On the 11th and the 16th of July two national seminars in Bulgaria (in Varna and Sofia) were held within the PRESENT project. Both of the seminars were focused on the effectiveness of measures under Directive (EU) 2016/343, as well as on the challenges regarding the application of these measures. Participants in the seminars were legal practitioners at different positions in the criminal justice system, such as judges, prosecutors, investigative officers, lawyers, etc. The team of Law and Internet Foundation decided to structure each of them in presentations and two keynote speeches, provided by different Bulgarian and international experts with huge experience in the field of criminal law. At the seminar in Varna, Bulgaria, as keynote speakers participated Ms. Angelina Lazarova (Judge of the Court of Appeal of Varna, Bulgaria) and Ms. Martyna Kusak (Adjunct Professor at Chair of Criminal Procedure, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland), who both draw the attention of the participants on the Bulgarian and the Polish case-law related to trials in absentia and the procedural requirements that have to be fulfilled in the Member States.

On the other hand, keynote speakers at the seminar in Sofia, Bulgaria, were Ms. Dilyana Giteva (Attorney at law and an executive board member of the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights) and Mr. Noel Williams (criminal policy advisor and member of various boards in UK, including National Advisory Board for Counter Terrorism, Youth Justice Board for England & Wales, etc.). While Mr. Williams focused his keynote on the transposition of Directive 2016/343 from UK perspective, Ms. Giteva drew more attention to the Bulgarian case-law on the matter and especially to a few illustrative decisions of the Bulgarian Supreme Court of Cassation.

Besides, experts from Law and Internet Foundation presented the goals, the main activities, as well as the key outputs of the Project. Firstly, Ms. Rosaliya Kasamska, PhD, PMP® - the Project Coordinator of PRESENT, presented the goals, the conducted activities, as well as the upcoming events regarding the project implementation. The second presentation was delivered by Ms. Denitsa Kozhuharova, who presented the key outcomes of the PRESENT project. As a conclusion, at the end of the both seminars there were discussions which resulted in a few identified recommendations in relation to the criminal proceedings and the conduction of a trial in absence of the defendant.

Several policy recommendations were identified within the implementation of the PRESENT project, including creation of legal opportunity for summoning via email or phone, establishment of electronic system for receiving legal documents, usage of video conference in cases where the defendant is absent from the country or cannot be present at his/her trial for another reason, etc. One of the most necessary measures according to the participants of the seminars is the implementation of the figure of “suspect” in the Bulgarian Criminal Procedure Code, as such figure does not exist in the Bulgarian legislation in force. The lack of the term “suspect” in the Bulgarian legislation hinders the exercise of the rights enshrined in Directive 2016/343 and other European Directives, as the Bulgarian case-law recognises that the persons who are not formally accused do not have the rights provided for “suspects”in the European acts in the field.

In conclusion, the discussions during the seminars enhanced the knowledge of the participants regarding the international good practices related to the conduction of trials in absentia, as well regarding the Bulgarian good practices and recommendations in the sphere.

PRESENT project is implemented with the support of the JUSTICE Programme of the European Commission under Grant Agreement № 760482.