer Subev, a former political
prisoner active in protesting the Zhivkov regime's domination
of the Orthodox Church, led successful marches and protests to
establish Christmas and Easter as national holidays. SubeV
"Alternative Easter Service," held at the same time as the
Patriarch's service at Nevski Cathedral, drew the largest
crowd for a religious ceremony in Bulgaria since the advent of
the Communist era. Attendance at religious services increased
substantially as security agents no longer accosted worshipers.
Weddings in churches and openly held christenings are now
regular events. Questions not yet addressed include the
return of all property confiscated from the church; voluntary
religious instruction in schools; and the removal from church
leadership positions of those persons tainted by close
association with the totalitarian regime.
The Government has tried to rescind all facets of the previous
regime's campaign to assimilate forcibly the country's Muslims.
Security agents reportedly no longer prevent men from
attending services at mosques. There is no interference with
religious instruction, and several Bulgarian Muslims made the
hajj and traveled to Saudi Arabia for religious education.
The Government has not facilitated the printing of the Koran
in Bulgarian, however, and most mosques suffer from a severe
shortage of printed religious materials in the Bulgarian
The Government has not interfered with the importation of a
large number of Bibles in Bulgarian. Protestant and
Evangelical groups have established foreign contacts to help
import the Bibles. Several Evangelical churches and Bible
centers have been formed and officially registered with the
courts. Two such Protestant groups have been allowed to rent
public halls for services, which they have called meetings in
accordance with the law on public assemblies. An Easter
service by one church filled the Bulgaria Hall, a concert
center which seats more than 1,000 people.
The Roman Catholic community also revived and received a
number of foreign visitors, including a group of archbishops
and bishops from the United States in July. Bulgaria
reestablished diplomatic relations with the Vatican in
December, and the Pope accepted an invitation to visit Bulgaria
in 1991. Overflow services at Sofia's Roman Catholic Church
in 1990 drew a much larger number of local citizens than in
previous years. The Roman Catholic population of approximately
60,000 (evenly divided between the Latin and Uniate rites) is
served by less than 40 priests, or less than one-fifth the
number that existed when the Communists took power.
Bulgaria's small Jewish community of 4,000 to 5,000 people,
which was spared from the holocaust and, for the most part,
emigrated to Israel soon after World War II, was allowed to
establish international contacts. One of the six Jews elected
to the GNA, Solomon Passi, was one of the first to be allowed
to obtain religious education abroad.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
President Zhelev abolished a 1974 decree that restricted
citizens' rights to residency in certain major urban areas.
The decree, combined with registration requirements for
citizens traveling anywhere outside of their registered
domicile within the country, had limited freedom of movement.
Now citizens are free to relocate to other cities or areas.
although in practice this right will be greatly limited by the
severe housing shortage and economic difficulties.
Following the passage in 1989 of new passport, travel, and
citizenship laws, Bulgarian authorities in 1990 issued
passports to tens of thousands of Bulgarian citizens. Many
thousands left Bulgaria, both before and after the elections
to seek work or asylum in the West.
In August the GNA invited all emigres to return to Bulgaria
without fear of persecution or punishment for certain
previously illegal acts, such as political offenses. This
invitation reinforced the citizenship law which guaranteed the
right of return and an amnesty to citizens who had left during
Zhivkov's rule. Stefan Cholakov, a leading dissident who was
expelled in 1988, returned and resettled in 1990. Leading
Radio Free Europe reporter Rumiana Usunova, who had been
vilified in the press and who had received death threats as
recently as November 1989, was asked to return as editor in
chief of the major opposition newspaper. Several emigres
returned and ran for the GNA as UDF candidates.
Bulgarian treatment of asylum seekers has improved. For
example, Romanian and Soviet citizens were allowed to remain
in Bulgaria far beyond the terms of their visas as they
applied for asylum in Bulgaria and elsewhere. In July two
Soviet citizens who had tried unsuccessfully to remain in
Greece were allowed to stay in Sofia as their applications for
asylum in Bulgaria were being adjudicated.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Constitutional amendments passed in 1990 provide citizens the
legal right to change the government, a right they exercized
in the June elections. The voting and counting procedures
employed in these elections were relatively free and fair,
although U.S. observers hedged their full endorsement of the
entire campaign process, noting disparities in the distribution
of resources and some intimidation of voters, especially in
the provinces. In urban areas, citizens were able openly to
support candidates of various parties, hear campaign
advertising on television and radio, read uncensored
opposition newspapers, and attend preelectoral rallies and
meetings. In the provinces, there were reports of unfair
restrictions on the opposition's use of public halls and
squares for political meetings, on the distribution of
opposition newspapers, and on access to local media. In
addition, BSP local officials used their control over
patronage to threaten retaliation against citizens who
supported the opposition.
The elections determined the composition of the 400-seat Grand
National Assembly (GNA) . Two hundred seats were determined in
single-member constituencies on the basis of majority vote,
while the remaining 200 deputies were drawn from party lists
on the basis of proportional representation. The BSP won 211
seats to the UDF ' s 144, the MRF ' s 23, and the Bulgarian
National Agrarian Union's 16. Six seats were won by minor
parties and independents.
The GNA is identified in the Constitution as the primary
lawmaking body. The Council of Ministers, led by a Prime
Minister elected by a majority of the GNA, determines major
policy objectives and is charged with implementing the laws in
accordance with the Constitution. After failing to form a
coalition with the opposition, outgoing Prime Minister Andrey
Lukanov was forced to form an all-BSP government in late
September. Lukanov then resigned on November 29 after his
government was brought down by a general strike demanding his
resignation. The President may also issue decrees, but the
limits of his power as a third branch of government remained
unclear under the amended Zhivkov-era constitution, which
remains in force until a new constitution is adopted.
The GNA in September passed a decree to dissolve existing
local government councils and form new ones that include
representatives of all political forces and will govern until
the first free local elections are held in February 1991.
After the fall of the Lukanov Government, President Zhelev
called for the nev/ constitution to be completed by March 1991
and new parliamentary elections to be held in May 1991.
There are no overt restrictions, in law or in practice, on
women's participation in government or politics, although
their numbers are small and their influence is limited.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Local human rights organizations have become major voices in
the campaign for extending fundamental human rights to all of
Bulgaria's citizens. They include the Independent Society for
the Defense of Human Rights, Citizens Initiative, the Club for
the Repressed Since 1945, and the local chapter of Helsinki
Watch. The Government received visitors from AI , Helsinki
Watch, the International Human Rights Law Group, and similar
organizations. Representatives of these international groups
were free to contact local human rights organizations and to
explore human rights developments. Many prisoners of
conscience whose cases were championed and publicized by AI
and Helsinki Watch are now leading figures in the political
opposition and the GNA.
The Independent Society has been allowed to visit prisons
which house or housed political prisoners and has been allowed
limited access to many people who are still being held in
these facilities. The President's legal/pardons advisor
stated he would personally supervise a review of each of these
cases to insure that those held had been lawfully and fairly
convicted of actual crimes and not subjected to purely
political prosecution.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
While the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on these
criteria, prejudice and discrimination still exist against
Bulgaria's Muslims and Gypsy minorities. Direct
discrimination by the central Government was not documented in
1990, but Muslims and other minorities still suffered from
public discrimination in housing, jobs, education, and health
care. No major instances of violence against minority
citizens were noted in 1990.
Many ethnic Turks, who in 1989 had been forcibly exiled to
Turkey or had emigrated, returned in 1990 to find that in many
cases their homes had been sold or razed without their consent.
Local citizens and even government officials were widely
reported to have taken advantage of the situation and to have
profited personally from expropriations and sales of movable
and immovable property. During the summer of 1990, the central
Government instructed local governments to make every effort
to resettle returning ethnic Turks expeditiously. Many
Muslims, however, continued to be victims of exploitation and
ethnic prejudice which prevented their acquisition of jobs and
housing. Government representatives admitted that workers
councils in various enterprises were sometimes reluctant to
reinstate returning ethnic Turkish workers in their previous
jobs. A 1990 International Labor Organization Conference
Committee examined the situation of 220,000 ethnic Turkish
minority workers. While noting the progress made, the
Committee was not satisfied that the Government had taken
sufficient measures to overcome the discrimination suffered by
this population in terms of job restoration, housing, and
related issues.
Muslims and Gypsies were reportedly offered only the most
inferior housing in many cities. They suffer widely from
exclusion from positions of responsibility, even in farm
collectives and agricultural enterprises. Supervisory jobs
are generally given only to ethnic Bulgarian employees. Male
Muslims and Gypsies are generally given the worst assignments
during their periods of compulsory military service.
Construction troops, which undertake a variety of civilian as
well as military building and maintenance projects, are
largely composed of minority conscripts of ethnic Turkish or
Gypsy descent.
In addition, severe ethnic discrimination has excluded ethnic
Turks and Bulgarian Muslims from higher education. In 1990
reportedly less than 100 of Bulgaria's 100,000 university-level
students were Muslim
Muslims remain dissatisfied with the Bulgarian official
prohibition on circumcision outside of hospitals, although
penalties for these operations and discrimination against
patients who need treatment for postprocedure complications
are reportedly declining. In some cases, hospitals in the
Bulgarian-Turkish border regions and in towns such as Haskovo
and Kurdzali reportedly continue to discriminate against
Muslims in fundamental health care services and discourage
religious rites such as circumcision.
The Government has repeated its commitment of December 1989 to
restoration of fundamental rights to the ethnic Turkish and
Bulgarian Muslim minorities. However, many opposition and
minority activists accuse local governments and BSP offices of
initiating or tolerating nationalist and antiminority protest
in various regions of the country. The Government has defended
its lack of direct action against these protestors, who have
disrupted basic city services in several areas, as deriving
from fear of inciting genuine violence and further ill will
between nationalists and the minority population. When
nationalists in the Razgrad region, however, declared symbolic
independence in protest against the new name change law and
proposals for optional Turkish-language instruction in school,
the Government, led by the President, and all major political
forces immediately and unequivocally condemned this action.
A new law, providing for restoration of names by means of an
administrative procedure, marked a major human rights
milestone, and other advances such as the opening of Islamic
schools and cultural insitutes mark a further departure from
past practices.
Several organizations exist to defend the rights and interests
of women. Many of these are closely linked, in ideology if
not membership itself, with the Socialist Party. Women are
not generally discriminated against in educational and
professional opportunities. Under the Constitution, "every
able-bodied citizen is obliged to do socially useful work,"
and women are expected to hold full-time jobs in addition to
their duties in the home. The Constitution states that men
and women have equal rights. No statistics are available on
violence against women.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Under the Bulgarian Constitution and Labor Code, as amended,
all workers are entitled to form or join unions of their own
choosing without previous authorization. With a large
democratic opposition in Parliament and a President committed
to depoliticizing the country's major political and civic
institutions, many enterprises have made enormous strides in
realizing such rights. Members of the civil service,
including the militia and the diplomatic service, have begun
to organize into trade unions. Podkrepa, the independent
trade union movement, created in 1989, has spread rapidly
through all sectors of the work force and, as of late 1990,
claimed more than 300,000 members. About 55 percent of the
work force of approximately 4 million is unionized, although
most of it is in the trade union formerly integrated with the
Communist Party. Reorganized in 1990 as the Confederation of
Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (KNSB), these unions are
ostensibly independent of the new Socialist Party.
A new labor law, adopted in 1990, permits multiple trade union
structures and imposes few restrictions on bread-and-butter
trade union activities. However, political activities by
trade unionists and officials are restricted by the
prohibition on political activity at the workplace. By
agreement of the BSP, the UDF, and the Agrarians in roundtable
talks, political parties are banned from the workplace. The
BSP removed its organizations from enterprises prior to the
June parliamentary elections.
This new law also recognizes the right to strike when other
means of conflict resolution have been exhausted, but the law
forbids strikes for political purposes. Hundreds of legal and
illegal strikes took place in 1990, especially in the first
half of the year. By year's end, even militiamen and customs
officers, supposedly in "essential services" exempted by law
from the right to strike, had engaged in strikes. Virtually
all workers are protected by dispute resolution mechanisms
such as mediation and arbitration. For the most part, strikes
in 1990 ended in wage increases and other job benefits for the
striking workers. Mine, medical, and transport workers all
won large concessions from the Government.
The Government does not restrict unions from joining
international federations. The KNSB has ended its affiliation
with the Communist-dominated World Federation of Trade
Unions. Podkrepa has contacts with Western trade unions,
including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of
Industrial Organizations.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Bulgaria's labor law does not address antiunion discrimination.
There were charges of interference with organizational efforts
by Podkrepa during the preelection period; however, these may
have been largely motiviated by specific political differences
and have diminished or disappeared as Podkrepa has grown.
Collective bargaining is not enshrined in the labor law. Wages
are determined by a government code. The Minister of Labor,
the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Services, and the Prime
Minister may alter this code. In August wages were indexed to
the cost of living and inflation as a result of a negotiated
agreement with the participation of the KNSB and Podkrepa.
Labor law and practice are the same in the special economic
zones—currently there is a duty-free zone in Ruse, and 3 more
zones are planned—as in the rest of the country.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is not now prohibited by law,
although it reportedly no longer exists as a form of
punishment or sentence.
Through 1989, compulsory labor had been required under state
council decrees that directed the Government to assign labor
where needed under critical circumstances. In 1989 the decree
was implemented to put workers in jobs vacated by ethnic Turks
who fled to Turkey during the mass exodus that summer. The
decree was rescinded at the end of 1989.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
According to the Labor Code, 16 years is the minimum age for
employment. Workers under the age of 18 years may not engage
in heavy, harmful, or dangerous work. Their workweek is also
limited to a maximum of 36 hours. Employers and the Ministry
of Employment and Social Welfare enforce these provisions.
They also enforce the requirement for compulsory education up
to the age of 14.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The legal, maximum workweek for adults is 42.5 hours (5 days
of 8.5 hours each) in most professions and occupations. Paid
vacations are also required by law.
The legal minimum wage since 1988 has been $50 per month at
the current official commercial exchange rate. The average
monthly wage is $100. The minimum wage is not sufficient for
a single wage earner to provide a decent standard of living
for a family. In families with two working spouses, the
average wage provides, at best, a very modest standard of
Bulgaria has a national labor safety program, and the KNSB is
assigned a role in promoting job safety. Podkrepa has also
undertaken to protect workers' safety and promote good working
conditions. No reliable figures are available on industrial
accidents, and, as yet, no specific legal protection exists
for workers who file complaints about hazardous conditions.
Enforcement of safety standards varies greatly. Many
citizens, however, have already turned to their new Assembly
representatives with petitions and protests concerning their
work conditions and job environment. Standards of enforcement
of the safety program vary greatly.