“It’s very complicated at this moment, with most people changing their mind very often,” says Irena Georgieva, Managing Partner of PPG Lawyers in Sofia, about the situation in Bulgaria. “Everybody is focused on their personal Covid-19-related problems and it’s hard to adequately measure what the community really thinks about the government, as somehow all political decisions are inextricably linked with pandemic issues.”
“We have parliamentary elections scheduled for the start of April,” Georgieva continues, “so, hopefully, there will be more clarity afterward.” She reports that most legislative activity has ground to a halt and that the country's regulatory bodies are ineffective. “For example, the Commission for the Protection of Competition and the Commission for Personal Data Protection are almost offline,” she says. “The mandate of the data protection regulator, for instance, expired some two years ago, and nothing was done to appoint anyone new.” Georgieva hopes that this will change after the elections and that the refreshed regulatory bodies will have a more “hands-on approach – especially when it comes to data protection.” According to her, “I hope that our regulators will take a page out of the book of those in the UK, Spain, or Germany – those are the kinds of effort levels we need here.”
Georgieva says it’s almost impossible to assess how exactly a new government will impact Bulgarian business, when predicting what that government itself will look like is, at this point, not easy. “There are a lot of new players out there,” she says, referring to the potential candidates for office, “so it’s difficult to predict who will form the government and, after that, what the ideas and vision for the country will be,” she says.
In the meantime, Georgieva explains, a gap is appearing in the business community between those comfortable with adopting new rules and regulations relating to tech and data innovations and the ones who are not. “There seem to be two kinds of businesses in Bulgaria,” she says. “Those that understand the deep regulatory changes with respect to data protection, cybersecurity, AI, and rapid tech development and are willing to invest in avoiding any potential loss or reputational risk, and those that just see an administrative and a financial burden in them.” The tech regulations are there to allow businesses to evolve, she says, and provide companies with the opportunity that many have overlooked - to “tidy up their houses,” in Georgieva's words, to structure the individual business units, and to discipline the staff (or, she notes, “as we say in Bulgaria - for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing"). According to her, "here our firm’s team is able to intervene successfully and very smoothly builds the bridge between legal and IT work and the understanding of management about the new necessities.”
Georgieva notes the giant risk this growing gap represents. “If not addressed in some way,” she says, “it could lead to companies taking a deep hit down the road, which might seriously impact the business climate of the country.”