Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Key facts

Holding Organisation: Anti-Poverty Information Centre Status: Foundation Financing: On project basis People involved in the project: Members of social economy units, experts, volunteers Public Partners: On different occasions - national: NGOs, Sofia Municipality, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Trade Unions & at EU level - EAPN Private Partners: No Creation Date: February 2009 Sources & Links:;; Contact Persons: Douhomir Minev

The idea

A sound configuration of social actors including trade-unions (at least one of the two main trade-unions), Union of economists, NGOs and co-operatives to develop a draft law on social economy and then to lobby for its adoption by the Bulgarian parliament.

The local context

There is no consistent, systematised and comprehensive legal framework for the development of social economy in Bulgaria. The current legal framework is fragmented, inadequate and scattered into various laws (some of them ref. to NGOs, others to co-operatives, third to enterprises of people with disabilities). Following this there are no clear statutory rules concerning internal order nor interactions with the external environment of the social economy and social enterprises. This results in the development of social economy that is in a state of legal confusion (anomic crisis) and raises a number of negative effects. The main negative consequence is the increasing cases where conditions of work in social enterprises driven by NGOs radically deteriorate. A tendency to use free labour violating many social, economic and human rights of people caught up in extremely harsh life situations emerges. Another negative consequence is that a significant portion of the funds designed for the social economy are in fact used for other purposes. The proposals for a special law on social economy and social enterprise have not until now received an adequate response. Moreover, it seems that a weak legal basis for the latter issues is deliberately supported.

The starting point

The initiative started around 2003, when we established contacts with OECD Trento centre and EMES network. In 2007 then, we managed to include social economy and social enterprises in the Operational Programme "Human resource development" where special structural funds are devoted to the field. From 2010, we have been taking part in the Working Group for Development of social economy and social enterprises at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. Currently within a project with the Sofia Municipality we are expected to present good practices in the field. However, all these activities are highly hampered by the normative ambiguities. In the absence of an adequate legal framework, designated funds fuel para-state and para-business NGOs, cooperatives and corruption instead of genuine development.

How does it work

Currently the initiative is in the phase of review, analysis and preparing of recommendations - delineating the main problems in the normative framework, conducting a needs assessment of the population (especially in Northwest region in Bulgaria - the poorest region in EC) and figuring the capacity of social economy to address these needs, as well as providing a review of best practices in Europe for social economy and social enterprise legal frameworks. The results will be used for the elaboration of a draft law for social economy and social enterprises. To be successful the initiative relies on:

  • the obvious need for increased employment (especially youth employment);
  • the conviction of the partners in the social economy’s capacity to provide room for employment (and the low capacity of usual business to achieve such purpose);
  • the negative effects of the lack of an adequate legal framework;
  • and last but not least – the decision of the European Commission to provide funds for youth employment.

Participation and governance

The main participants at this phase are the Anti-Poverty Centre, interested cooperatives and social enterprises who recognise the deficiencies in the legal framework as well as a group of economists – members of the Union of economists. In the second phase, trade unions will take active part alongside interested lawyers and/or political parties in order that lobbying in the national parliament be successful.

Added value of the project

The initiative has tremendous potential to create opportunities for employment, income and improved living standards of many Bulgarian citizens. We consider that for many regions and localities it is the only optimistic scenario. Another type of added value relates to networking for greater influence on anti-poverty strategies. The networking in this initiative is carried out on a national and international level.


A key challenge will be to overcome the reluctance of the national parliament to adopt such a law. There are signs as well that a certain group business interest exists in the absence of such a law.

Future perspectives

The next steps are disseminating the draft law to different stakeholders and consulting with them, incl. trade unions and National Economic and Social Council which is interested in the field. Preliminary contact with trade union representatives confirmed that after a draft law is elaborated the trade unions are ready to consider it and are willing to support it.

Proposals for change

We need public debates aimed at the normalisation of the Bulgarian economy as opposed to the currently dominating ideological clichés. We need as well clear support from interested actors in the EU and Europe.

Other valuable projects

Union for Energy Democracy -