On 7 July 2022, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria upheld an appeal against Decision No. 180 of 30 March 2022 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria amending Decision No. 144 of the Council of Ministers of 2022 on granting temporary protection to displaced persons from Ukraine and amending the National Action Plan for Temporary Protection in the Republic of Bulgaria.

The provision amended by the Bulgarian Council of Ministers referred to third-country nationals and stateless persons who could receive temporary protection until 15 April 2022 without their explicit will and registration. The Court found a conflict of the administrative act with the national legal framework (Asylum and Refugee Act) and with provisions of European Union law (Council Implementing Decision 2022/382 of 4 March 2022 and Directive 2001/55/EC).

First of all, the Court found that establishing a deadline for obtaining temporary protection for foreign nationals and stateless persons was contrary to EU law as the Directive does not enable MS to introduce time limits for the applicants for temporary protection. The Court further highlighted that MS must respect the minimum standards for granting temporary protection and they only have the power to adopt more favourable provisions for beneficiaries of temporary protection. The time limit constituted a restrictive condition contrary to the abovementioned. According to the Court, these provisions are intended to protect the rights of vulnerable groups and to ensure that national legislation responds to international protection needs.

Additionally, the Court ruled that it was unlawful to grant this temporary protection to third country persons or statelessness without their explicit will. Providing this temporary protection without consent led, according to the ruling, to restricting the possibility for persons arriving from Ukraine to decide not to remain on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria to travel to another Member State and depriving them of the possibility to opt for immediate protection or to apply for individual international protection.

Finally, the Court considered that the wording of the decision lacked clarity as to the scope of persons entitled to temporary protection. For these reasons, the Court annulled the Decision of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers and invited the Council of Ministers to fill the legal vacuum that the void provision would create.

Based on an unofficial translation from within the EWLU team. We would like to thank Iliana Savova, ELENA Coordinator for Bulgaria and lawyer of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, for helping us with the analysis of the case.