Mediation Developments in Bulgaria

The state of mediation in Bulgaria might be discerned by the number of mediations conducted annually, and the number of mediators who are able to sustain themselves professionally. These figures are low: 400 to 800 mediations occur annually nationwide, and there are no full-time professional mediators. Interpreting these figures alone, without considering other factors might lead to a wrong analysis, however. It is important to not underestimate the work of the mediation community of the last twenty years, as well as the mediation infrastructure that has been developed.

Three components of the mediation infrastructure provide insight regarding mediation in Bulgaria: 1) mediation training 2) opportunities to conduct mediations and 3) mechanisms for mediators’ self-improvement.

Bulgarian law regulates the content and duration of mediation training, as well as the requirements of mediation training providers. While the application of training standards and the method for registering training providers need improvement, approximately 2,000 mediators had been trained within twelve years of the Bulgarian Mediation Act’s adoption. In addition to mediation training leading to certification, three out of eight law schools developed a strong tradition of providing mediation classes to their students.

Ongoing efforts to create opportunities for mediators started over a decade ago. Mediators organized themselves to promote their private services and began to work with the courts to develop court-annexed mediation programs. Sustainable results are demonstrated by the following:

  • The first court programs, slowly but steadily, have increased the number of cases referred to mediation, as well as attorneys who have represented their clients in mediations and judges who have referred cases to mediation.
  • Mediators and courts have started new programs. These programs have also led to the consolidation of local mediation communities, resulting in their coordinated efforts to obtain further opportunities to encourage the use of mediation, including mandatory elements when referring to mediation, in some cases.

Little has been done at the national level regarding the improvement of mediators. However, some court-annexed mediation programs have invested significant efforts on the issue, through the collection and analysis of feedback from parties and lawyers. They have also implemented corrective measures when needed, adopted co-mediation, and regularly organized trainings.

After twenty years of hard work, there are signs that local mediation communities are organizing their efforts nationwide to further develop mediation. Furthermore, there are indications that senior bar and judicial leaders, as well as politicians in Bulgaria, support these efforts.

By Judge Evgeni Georgiev, Senior Fellow-Bulgaria, Weinstein International Foundation

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