This Country Answer reflects the state of the law as of 31 December 2012. Please refer to the explanations in the chapter entitled Preliminary Note.

A. The Contracting State and the New York Convention

1. Name of Contracting State (also specify jurisdiction(s), if relevant)

Bulgaria.

2. Date of entry into force of the New York Convention

8 January 1962.

(Source: Decree No. 284 of the Presidium of the National Assembly of 8 July 1961, published in Izvestya 57 of 10 October 1961. The New York Convention was itself published in the State Gazette 2 of 1965.)

3. Has any reservation been made under Art. I(3) of the New York Convention regarding:

(a) reciprocity?

Bulgaria has made the following reservation in respect of reciprocity under the New York Convention: 'Bulgaria will apply the Convention for recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards when the awards are issued in the territory of another Contracting State. With regard to awards issued in the territory of a non-Contracting State, it will apply the Convention only on the basis of strict reciprocity.'

(Source: Decree No. 284 of the Presidium of the National Assembly of 8 July 1961, published in Izvestya 57 of 10 October 1961.)

(b) commercial relationships?

Bulgaria has not made a reservation for commercial relationships.

4. In addition to arbitral awards made in the territory of another State, the New York Convention (Art. I(1)) also applies to arbitral awards not considered as domestic awards in the State where recognition and enforcement are sought. Are there any awards rendered in your country that are not considered as domestic awards such that the New York Convention and the answers to this Questionnaire are applicable to them?

All awards rendered in Bulgaria are considered as domestic awards under Bulgarian law. The answers to this Questionnaire refer only to awards rendered outside Bulgaria.

B. National sources of law

5. What specific sources of law are applicable to recognition and enforcement of foreign awards (e.g. statutes, regulations, codes, directives, other legal instruments)?

(i) Law on International Commercial Arbitration, published in the State Gazette (SG) 60 of 5 August 1988, as amended SG 93 of 2 November 1993, SG 59 of 26 May 1998, SG 38 of 17 April 2001, SG 46 of 7 May 2002, SG 102 of 1 November 2002, SG 59 of 20 July 2007 ('LICA');

(ii) Private International Law Code, published in SG 42 of 17 May 2005, amended SG 59 of 20 July 2007, SG 47 of 23 June 2009, SG 100 of 21 December 2010 ('PILC'); and

(iii) Civil Procedure Code, published in SG 59 of 20 July 2007, amended SG 50 of 30 May 2008, SG 63 of 15 July 2008, SG 69 of 5 August 2008, SG 12 of 13 February 2009, SG 19 of 13 March 2009, SG 32 of 28 April 2009, SG 42 of 5 June 2009, SG 47 of 23 June 2009, SG 82 of 16 October 2009, SG 13 of 16 February 2010, SG 100 of 21 December 2010, SG 5 of 14 February 2011, SG 45 of 15 June 2011, SG 49 of 29 June 2012 ('CPC').

C. Limitation periods (time limits)

6.

(a) Is there a limitation period (time limit) applicable to the commencement of legal proceedings for recognition and enforcement of foreign awards?

There is no specific limitation period applicable to the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards under Bulgarian law. Notably, Article 51(3) of the LICA provides that, in enforcement proceedings in respect of a foreign award, the debtor may not raise a defence that the debt to be enforced has been extinguished.

However, if the creditor initiates execution proceedings on the basis of a court decision for the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award, the debtor may arguably defend itself by seeking a ruling from the competent court that the debt represented by the arbitral award has been extinguished by the expiry of the relevant limitation period. There is no identifiable court practice or decision on this issue yet.

(Source: CPC, Art. 439(1).)

(b) If yes, what is the applicable limitation period (time limit) and when does it start running?

According to Article 63 of the PILC, the law applicable to a given legal relationship also governs the limitation period applicable to that relationship. If the relationship between the parties is governed by Bulgarian law, and the court has ruled that the debt has been extinguished by the expiry of the relevant limitation period (see answer to Q.6(a) above), then the limitation period for the receivable ascertained in the arbitral award will be five years from the date of the award.

(Sources: PILC, Art. 63; Law on Obligations and Contracts, Art. 117(2).)

D. National courts and court proceedings

7. What authority or court has jurisdiction over recognition and enforcement of foreign awards?

A party seeking the recognition or enforcement of a foreign award must file a claim for enforcement in the Sofia City Court.

(Sources: LICA, Art. 51; PILC, Arts. 118 and 119.)

8. What requirements, if any, must be met for the authority or court to accept jurisdiction over recognition and enforcement of foreign awards (e.g. domicile or assets of respondent in the jurisdiction, etc.)?

The Sofia City Court will accept jurisdiction if the respondent has its domicile, seat or effective place of management in Bulgaria or has a branch in Bulgaria and the relationship of the claimant was directly with this branch, or if the claimant is a Bulgarian citizen or a Bulgarian legal entity. Jurisdiction may also be accepted if the assets to which enforcement relates are located in Bulgaria or the place of performance of the obligations is located in Bulgaria.

(Source: PILC, Part II, Section 2.)

9. Is the first decision granting or denying recognition and enforcement obtained through ex parte or inter partes proceedings?

The first court decision granting recognition or enforcement is obtained through inter partes proceedings conducted in accordance with the general rules for first instance court proceedings.

(Source: CPC, Part II.)

10.

(a) Is the first decision granting or denying recognition and enforcement subject to any form of appeal or recourse?

Yes.

(b) How many levels of appeal or recourse are available against this decision?

One, as a general rule; two, in certain limited circumstances.

At the first level, an appeal against the decision granting or denying enforcement of a foreign award may be filed with the Sofia Court of Appeal.

(Source: CPC, Art. 258(1).)

At the second level, an appeal against the decision of the Sofia Court of Appeal may be filed with the Bulgarian Supreme Court of Cassation. The Supreme Court of Cassation has discretion to decide whether or not to hear the appeal and may do so if the Sofia Court of Appeal has made a ruling on a substantive or a procedural issue:

(i) that contradicts the practice of the Supreme Court of Cassation,

(ii) that has been the subject of inconsistent decisions by the courts, or

(iii) that is of importance to the correct application of the law or to its development.

The Supreme Court of Cassation's review is limited to legal as opposed to factual grounds. If the decision of the Sofia Court of Appeal is revoked, the Supreme Court of Cassation will issue a decision on the merits. It will refer the case back to the Court of Appeal only if certain procedural steps need to be repeated or new procedural steps carried out.

The decision of the Sofia City Court will enter into force if it is not appealed. The decision of the Sofia Court of Appeal will enter into force if it is not appealed, if the Supreme Court of Cassation declines to hear an appeal against it, or if the Supreme Court of Cassation confirms the decision.

(Source: CPC, Arts. 280(295.)

11. What is the earliest stage in legal proceedings for enforcement of foreign arbitral awards at which a party can obtain execution against assets (i.e. party actually obtains possession of assets as opposed to simply freezing assets)?

Execution against assets in Bulgaria may be obtained after the entry into force of a court decision granting enforcement of a foreign award.

(Source: CPC, Arts. 404.3 and 405.4.)

E. Evidence required

12.

(a) What evidence must be supplied for recognition and enforcement of foreign awards (e.g. arbitral award, contract containing arbitration clause, affidavits, witness statements, etc.)?

The following evidence must be supplied:

- the arbitral award;

- the arbitration agreement; and

- a certificate, issued by the institution or arbitration tribunal, confirming that the award has entered into force.

The arbitral award and the certificate confirming that it has entered into force have to be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.

(Sources: LICA, Art. 51(2); New York Convention, Art. IV; PILC, Art. 118.)

(b) Is it necessary to provide the entire document or only certain parts (e.g. entire contract or only arbitration clause)?

It is necessary to supply:

- the award in its entirety; and

- the arbitration agreement in its entirety. If the arbitration agreement is in the form of an arbitration clause in an agreement, the whole agreement must be supplied.

(c) Are originals or duly certified copies required?

The following are required:

- an original or a duly certified copy of the award; and

- an original or a duly certified copy of the arbitration agreement; and

- an original or a duly certified copy of the certificate confirming that the award has entered into force.

(d) How many originals or duly certified copies are required?

The following are required:

- one original or one duly certified copy of the award for the court; and

- one original or one duly certified copy of the arbitration agreement for the court; and

- one original or one duly certified copy of the certificate confirming that the award has entered into force for the court; plus

- one copy of each of the above three documents for every other party participating in the proceedings.

(e) Does the authority or court keep the originals that are filed?

The court will keep the original documents, unless a written and reasoned request for their return is submitted to the judge after the completion of the proceedings.

13.

(a) Is it necessary to provide a translation of the documents supplied?

Yes.

(Source: CPC, Art. 185.)

(b) If yes, into what language?

Bulgarian.

(Source: CPC, Art. 185.)

(c) Is it necessary for the translations to be certified and, if yes, by whom (official or sworn translator, diplomatic or consular agent (of which country?) or some other person)?

The translation of the documents must be certified by a sworn translator or by a diplomatic or consular agent.

(Source: LICA, Art. 51(2).)

(d) Is it necessary to provide a full translation of the documents or only a translation of certain parts (e.g. entire award or only part setting forth the decisions; entire contract or only arbitration clause)?

It is necessary to provide a full translation of all documents submitted in a foreign language.

F. Stay of enforcement

14.

(a) Can the authority or court stay legal proceedings for recognition and enforcement pending the outcome of an application to set aside or suspend the foreign award before the competent authority referred to in Art. V(1)(e) of the New York Convention?

An application at the place of arbitration to set aside or suspend the enforcement of an award rendered outside Bulgaria may be considered by the Sofia City Court as a ground for staying the recognition or enforcement of that award in Bulgaria.

(Sources: LICA, Art. 51(2); New York Convention, Art. VI; CPC, Arts. 229(1)4 and 229(1)7.)

(b) On what other grounds, if any, can the authority or court stay legal proceedings for recognition and enforcement (e.g. forum non conveniens)?

Legal proceedings before the courts may in principle be stayed in the following situations: by mutual agreement of the parties; upon the death of a party; when it is necessary to appoint a guardian for a party; when the court finds there are criminal circumstances important to the outcome of the proceedings; when a case is pending in the Constitutional Court relating to the constitutionality of legislation applicable to the proceedings; and when the court has requested a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union.

(Source: CPC, Arts. 229 and 631.)

Under Bulgarian insolvency law, proceedings to execute a foreign award that has been held enforceable in Bulgaria will be stayed after the opening of insolvency proceedings. If the award creditor makes a claim in the insolvency proceedings and the claim is accepted, the execution proceedings will be closed.

(Source: Law on Commerce, Art. 638.)

(c) Is the granting of a stay of legal proceedings for recognition and enforcement conditional on the provision of security?

The suspension of court proceedings for the recognition or enforcement of a foreign award on the grounds listed above is not conditional on the provision of security.

G. Confidentiality

15.

(a) Do the documents filed in legal proceedings for recognition and enforcement form part of the public record? If yes, can any steps be taken to preserve the confidentiality of such documents?

Access to court files and information about the dates of hearings is provided only to parties and their attorneys and to expert witnesses appointed by the court. Any other person must prove a legitimate interest in order to be granted access to court files.

(b) If there are hearings on recognition and enforcement, are such hearings confidential? If not, can steps be taken to maintain the confidentiality of the legal proceedings?

In first instance court proceedings hearings are in principle held in public, unless the court orders that they be held behind closed doors. At a party's request or on its own motion, the court may decide to hear a case behind closed doors when the dispute involves, inter alia, industrial, trade, inventor or tax secrets, and their disclosure may harm protected interests.

(Source: CPC, Arts. 11 and 136(1)3.)

(c) Are judgments on recognition and enforcement published? If yes, can steps be taken to remove the names of the parties or avoid publication of confidential information (such as business or State secrets)?

Judgments in recognition and enforcement proceedings are published in an extensively redacted or summary form and with the names of parties abbreviated.

H. Other issues

16. When, if ever, can a party obtain recognition and enforcement of interim or partial foreign awards?

It may be possible to obtain recognition and enforcement of a partial award in Bulgaria, if the award finally resolves one or more of the substantive claims of the parties.

17. When, if ever, can a party obtain recognition and enforcement of non-monetary relief in foreign arbitral awards (e.g. order requiring a party to deliver up share certificates or other property)?

As a general rule, it is possible to obtain recognition and enforcement in Bulgaria of foreign awards granting non-monetary relief. When issuing a writ of execution on the basis of the court decision granting enforcement of the foreign award, the court will examine whether the award may be executed using the procedural mechanisms of Bulgarian law. If this is not possible, the court will specify alternative means of execution that are expected to satisfy the interests of the award creditor.

18. When, if ever, can a party obtain recognition and enforcement of only part of the relief granted in foreign awards?

In principle, recognition or enforcement will be granted only for an award as a whole.

However, the court may grant partial enforcement of a foreign award if the award deals with a difference not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration. Enforcement will be limited to those matters that come within the scope of the submission to arbitration.

(Source: New York Convention, Art. V(c).)

If the enforcement of an award containing orders against more than one respondent has been granted, the court will issue separate writs of execution against each respondent for their respective debts. These writs of execution will be enforced separately.

(Source: CPC, Art. 408(2).)

19. When, if ever, can a party obtain recognition and enforcement of foreign awards which have been set aside by the competent authority referred to in Art. V(1)(e) of the New York Convention?

A foreign award that has been set aside at the place of arbitration may still be recognized and enforced in Bulgaria in circumstances where the 1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration is applicable and the grounds for setting aside are not among those listed in Article IX of the 1961 European Convention.

20. Are there any other procedural or practical requirements relating to recognition and enforcement of foreign awards which are worth mentioning (e.g. unusually high court costs, filing fees, stamp duties, obligation to post security as a condition for seeking recognition and enforcement, obligation to identify the assets that will be the object of enforcement, etc.)?

Although priority is given to the New York Convention, the lack of case law on the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards in Bulgaria means that some procedural issues still remain to be settled or clarified, e.g. the interaction between the New York Convention, on the one hand, and the LICA and the PILC, on the other hand, in respect of the requirements and the procedure for granting recognition and enforcement of foreign awards.

Country Rapporteur:

Assen Alexiev