This area of research shows the extent to which the Bulgarian legislative and institutional environment supports and facilitates citizen participation. It includes two indicators: on the one hand, the laws regulating the different levels of participation - information, consultation and partnership, and on the other, the existence of institutions, networks and media that create the conditions for participation.
Similar to previous Index assessments, the analysis again shows that the institutional environment scores lower than the legislative environment. It can be concluded that there have been developments in our legal framework regarding dialogue and partnership in the period under review, without, however, leading to significant progress in the practical implementation of these forms of participation. At the local level, more significant is the development of the regulatory framework with regard to the process of public consultation on draft regulations.
The analysis shows that citizen participation is secured by an adequate package of laws and regulations, but the problem lies in their implementation and institutional understanding. Decision-makers at both local and national level still perceive citizen participation as an unnecessary extra effort they have to show they have gone through, rather than as a process of dialogue, enriching views and tapping into citizens' pool of expertise and information. The reason for the low score in this area is mainly that the legal environment alone is not sufficient to guarantee a qualitative and effective interaction between citizens and those in power. There is a need to work institutionally towards knowledge, understanding and effective implementation of the legal and regulatory requirements for citizen participation.
This domain aims to examine the extent to which practices and initiatives of citizen participation exist and how active citizens themselves are.
This is an area showing a high increase in scores compared to the previous period. The number of civic initiatives is growing despite (or, because of) the lack of dialogue with institutions. The overall trend of increasing civic activity is maintained and almost all manifestations of citizen participation follow this growth, with different intensities and amplitudes over time. Forms 'beyond the systemic' are also emerging, which citizens consider more effective and flexible.
The epidemic of COVID-19 naturally provoked actions of volunteering, donation and other forms of mutual aid, although in the course of the crisis there has been a reverse tendency towards a recurrence of 'closure'. Traditional CSO activities such as advocacy, drafting position papers, petitions, reporting to institutions and the media are nevertheless increasing in importance. The period was also marked by individual "bursts" of protest energy. Civil society organisations are also involved in various consultative processes, but there remains a sense of formality about the events. There is a lack of sufficient mechanisms for online participation and improving communication between citizens and institutions is still among the most important recommendations.
This area examines what the outcome of the civic initiatives undertaken is and whether they lead to a change in the environment - legal, social and institutional.
According to CSOs and informal groups, the most effective forms of participation are discussions, advocacy campaigns and reporting to the media, while the most effective forms of participation are complaints, requests for access to public information and letters to institutions.
Formal public deliberations and consultations prevail with little consideration of citizens' views. At the same time, it is noted that the institutions have used COVID-19 as a pretext to limit citizens' access to them and therefore the opportunities for citizen participation and control, as well as its impact. In some municipalities, an increase in the interest of local authorities in citizens' proposals is reported, but also their inability to cope when they are divergent.
Citizens and society in general have become more active. There has also been a change in the political context as a result of the 2020 protests. In the social sector there has been a positive change as a result of the activism and unification of civil society organisations.
Despite the small number sharing the view that citizen participation has brought about change in the political, economic and social context of the country, it is noteworthy that there has been an increase of more than double in this indicator compared to the previous survey.