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Opinion 161 (1992)

Application by the Republic of Bulgaria for membership of the Council of Europe

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly

Origin - Assembly debate on 5 May 1992 (2nd Sitting) (seeDoc. 6591, report of the Political Affairs Committee, Rapporteur : Mr Martínez ;Doc. 6598, opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Rapporteur : Mr Columberg ; and Doc. 6597Doc. 6597, opinion of the Committee on Relations with Non-Member Countries, Rapporteur : Mr Rathbone).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 5 May 1992 (2nd Sitting).

1. The Assembly has received from the Committee of Ministers a request for an opinion on the accession of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe (Doc. 6396), in pursuance of Statutory Resolution (51) 30 A adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 May 1951.

2. It observes that democratic parliamentary elections held by universal, free and secret ballot were monitored by an ad hoc committee of the Assembly on 13 October 1991, when local elections, pronounced satisfactory by another Council of Europe delegation, were also held.

3. The Assembly welcomes the European commitment expressed before the Assembly by President Zhelev on 31 January 1991.

4. The Assembly appreciates the contribution made by Bulgaria to the work of the Council of Europe, both at parliamentary level since being granted special guest status on 3 July 1990, and at intergovernmental level since acceding to several European conventions, including the European Cultural Convention, signed on 2 September 1991.

5. It attaches great importance to the commitment expressed by the Bulgarian authorities to sign and ratify in 1992 the European Convention on Human Rights and also to recognise the right of individual application to the European Commission of Human Rights (Article 25 of the Convention) as well as the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (Article 46).

6. The Assembly considers that the Republic of Bulgaria is able and willing :

6.1. to fulfil the provisions of Article 3 of the Statute, which stipulates that ‘‘every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms'' ;

6.2. to collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council of Europe as specified in Chapter I of the Statute of the Council of Europe thereby fulfilling the conditions for accession to the Council of Europe as laid down in Article 4 of the Statute.

7. The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers, at its next meeting :

7.1. invite the Republic of Bulgaria to become a member of the Council of Europe ;

7.2. allocate six seats to Bulgaria in the Parliamentary Assembly.

 




1 April 1992

Doc. 6591
Report
on the application of the Republic of Bulgaria
for membership of the Council of Europe
(Rapporteur: Mr MARTINEZ, Spain, Socialist) 1







SUMMARY
      The report examines political and institutional developments, resulting in particular from the Bulgarian people's verdict of 13 October 1991, from which a centre-right majority emerged for the first time since the 2nd World War, in elections pronounced free and fair by an all-party committee of parliamentary observers.
      Special attention is given to the system of guarantees for human and minority rights by the report, which concludes that Bulgaria, a quarter of whose population of 9 million consists of ethnic and religious (predominantly Moslem) minorities, not only satisfies the conditions for Council of Europe membership, but has a vital role to play in bringing stability to the Balkan region.
I. DRAFT OPINION
1.       The Assembly has received from the Committee of Ministers a request for an opinion on the accession of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe (Doc. 6396), in pursuance of Statutory Resolution (51) 30 A adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 May 1951.
2.       It observes that democratic parliamentary elections held by universal, free and secret ballot were monitored by an ad hoc committee of the Assembly on 13 October 1991, when local elections, pronounced satisfactory by another Council of Europe delegation, were also held.
3.       The Assembly welcomes the European commitment expressed before the Assembly by President Zhelev on 31 January 1991.
4.       The Assembly appreciates the contribution made by Bulgaria to the work of the Council of Europe, both at parliamentary level since being granted special guest status on 3 July 1990, and at intergovernmental level since acceding to several European conventions, including the European Cultural Convention, signed on 2 September 1991.
5.       It attaches great importance to the commitment expressed by the Bulgarian authorities to sign and ratify in 1992 the European Convention on Human Rights and also to recognize the right of individual application to the European Commission of Human Rights (Article 25 of the Convention) as well as the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (Article 46).
6.        The Assembly considers that the Republic of Bulgaria is able and willing:
i.       to fulfil the provisions of Article 3 of the Statute, which stipulates that "every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms";
ii.       to collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council of Europe as specified in Chapter I of the Statute of the Council of Europe thereby fulfilling the conditions for accession to the Council of Europe as laid down in Article 4 of the Statute.
7.       The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers, at its next meeting:
i.       invite the Republic of Bulgaria to become a member of the Council
      of Europe;
ii.       allocate six seats to Bulgaria in the Parliamentary Assembly.



II. EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM
by Mr Martinez, in cooperation with
MM Columberg and Rathbone
C O N T E N T S
       Paragraphs
Introduction       1 - 2
I.       BACKGROUND       3 - 7
II.       THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE YOUNG DEMOCRACY       8 - 15
III.       THE HUMAN AND MINORITY RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
a.       Freedom of (bi-cultural) expression       16 - 18
b.       The judiciary and prison system       19 - 22
IV.       BULGARIA AND EUROPE       23 - 26
APPENDIX: Programme of the rapporteurs' visit
Introduction
1.       Our joint rapporteurs' fact-finding visit was greatly facilitated by the Bulgarian National Assembly's all-party special guest delegation, and its Secretariat, and by our ambassadors, of which those of Switzerland, Ambassador Harald Borner, and of Spain, Ambassador Joaquin Perez Gomez, continued the excellent tradition of support for the Assembly's activities in non-member countries, among others by the member country holding the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. Our warm thanks are due to Special guests and ambassadors alike.
2.       Our programme (see Appendix) included talks with leading personalities in the executive, legislative and judiciary, as well as with eminent representatives of two important categories for a survey of the human rights situation, namely newspaper editors and the prison service.
I.       BACKGROUND
3.       If, as has been said, Bulgaria has tended to be forgotten by Europe, this is because, during the cold-war era, rightly or wrongly, she presented the image of an uniquely willing Soviet satellite, to the extent that the possibility of full accession to the now defunct Union was discussed. The Russians had after all twice come as liberators, rather than oppressors: in 1878 after five centuries of Ottoman rule, and in 1944 to expel the Nazis, even if murderous "communisation" took place in the early post-war years. Later the respective leaders, Brezhnev and Zhivkov, gave the impression of enjoying a prolonged, if geriatric honeymoon, even if accompanied by the usual, and fateful, establishment of massive economic dependence of Bulgaria on the Soviet Union, also for energy supplies.
4.       After being long ignored, Bulgaria came most unfavourably to the notice of our Assembly in 1985 (in the months following Mikhail Gorbachev's assumption of leadership in Moscow) in connection with a crude campaign of Bulgarisation directed mainly against the country's ethnic Turkish minority. Thus Resolution 846, adopted following debate on 26 September 1985 of a report by the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries, called upon the then "People's Republic of Bulgaria to put an end to the violation of the social, cultural and religious rights of the minorities in question". It is likely that the Zhivhov regime, disconcerted by the "new thinking" in Moscow, was perversely seeking popularity with the Slav majority by this campaign of blatant repression.
5.       Throughout the cold-war period "dissidence" was minimal in Bulgaria, although today's Speaker of the National Assembly, Stefan Savov - who received our delegation - was one of the brave representatives of an intelligentsia who suffered prison while many others were simply murdered during communisation.
(The historical background is comprehensively dealt with in Mr Rathbone's supplementary report).
6.       Later Bulgaria obliged the world and European organisations in particular to take highly positive note of her achievement in conducting, observed by ad hoc observation delegations of our Assembly, free and fair elections to a constituent Assembly on 10 and 17 June 1990 (see Doc. 6279 Addendum) and to the National Assembly on 13 October 1991 (see Doc. 6543 Addendum). All three rapporteurs were involved in the observation of one or the other election.
7.       The last elections indeed marked the loss of power by the (ex-Communist) Socialist party and allies after 45 years, and was later (January of this year) confirmed by the election, for the first time by direct universal suffrage, of President Zhelyo Zhelev. In all cases there was an impressively high, as well as peaceful, participation in the vote - some 80 % - a figure whose attainment would be a rare event in our member countries. Special guest status with our Assembly was granted to the Bulgarian Assembly in July 1990.
II.       THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE YOUNG DEMOCRACY
8.       The October 1991 elections brought about a peaceful transfer of power (without so much as a "velvet" revolution) to the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), a coalition of Centre-Right parties (with 110 seats) from the Socialist coalition (with 106 seats). Since the UDF is short of an overall majority, an informal alliance exists with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (with 24 seats), a predominantly, but not exclusively, Muslim and ethnic Turkish party, including also some Slav muslims and non-muslims, including gypsies.
9.       The new, youthful and necessarily inexperienced government is only some four months into its four-year term of office, and it was very noticeable and not unnatural to our delegation that relations between the majority and opposition are at present strongly confrontational, a situation which also has its counterpart in some of our member countries. Relations are particularly strained between the Socialist party and MRF since each is seeking to outlaw the other. 53 members of the Socialist party have introduced a petition to have the MRF declared unconstitutional, whereas the latter is backing draft anti-Socialist party legislation in parliament.
10.       It is true that the constitution (analysed by Mr Columberg in his opinion), in Article 11.4, does not accept parties constitued on ethnic or religious criteria. Such a principle - which is not accepted in the majority of our countries - might have some justification as a safeguard against fanaticism, but it should be interpreted with flexibility, and certainly not at the expense of a reasonable party, committed to the protection of minorities. This matter is currently being considered by the Constitutional Court, whose President Assen Manov received us. The Supreme Court had considered that the MRF could participate in the October 1991 elections on the grounds that it had been admitted to the 1990 elections. We gained the impression that the Constitutional Court would deliver its verdict in good time, but without undue haste. Your rapporteur was also contacted by the member of the Court responsible for drafting its ruling.
11.       Our delegation, without in any way wishing to interfere with a matter that is sub judice, warned our Socialist 'Special guest' friends of the danger of seeking to exclude and isolate a national minority, which the sovereign people, in its wisdom, had voted to be represented in its governing institutions.
12.       The MRF, for its part, retaliated by contesting the Socialists' right to exist, and the UDF have drafted, and are threatening to introduce, legislation aimed at "decommunisation" by banning former communist holders of any paid office, which amounts to huge sectors of the population, from the civil service and certain key economic sectors, already the case for banking, for 5 years. Here again we warned our special guest friends that ex-Communists, too, had a "right to change" (or to conversion) which means that the organs of the Strasbourg Human Rights Convention - which all parties declare their readiness to accede to on joining our organisation - would rule against collective punishments of the sort envisaged.
13.       Time will no doubt be needed for a political "middle-ground" to be established, allowing consensus to replace confrontation. There would, however, appear to be some urgency in view of the risk of continued economic deterioration, characterised by high unemployment and debt repayment, and falling productivity.
14.       Our UDF interlocutors insist that priority has indeed been given to economic legislation (pointing to the foreign investment and banking and credit laws). The next priority are the laws, of which 3 are already adopted, on restitution of land and property to its pre-Communist owners, as being the most effective approach to privatisation, indispensable for a true change in the system. Only third priority is given to introducting laws aimed at promoting "fairness" which include declaring the sentences of the post-war "People's courts" as nul and void. Also in this category fall the various "decommunisation" drafts. The opposition, for its part, accuse the government of giving first priority in reality to measures of "reprisal", including "rehabilitation of fascists" judged by the former People's courts, rather than to the necessary structural improvement of the economy, which continues to deteriorate bringing hardship to large sectors of the population, fearful of change. They point out that the local elections on 13 October 1991 produced a majority of Socialist mayors in the countryside.
15.       It is true that the Constitution (see Mr Columberg's supplementary report) gives mainly ceremonial powers to the President. Equally important, however, is the political and moral legitimacy deriving from Zhelyo Zhelev's (like his Vice-President, the poetess Blaga Dimitrova's) direct election by the people. This cannot but strengthen their hand in their ongoing dialogue with the government, party leaders and foreign heads of state.
III.       HUMAN AND MINORITY RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
A.       Freedom of (bi-cultural) expression
16.       The three editors-in-chief we spoke to were as pluralistic - and as strongly partisan - as the political parties to which they are closely linked: Mr Kapsazov, recently appointed to edit Rights and Freedoms, which publishes both a Bulgarian and a Turkish-language edition; Mr Mutafov, the even more newly-appointed (one month ago) editor of the still embryonic Democracy (an official organ of the UFD), and Mr Stefan Prodev, the veteran editor of the former Communist party organ, and now of the Socialist paper, Duma.
17.       During our exchange of views with a group of MRF representatives, led by our special guest, Younal Lutfi, we learnt that the Movement feels that a start has been made with the reversal of the crude "bulgarisation" (including compulsory change of family names) of the mid-80s. Moreover, today there is no problem with religious freedom (Mosques are strongly in evidence as an element in Sofia's multicultural heritage). But much, we were told, remains to be done in the field of Turkish-language teaching and access to the state media. (No privatisation has yet taken place in this area). It was striking how high a proportion of TV and radio broadcasts are devoted to parliamentary debates, a notable contribution to democratic transparency and political education.
18.       It was hardly surprising that Duma , as the inheritor of the infrastructures and professional expertise (including distribution networks) of the former single-party regime, still has by far the highest number of subscribers, at about 300,000, although this is only one-third of the 1990 figure, "because of price rises", we were told. In a confrontational political atmosphere, the editor's belief that "press freedom is in danger", comes as no surprise. He handed our delegation a letter, similar to one recently addressed to President Mitterrand and others, in which he refers to alleged government plans for "confiscate the property of public organisations considered to have been part of the old system". Such plans "if applied, would lead to the ridiculous situation where the government would become the publisher of the main opposition daily". Such intentions are denied by the government, for example by Prime Minister Dimitrov in a letter to the London Times of 19 March, which also contains a letter from Mr Rathbone on the same subject.
b.       The judiciary and prison system
19.       The Bulgarian constitution (see Mr Columberg's report) guarantees the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. For obvious reasons, however, and for a transitional period, members of the judiciary will continue to be those educated to a different system, which does not mean that they should be denied the "basic human right to change".
20.       To meet the special concerns of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, our delegation visited the Sofia Central prison, including the wing reserved for frequent offenders, and those whose death sentences have been, for the time being, suspended. Our delegation was accompanied and briefed, not only by the Prison's Director, Mr Harizanov, but by the Deputy Justice Minister, Mrs Koutzkova, and Mr Traikov, Director of the Ministry's Penitentiary Service.
21.       We found conditions comparable to those in several of our member countries, and a vigorously reformist attitude. This has already been actively supported by the Council of Europe's Demosthenes Programme, which, in May 1991, organised a European Expert Seminar in Sofia, and subsequently arranged study visits for Bulgarian prison officers in member countries (Austria, Denmark and the United Kingdom).
22.       The delegation found no reason, in the prison system or elsewhere, to doubt that Bulgaria "accepts the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdinction of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe).
IV.       BULGARIA AND EUROPE
23.       Article 3 of our Statute also provides that every member must "collaborate sincerely and effectively" in the realisation of the aims of our organisation. It was highly positive, in this connection, to learn from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stoyan Ganev (on behalf of Prime Minister Dimitrov, absent on a 10-day visit to the United States) that, in spite of economic difficulties, his country has every intention, once a member, of installing an Ambassador in Strasbourg, so that he can act in the full sense as his country's Permanent Representative.
24.       This assurance supplements the politically more significant assurance from all political groups not only in favour of membership, but of, as far as possible, simultaneous accession to, and rapid ratification of, the European Convention on Human Rights, including the optional declarations under Article 25 (individual petition) and Article 46 (compulsory jurisdiction of the Court), and to the Social Charter. Also of great importance both for our organisation and for Bulgaria would be the latter's full participation, with its highly relevant experience, in our intense ongoing work on national minorities, whether this finally takes the form of a separate Convention or an additional protocol to the Human Rights Convention. We can be most encouraged by the participation of the Bulgarian special guests since the status was granted in July 1990, and by the government's accession on 2 September 1991 to the European Cultural Convention, which is no doubt the most important which non-member countries may join.
25.       The current political controversy concerning the constitutionality of the Movements for Rights and Freedoms must not disguise Bulgaria's truly pioneering efforts in favour of multi-culturalism, of obvious special application in the Balkans, where Bulgaria must be placed in a position not only to constitute an almost miraculous "oasis of peace", but an active factor of stability in the region.
26.       As far as Bulgaria's representation in the Parliamentary Assembly is concerned, her population of 9 million, being more closely comparable to that of Sweden (8.5 million) than any other member state, prompts the delegation to propose six seats, like for Sweden.
APPENDIX
PROGRAMME OF THE VISIT OF THE RAPPORTEURS IN SOFIA
FRIDAY 6 MARCH 1992
      Dinner hosted by the Spanish Ambassador,
      H.E. Mr Joaquin PEREZ GOMEZ
SATURDAY 7 MARCH 1992
Morning       Talks with
      
      - Mr Alexander YORDANOV and members of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee
      - Members of the Parliamentary group of the Union of        Democratic Forces (UDF)
      - Members of the Parliamentary group of the Coalition        of the Bulgarian Socialist party
      - Members of the Parliamentary group of the Movement        for Rights and Freedoms (MRF)
      Lunch hosted by Mr Stefan SAVOV, Speaker of the        National Assembly
Afernoon       Talks with
      - Mr Assen MANOV, President of the Constitutional Court
      - Mr Stoyan GANEV, Minister for Foreign Affairs
      - Mrs KOUTZKOVA, Deputy Minister of Justice,
      - Mr TRAIKOV, Head of penitentiary service, and
      - Mr HARIZANOV, Director of Sofia Central prison
Dinner       hosted by the Ambassador of Switzerland,
      H.E. Mr Harald BORNER
SUNDAY 8 MARCH
Dinner       hosted by Bulgarian Assembly's special guest        delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly
MONDAY 9 MARCH 1992
Morning       Talks with
      - Mr Sliven KAPSAZOV, Editor-in-Chief of
       Rights and Freedoms
      - Mr Entcho MUTAFOV, Editor-in-Chief of Democracy
      - Mr Stefan PRODEV, Editor-in-Chief of DUMA
      Audition with Mr Zhelyo ZHELEV, President of the        Republic
      Press conference
TUESDAY 10 MARCH 1992
      (Completion of Mr Rathbone's programme)
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Committees for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries.
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.
Reference to committee: Doc. 6396 and Reference No. 1724 of 11 March 1991.
Draft opinion: Adopted by the committee with 18 votes in favour, none against and one abstention on 26 March 1992.
Members of the committee: MM Reddemann (Chairman), Martinez, Sir Dudley Smith (Vice-Chairmen), MM Alvares Cascos, Antretter, Mrs Baarveld-Schlaman, MM Baumel, Björn Bjarnason, Caro, Cem, Cismozewicz, Espersen, Fioret, Fiorini, Flückiger, Gabbuggiani, Ghalanos, Guizzi, Mrs Halonen, MM Hardy, Hellström (Alternate: Stig Gustafsson), Hyland, Irmer, Kelchtermans, König, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM van der Linden, Machete, Martins, Mimaroglu (Alternate: Güner), Miville, Oehry, Pangalos, Papadogonas, Portelli, Schieder, Sebej, Seeuws, Simko, Mrs Suchocka, MM Szent-Ivanyi, Tarschys, Ternak, Thoresen, Ward.
NB.        The names of those members who took part in the vote are underlined.
Secretaries of the committee: MM Massie and Kleijssen.

1 1       In co-operation with Mr Dumeni Columberg (Switzerland, Christian Democrat), Rapporteur for opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and Mr Tim Rathbone (United Kingdom, Conservative), Rapporteur for opinion of the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries.

 





16 April 1992

Doc. 6598


O P I N I O N

on the application of the Republic of Bulgaria
for membership of the Council of Europe 1
(Rapporteur: Mr COLUMBERG, Switzerland, Christian Democrat)



1.       Introduction
      The wave of radical change in Central and Eastern Europe also affected Bulgaria. Within a short time a break was made with the past and links with the totalitarian régime were loosened. However, economic reform is a more difficult, more painful process which takes far longer to achieve than political change.
      While the change of régime in Czechoslovakia was called the Velvet Revolution, Bulgaria can be said to have experienced a peaceful revolution, the democratic process having been initiated "from the top down" when the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) legalised political parties.
      As in the neighbouring countries, the first movements towards fundamental reform began with the Gorbachev doctrine of glasnost and perestroika. In Bulgaria itself the first tangible signs of reform appeared at the Party Congress of 10 November 1989, when Todor Zhivkov was ousted in a Politburo putsch led by Petar Mladenov and Dobri Djourov. Legitimate aspirations to freedom, democracy and the rule of law eventually led to the collapse of the Communist Party. The nature of the process by which the old régime was overthrown meant that specific problems also arose when change ensued.
1.1       The great change
      On 10 November 1989, President Todor Zhivkov was removed from power. At its XVth Congress in March 1990, the BCP voted to become the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). When the first elections were held on 10 and 17 June 1990, the BSP obtained a majority, winning 52,75% of the votes and 211 seats in parliament. The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) won 36% and 144 seats, the Agrarian Party 4% and 16 seats and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) 5,75% and 23 seats.
1.2       Application for accession (November 1989/February 1992)
      Bulgaria announced its intention to apply for Council of Europe membership on 3 March 1990. Following renewal of the application on 17 January 1991, the Committee of Ministers requested the Assembly's opinion on 12 February 1991.
1.3       Special guest status
      In September 1989 the Council of Europe created special guest status with the Parliamentary Assembly with the aim of fostering and encouraging the democratisation process in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Bulgaria availed itself swiftly of this opportunity to develop links with the Council of Europe and submitted its application on 4 December 1989 with a view to setting up a framework for co-operation as soon as possible.
      The Bulgarian Grand National Assembly was granted special guest status with the Parliamentary Assembly on 3 July 1990. This enabled the Bulgarian parliamentary delegation to co-operate with the Parliamentary Assembly in its various fields of activity. These initial contacts brought the two sides closer together and improved mutual understanding.
      Since then numerous meetings have taken place between the Bulgarian Government and parliament and the Council of Europe. They proved extremely fruitful, as evidenced by the fact that Bulgaria has signed the following conventions:
-       European Cultural Convention (2.9.1991)
-       European Convention on Information on Foreign Law (31.1.1991)
-       European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (31.1.1991)
-       Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Information on Foreign Law (31.1.1991)
-       Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (31.1.1991)
-       Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (31.1.1991).
1.4       Our duty to examine the application
      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries are both required to draft opinions on the application, while the Political Affairs Committee is responsible for examining the matter on its merits.
      As with the other membership applications upon which it was invited to comment, the committee concentrated particularly on checking that the following conditions had been satisfied: the holding of free elections, the rule of law and observance of human rights as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, backed up by an intention to ratify the convention in the near future.
2.       Bulgaria's progression towards democracy
2.2       Background in brief
      The country has an area of 110 912 km2 and a population of 9 million, including around 1 million inhabitants of Turkish origin. Its territory is divided into 28 administrative units.
      As a member of the communist bloc from 1944 onwards, Bulgaria was one of the countries which most closely followed Moscow's policy line - to such an extent that it was sometimes called the 16th Soviet Republic. The régime was exceptionally hardline and isolated from the rest of Europe. Bulgaria's total dependence on the USSR was also reflected in its economy. While over 80% of its trade was conducted with the Soviet Union, the country had virtually no relations with Western Europe. It is interesting to note that the Soviet Army was never stationed on Bulgarian territory.
2.3       The first signs of the great change
      In the days following 10 November 1989, a multiparty system was instituted, the traditional parties were re-established, new parties emerged and an opposition was formed. These developments were accompanied by the restoration of freedom of expression. A national round table of leading political figures was held at the start of 1990 and on 30 March 1990 fixed the date of the first free elections.
3.       Free elections
      Delegations from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly were able to observe the first elections in June 1990 followed by those on 13 October 1991. The most important conclusions of these observer missions are reproduced here.
3.1       The elections on 10 and 17 June 1990
      The "observer missions" concluded that, in the circumstances, the conduct of the elections was reasonably free and fair. Particular attention was paid to the rights of the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority.
3.2       The national elections on 13 October 1991
      The second free elections in Bulgaria were held on 13 October 1991 and were observed by a delegation from our Assembly. They are described in an information report by Mr Soares Costa (AS/Bur/Bulgaria (43) 3 rev.) which draws the following general conclusions: "The Assembly delegation did not attempt to control the elections or make a critical examination of the political situation. Given the size of the delegation and the short time available, we were seeking to arrive at a general political appreciation of the election process. We did not comment on the application of Bulgaria to join the Council of Europe even though certain points observed, for example the banning of the formation of parties on ethnic or religious grounds (Constitution 1991, Art. 11.4 and Electoral Law 1991, Art. 41.4-3), clearly are relevant to this question. Our general impression, as stated in the press communiqué, is that the Bulgarian authorities had made a real effort to organise free and fair elections. Partly because of this effort, but also as a result of the compromises involved in adapting the electoral law and changes in the structuring of the political forces, the resulting electoral system was unnecessarily complicated and bureaucratic. Although irregularities may have affected local results, we have no reason to believe that significant fraud or malpractice took place to the national benefit of any single party or coalition. We were, however, unable to judge how free the electorate really was, in view of the newness of the democratic tradition in Bulgaria".
      Elections of municipal councillors and mayors were held on the same day as the National Assembly elections.
      While the BSP appears to be the strongest single party (the UDF is an alliance of parties), it should perhaps be noted that the turnout of voters in the Bulgarian elections (over 80%) was much higher than in other East European countries.
      By holding these first free elections Bulgaria has fulfilled one of the conditions for its accession to the Council of Europe.
3.3       Presidential elections in January 1992
      Mr Zhelyu Zhelev was elected President in July 1990 with the votes of the BSP. Since his election, he has striven to overcome Bulgaria's isolation and speeded up the process of democratisation. He visited the Council of Europe and addressed the Parliamentary Assembly on 31 January 1991.
      The first free presidential elections were held in two rounds, on 12 and 19 January 1992. The outgoing President, Mr Zhelyu Zhelev, standing as the UDF candidate, was elected in the second round with 52,85% of the votes against 47,15% for Mr Velko Valkanov, an independent candidate supported by the Socialist Party. The turnout was approximately 76%.
4.       Visit by the committee of 19-21 December 1991 to Sofia, to the seat of the parliament
      The programme of meetings and the list of discussion partners is appended.
      The exchanges of views with these representatives, whose competence and openness were greatly appreciated, enabled the committee to obtain valuable information and raise some critical questions.
      During the visit, the committee was able to hold talks with the Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Mr Stefan Savov, the Vice-President and members of the Assembly, including members of the opposition (that is the BSP), the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Legislative Committee, Mr Djerov; the Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, Mr Hodja; the Minister of Justice, Mr Loutchnikov; Minister of the Interior, Mr Sokolov; Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Dobrev; members of the Constitutional Court, inter alia Professor Nenovski and the Prime Minister, Mr Dimitrov.
      The overall impression gained was most positive. We were pleased to observe that Bulgaria has made great progress in the process of democratisation within an extremely short period of time. Our discussions showed that Bulgaria's political leaders are firmly committed to continuing their vigorous efforts to complete and consolidate the rule of law and ensure observance of human rights. Both the government and parliament are in favour of signing and respecting
international conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights.
      The committee paid particular attention to the conditions under which the National Assembly's committees had been formed and how their chairmen had been selected. Having been informed that the UDF was now challenging and proposing to amend the Constitution which had been adopted by the previous parliament without its support, the committee concentrated on examining the text in order to see which provisions required amendment in the opinion of the UDF. A number of suggestions which it believes may be useful in this respect will be given in the conclusions.
      The committee also attempted to determine whether the BSP would be prepared to co-operate so as to permit the amendments necessary for early ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights and acceptance of its optional clauses.
      Between 6 and 11 March 1992 the three Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteurs visited Sofia. This visit provided a further opportunity for numerous and fruitful discussions with representatives of parliament, the government, political parties and the media. It enabled us to obtain further information and to clarify any remaining questions. In particular, the delegation held talks with:
-       The President of the Republic, Mr Zhelyu Zhelev;
-       the Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee, Mr Alexander Zhordanov, and members of the committee;
-       the Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Mr Stefan Savov;
-       the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Stoyan Ganev;
-       the parliamentary group of the Union of Democratic Forces;
-       the parliamentary group of the Parliamentary Union for Social Democracy;
-       the parliamentary group of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms;
-       the President of the Constitutional Court, Mr Assen Manov;
-       the Governor of the central prison;
-       the editors of several journals ("Democracy", "Duma", "Rights and Freedoms").
      The results of these discussions are set out in this report.
5.       Some important aspects of our examination
5.1       The National Assembly
      The Assembly elected on 13 October 1991 is made up of 240 members organised in three major political groupings: the largest, that is, the UDF, has 110 seats, the BSP has 106 and the MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms consisting chiefly of representatives of the Turkish minority) has 24. Other political groups which presented candidates failed to reach the threshold required for obtaining seats. This means that approximately one-third of the electorate is excluded from direct representation in the parliament.
      There are 24 women in the Assembly, that is 10% of the total. The BSP was not represented in the Assembly Bureau, at least until March 1992: it refused the offer of one seat, claiming that its number of Assembly members entitled it to two. It also challenges the legality of one of the parties in the coalition, namely the MRF. However, it has been established that the BSP is represented on all committees by a delegation which reflects its true strength, although to date its members have not headed any of the existing 18 committees (as chairman or vice-chairman).
      Recently, however, a way out of the situation has materialised in the form of co-operation on the leadership of the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy (vice-chairmanship). In spite of this, relations between the "tenors" of the main three parties are tense, as in the past. The three Rapporteurs were struck by the fact that each group accuses the others of not being committed to democracy, which bodes ill for close, constructive co-operation.
      The Assembly's powers are set out in Articles 84 to 87 of the Constitution. They include legislative powers typically exercised by the parliaments of our member states, namely the enactment of legislation and ratification of international treaties, particularly those concerning fundamental human rights.
      Work programme
      The National Assembly first had to finalise the electoral law for the presidential elections. Its next priority is to implement the measures needed for the transition to a market economy through small-scale privatisation, the restitution of property and legislation on the economic activities of non-residents.
      The law on reprivatisation, and in particular the draft Bill on banks and the law on borrowing, have proved highly controversial in the past and are continuing to do so. Provisions banning persons who collaborated with the old régime from occupying leading positions in the banks or in government for five years or more are coming in for particularly heavy criticism. This condemnation of a whole category of persons is problematic from the viewpoint of a state governed by the rule of law and is contrary to international law. This is another reason why Bulgaria should ratify the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible: it would create the possibility of objective supervision.
5.2       The government
      It should be noted that the executive has no powers to dissolve the Assembly. Nevertheless, the opposition party believes that the government has a tendency to reduce the Assembly to a mere "rubber-stamp" chamber.
      Composition and work programme
      Mr Dimitrov leads a minority government which depends on the support of the MRF. Many of its Ministers have been chosen for their expertise. The government has set itself the task of speeding up economic reforms and developing international relations, particularly Bulgaria's accession to the Council of Europe.
5.3       The President of the Republic
      The President's powers
      These are defined in Chapter IV of the Constitution (Articles 91 to 104). Article 92 states: "The President shall be the head of state. He shall embody the unity of the nation and shall represent the state in its international relations".
      Article 93 sets forth the procedure for election of the President and the length of his term of office which may not exceed five years and can be renewed only once.
      The President's powers are limited and he has little influence over parliament. The President has a relative right of veto, is not entitled to propose bills or reject those which have already been debated but merely return them for further debate.
      Recently constitutional conflicts have arisen between the President of the Republic and the parliament. In view of the fact that the President is elected by the people, he enjoys a degree of legitimacy. Nevertheless, this is currently a source of conflict.
The President works with his own staff and assumes particular responsibility for foreign policy and defence.
5.4       The Constitutional Court
      Composition
      The provisions concerning the Constitutional Court are set forth in Articles 147 to 152 of the Constitution. Article 147 reads as follows;
"1. The Constitutional Court shall consist of 12 justices, one-third of whom shall be elected by the National Assembly, one-third shall be appointed by the President [of the Republic], and one-third shall be elected by a joint meeting of the justices of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court.
2. The justices of the Constitutional Court shall be elected or appointed for a period of nine years and shall not be eligible for re-election or re-appointment. The make-up of the Constitutional Court shall be renewed every three years from each quota, in a rotation order established by a law.
3. The justices of the Constitutional Court shall be lawyers of high professional and moral integrity and with at least fifteen years of professional experience.
4. The justices of the Constitutional Court shall elect by secret ballot a Chairman of the Court for a period of three years.
5. The status of a justice of the Constitutional Court shall be incompatible with a representative mandate, or any state or public post, or membership in a political party or trade union, or with the practising of a free, commercial, or any other paid occupation.
6. A justice of the Constitutional Court shall enjoy the same immunity as a member of the National Assembly."
      Four of the current justices were appointed by the Grand National Assembly formed as a result of the elections of June 1990, in which the communists had a majority. But it should be noted that the number of votes gained by the BSP was greater than the number of justices allocated to this party.
      According to information received from the President of the Constitutional Court, prior to the elections six justices belonged to the BSP and one to the Social Democratic Party. After the elections they all handed in their party cards.
      Justices who fail to carry out their duties or suffer incapacitation may be removed from their post before the end of their term of office by the group which appointed them.
      Every three years one third of the justices of the Constitutional Court must be replaced, that is, two from the group of justices appointed by the President of the Republic and one from each group appointed by the other elected bodies. The outgoing justice is selected by the drawing of lots.
      The committee believes that former membership of the Communist Party should not automatically be taken as sufficient reason for disqualification given that party membership was an essential precondition for the holding of certain posts, particularly in higher education.
      It is more appropriate to judge by the guarantees given today and to accord them due credit. Although the judges were trained under the former communist regime, it should be noted that Bulgaria prided itself on having a legal system comparable to those of other European countries before the second world war and that Bulgarian intellectuals maintained links with the West and Western culture even during the communist period.
      Functions
      Article 149 states:
"1.       The Constitutional Court shall:
      1.       provide binding interpretations of the Constitution;
2.       rule on challenges to the constitutionality of the laws and other acts passed by the National Assembly and the acts of the President;
3.       rule on competence suits between the National Assembly, the President and the Council of Ministers, and between the bodies of local self-government and the central executive branch of government;
4.       rule on the compatibility between the Constitution and the international instruments concluded by the Republic of Bulgaria prior to their ratification, and on the compatibility of domestic laws with the universally recognized norms of international law and the international instruments to which Bulgaria is a party;
5.       rule on challenges to the constitutionality of political parties and associations;
6.       rule on challenges to the legality of the election of the President and Vice-President;
7.       rule on challenges to the legality of an election of a Member of the National Assembly;
8.       rule on impeachments by the National Assembly against the President or Vice-President.
2.       No authority of the Constitutional Court shall be vested or suspended by a law".
      The Constitutional Court thus has an extremely important function since it is required by Article 149(1).4 to rule on the compatibility between the Constitution and the international instruments concluded by the Republic of Bulgaria prior to their ratification, and on the compatibility of domestic laws with the universally recognised norms of international law and the international instruments to which Bulgaria is a party. There has been some criticism of the fact that individuals cannot bring cases directly before the Court, but the same applies in several member states.
      The Court is currently considering the case of the BSP's challenge to the legality of the MRF. The stability of the current system will depend on its ruling since annulment of the MRF would lead to the dissolution of the Assembly and provoke extremely grave reactions from the Turkish minority which forms the party's major support base.
      In this respect, the Court representative whom the committee met stressed that the Court would seek a solution that would not stir up tensions and would not lead to violations of human rights. According to President Assen Manov, a decision should be taken in April or May 1992.
      The composition of the Constitutional Court gave rise to some extremely critical debate in the committee. Although we still have some reservations on the matter, we hope that the Court is aware of the great responsibility it holds and that it will prove equal to the task.
5.5       The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, adopted by the Grand National Assembly on 12 July 1991
      We have already indicated that the party now in power, the UDF, has criticised the Constitution which it did not vote for and wishes to see amended as soon as possible even though this does not seem feasible in the current Assembly.
      When asked which articles they wished to have amended, the party's representatives gave no precise indications but stated that they numbered some 40 in all.
      For its part, the committee conducted a critical examination of the Constitution and reached the conclusion that it does not, in general, merit severe criticism. Indeed, its contents were inspired by the constitutions of several of our member states. The committee nevertheless found some articles which should either be modified to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights or interpreted by the Constitutional Court in a manner compatible with the convention.
      In our opinion, the most controversial articles are the following:
Article 11.4: "There shall be no political parties on ethnic, racial or religious lines, nor parties which seek the violent usurpation of state power.
Article 12.2: "Citizens' associations, including the trade unions, shall not pursue any political objectives, nor shall they engage in any political activity which is in the domain of the political parties".
Article 13:
"1.       The practising of any religion shall be free.
2.       The religious institutions shall be separate from the state.
3.       Eastern Orthodox Christianity shall be considered the traditional religion in the Republic of Bulgaria.
Article 36:
1.       The study and use of the Bulgarian language shall be a right and an obligation of every Bulgarian citizen.
2.       Citizens whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian shall have the right to study and use their own language alongside the compulsory study of the Bulgarian language.
3.       The situations in which only the official language shall be used shall be established by a law".
Article 44:
1.       "Citizens shall be free to associate.
2.       No organisation shall act to the detriment of the country's sovereignty and national integrity, or the unity of the nation, nor shall it incite racial, national, ethnic or religious enmity or an encroachment on the rights and freedoms of citizens; no organisation shall establish clandestine or paramilitary structures or shall seek to attain its aims through violence.
3.       The law shall establish which organisations shall be subject to registration, the procedure for their termination, and their relationships with the state".
A few critical observations; the situation of the majority
      One of the problems raised by the UDF is that of amendments to the Constitution; Article 155 states that constitutional amendments require a majority of three-fourths of the votes. At the second reading, a majority of two-thirds is required. The BSP would therefore have to support the amendments to allow their adoption.
      The question of the death penalty was also raised. Although it still exists and 17 death sentences have been delivered over the last two years, it is no longer applied. This is a situation which many of our member states experienced when they were already parties to the European Convention on Human Rights. Asked about the government's intentions on the matter, the Minister of Justice pointed out that it would be extremely difficult to abolish the death penalty entirely at the present juncture since 80% of the population believed it should be maintained.
5.6       Ethnic groups
      Difficult relations with the different ethnic groups gave rise to tremendous problems and political tensions. The natural integration process was accelerated by draconian administrative measures. For example, at the end of 1984 Turks resident in Bulgaria were forbidden to use their Turkish names. This was a serious mistake which triggered mass emigration by the Muslim community (300 000 people) and a sharp deterioration in relations with Turkey. The situation did not fundamentally improve until the decree of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Bulgaria of 29 December 1989 guaranteeing citizens' constitutional rights came into force. Since then approximately 130 000 émigrés have returned to Bulgaria, and according to an official of the MRF the question of the restitution of property should be resolved in a satisfactory manner.
      The Constitution does not guarantee the rights of minorities. We have just seen that it includes a number of provisions which limit their rights (Art. 11.4). However, the law has since been repealed.
      Following his visit to Sofia, the Rapporteur learnt that there is now provision for four hours a week of Turkish language teaching. This appears to provide an acceptable solution for those concerned. Since the beginning of 1991, the MRF has published a newspaper in Turkish.
      Gipsies were said to make up a particularly high percentage of the criminal population and also to receive the most severe sentences.
      As our hosts affirmed, the best way towards integration and harmony between communities is to involve the Turkish population in the business of governing. For this reason the present government welcomes participation by this ethnic group in parliament and at local and regional level. This presence has already made an enormous contribution to calming the situation.
5.7       Priority to international agreements, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights
      Article 5.4 of the Constitution stipulates: "Any international instruments which have been ratified by the constitutionally established procedure, promulgated and come into force with respect to the Republic of Bulgaria, shall be considered part of the domestic legislation of the country. They shall supersede any domestic legislation stipulating otherwise".
      The Constitutional Court will therefore be called upon to rule on the compatibility between the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights prior to its ratification. Its interpretation of the Constitution will permit clarification of a number of points which might pose problems.
5.8       Legislative reform
      The parliament is currently working on a vast programme of legislative reform. Between the last elections (13 October 1991) and the beginning of March 1992 it adopted more than 30 new laws. A number of laws, such as the laws on reprivatisation and agricultural reform, concern the economy.
      However, difficulties have arisen from the fact that the communist-dominated administration is continuing to put a brake on reforms and that the "decommunisation" process and the abolition of the old régime are taking time. All Communist Party property not acquired prior to 1946 or after the reform has been confiscated.
      The issue of whether individuals who held important Communist Party posts should be allowed to resume leading positions in state bodies and banks is currently being discussed. The dismantling of the communist régime is designed to prevent the main beneficiaries of the old system from transferring state property abroad or to private companies and thus retaining their privileged positions. There is a likelihood of this since the individuals concerned are often well-qualified. It should also be seen as an inevitable reaction to years of oppression under communist rule.
      The BSP and other representatives object on the grounds that a collective sanction of this type would be unacceptable and would lead to new injustices. It would be contrary to the principles of established law and would certainly not be endorsed by the European Court of Human Rights. For this reason the socialists are highly interested in co-operation with the Council of Europe; they hope that their demands and rights will be upheld in Strasbourg.
      Apparently 200 diplomats who worked for the secret service have recently been dismissed.
      Generally speaking, relations between the party leaders are extremely tense. The present violent disputes are probably due to decades of enforced "calm". There is evidence of intolerance (eg the BSP's demand that the MRF be banned). Each group accuses its rivals of not understanding democracy.
5.9       The economic situation
      A 20% fall in production and unemployment of 400 000 were expected for 1991.
      The economic situation is still difficult (problems related to the foreign debt and agricultural production). The foreign debt amounts to approximately USD 12 thousand million. Almost 40% of the 4,3 million workers, including 2 million pensioners, are living on the poverty threshold. Even though the impression is that the crisis is worse than ever, food supplies were noticeably better this winter (1991/92) than last year. Inflation has been pushed down by 7-8%. Prices have been liberalised. But the transition to a market economy is by no means easy and many problems remain.
      Nevertheless, a remarkable spirit of enterprise can be observed in the retail sector. Small stalls are being set up everywhere, reflecting an upturn in economic activity.
      However, major problems remain in industry. The situation has been worsened by tremendous energy-related problems (falling oil exports from the former USSR and recurring difficulties with the Kosloduj nuclear power station).
5.10       The media
      There are no restrictions whatsoever on press freedom and each political party has its own newspaper.
6.       Conclusions
      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has examined in detail those aspects of Bulgaria's situation which determine whether or not it may accede to the Council of Europe, namely the functioning of parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and human rights. It noted that Bulgaria has made considerable progress in the process of democratisation and that the authorities at present in office intend to continue democratic reforms. It particularly welcomed the fact that the present constitution specifically recognises the pre-eminence of international law. The fact that the authorities intend to sign a number of international conventions, including the European Convention on Human Rights, affords a guarantee of the observance of human rights according to international standards in Bulgaria. In examining the application, the Legal Affairs Committee found a number of shortcomings, for instance in the field of constitutional law. It expects the government and parliament to put these right within a short time. Article 5, para. 4, of the Constitution affords the means of enforcing the rule of law by giving international law precedence over contradictory provisions of domestic legislation.
      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights can, in conclusion, confirm that it has seen plentiful evidence that Bulgaria gives cause for satisfaction in this respect and that this new democratic state fulfils the conditions required to become a member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
      The Constitution ought, however, to afford greater protection of certain rights and freedoms.
      The Bulgarian authorities have expressed an urgent desire to accede to the Council of Europe as soon as possible and join the community of European nations.
      The government has confirmed its intention to sign the European Convention on Human Rights and the opposition party has indicated it would react positively to this.
      Political pluralism is guaranteed and all institutions are elected by universal suffrage.
      All the conditions required for membership of the Council of Europe have therefore been met. Consequently, we support Bulgaria's application and welcome its return to the European fold. Membership of the Council of Europe will help to consolidate this new democracy and will require the introduc11tion of a market economy in Bulgaria, which is in the interest of Europe as a whole. We all benefit from this development, because a continent which has open borders and is divided between a rich half and a poor half will not be stable in the long term. Finally, harmonious neighbourly relations can only be
achieved between states which subscribe to the same ideals.
      The transition from a totalitarian state to a democratic system is fraught with difficulties, as we have seen elsewhere. It requires time and patience. Attitudes do not change overnight. Changing the structures of the state, society and the economy is also extremely difficult. Nevertheless, we must be optimistic and have faith in the new leaders. Membership of the European family also provides new opportunities for the observance of human rights and for the rapid introduction of the rule of law.
A P P E N D I X I
LIST OF BULGARIAN PERSONALITIES
MET DURING THE MEETING IN SOFIA
19-20 December 1991
(in chronological order)

Mr       SAVOV,       Speaker of the National Assembly (UDF)
Mrs       BOTOUCHAROVA,       Vice-President of the National Assembly        (UDF)
Mr       KADIR,       Vice-President of the National Assembly
Mr       DJEROV,       President of the Legislative Committee
Mr       HODJA,       President of the Committee on Human        Rights
Mr       LOUTCHNIKOV,       Minister of Justice
Mr       SOKOLOV,       Minister of the Interior
Mr       DOBREV,       Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
Prof.       NENOVSKI,       Member of the Constitutional Court
Mrs       ANANIEVA,       President of the Parliamentary Union        for        Social Democracy
Mr       VIDENOV,       President of the Socialist Party
Mr       BOKOV,       Spokesman for foreign affairs of the        Socialist Party
Mr       DIMITROV,       Prime Minister
A P P E N D I X II
PROGRAMME
of the meeting held from 19 to 21 December 1991 in Sofia
at the seat of the parliament (East Room)

Thursday 19 December 1991
9.45 am       Departure on foot from Hotel SOFIA (tel. 3592878821) to        the parliament
10.00 am       Working session
          - statement by Mr Stefan Savov, Speaker of the National        Assembly
          - exchange of views with members of the Bureau of the               National Assembly
11.00 am       Exchange of views with the President of the Legislative        Committee
12.00 am       Exchange of views with the President and members of the        Committee on Human Rights
1.00 pm       Lunch not hosted
3.00 pm       Working session
          Exchange of views with Mr Svetoslav Loutchnikov, Minister        of Justice
4.00 pm       Exchange of views with Mr Yordan Sokolov, Minister of the        Interior
5.00 pm       Exchange of views with the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
8.00 pm       Reception hosted by the Speaker of the National Assembly
          Mr Stefan Savov
Friday 20 December 1991
9.15 am       Departure on foot from Hotel SOFIA to the parliament
9.30 am       Working session of the committee
11.00 am       Exchanges of views with Prof. Nenovski, member of the        Constitutional Court
12.00 am       Meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr Dimitrov
1.00 pm       Lunch not hosted
2.30 pm       Press conference
3.30 pm       Working session of the committee
8.00 pm       Dinner hosted by the Bulgarian delegation with
          special guest status with the Council of Europe
Saturday 21 December 1991: Excursion
8.30 am       Departure for the monastery of Rila
10.00 am       Visit of the monastery
12.00 am       Departure for Blagoevgrad
1.00 pm       Lunch hosted by the Mayor of Blagoevgrad
2.30 pm       Visit of the town
3.30 pm       Departure for Sofia
5.00 pm       Arrival in Sofia: free evening
Sunday, 22 December 1991
Departure of members of the committee
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee
Committees for opinion : Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries
Reference to committee: Doc. 6396 and Reference No. 1724 of 11 March 1991
Opinion: Approved by the committee on 13 April 1992.

1 1 See Doc. 6591








4 May 1992

Doc. 6597
O P I N I O N
on the application of the Republic of Bulgaria
       for membership of the Council of Europe 1
(Rapporteur: Mr RATHBONE, United Kingdom, Conservative)



General Background
1.       Until late 1989 Bulgaria was dominated by the Communist Party. But the superficial picture of relatively stable politics and economic prosperity had begun to crack long before then. Bulgaria's alleged involvement in the death of Georgi Markov in 1978 and in the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981, its support for terrorism and drug trafficking, the pervasive corruption and nepotism, and its human rights abuses had severely damaged its international reputation.
2.       Meanwhile, changes in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe were making President Zhivkov and his policies more and more of an anachronism, especially in the eyes of President Gorbachov. The catalyst for change was provided during a CSCE-sponsored Environmental Conference in Sofia in October 1989, when police beat up members of a small environmental pressure group, Ecoglasnost, in front of members of the international press and the diplomatic community. Zhivkov was removed in a palace coup on 10 November 1989.
3.       Over the following year the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) (that is the renamed Communists) was gradually eased out of its positions of power. After the first reasonably free and fair elections in June 1990, the Presidency went to Dr Zhelev, leader of the UDF, a non-Communist umbrella grouping. Although the BSP held on to the government for a further five months they failed to establish their authority, and collapsed on 29 November in the face of a wave of student and labour unrest. Subsequently, after much political in-fighting, a politically independent lawyer, Mr Dimitur Popov, formed a coalition government in December, embracing members of the BSP, UDF, the Agrarian Union (a peasant party), and independents; this was the first genuinely multi-party government in Bulgarian post war history. Seven government posts went to the BSP, four to the UDF, three to the Bulgarian Agrarian Party and five to the Independents. Dimitur Popov was selected to be a non-party Prime Minister.
4.       In January 1991 all the major political parties agreed on a programme of substantial economic and constitutional reform.
Bulgarian Parliament
5.       The Bulgarian Parliament consists of a single chamber (the National Assembly) of 240 members elected for a 4-year term.
Constitution
6.       A new constitution was adopted by the Grand National Assembly on 12 July 1991, with the BSP using its majority to secure acceptance. Much stress is laid in the new constitution on the role of the new Constitutional Court (which has the power to rule on the constitutionality of legislation passed by the National Assembly) and the independence of the Judiciary.
7.       Though the constitution marks a considerable advance on the previous one, it attracted some criticism, especially from the radical right wing of the UDF. The UDF objected that the constitution was a "communist" one which depended for its passage through parliament on the votes of the majority BSP. Others argue that the constitution was ill-suited to modern requirements because it reflected an outdated, paternalistic type of state; that excessive power was vested in parliament while the powers of the President were considerably restricted; and that the constitution ignored the natural rights of the individual and took into account only those rights which the state grants to the individual.
8.       In the light of various investigations into minority rights in Bulgaria by the Council of Europe over recent years (Resolution 846 in 1985, on the situation of ethnic and Moslem minorities in Bulgaria; Recommendation 1109 in 1989 on refugees of Bulgarian nationality in Turkey; Resolution 927 in 1989 on the situation of the ethnic and Moslem minority in Bulgaria), it will not be surprising for members of the Assembly that the absence of more positive provisions for collective minority rights and the continuing ban on religious and ethnically based parties (which later threatened to disenfranchise the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms) have also given cause for concern.
Parliamentary elections
9.       A new Electoral Law was passed on 22 August 1991 establishing a system of proportional representation for parliamentary elections. In September the MRF contested the legally questionable objection to its registration as a party. Council of Europe Ministers raised this with Bulgarian political leaders and authorities, and subsequently the MRF were allowed to participate in the elections held on 13 October 1991.
10.       The Bulgarian National Assembly, Government and Central Electoral Commission invited international observers from the Council of Europe and other national and international bodies. Your rapporteur was a member of our Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee. The full report is published in Doc. 6543 Addendum I. In common with other observer bodies, we concluded in summary that:
-       the elections were broadly free and fair, more so than the June 1990 elections, which themselves were largely accepted by both the Bulgarian people and the international community.
-       the elections were impressively organised. Their complexity was formidable, since they consisted of four simultaneous polls: national, local, council and mayor. Potential for confusion was great, but in the event observer teams found remarkably little.
-       there was no violence.
11.       Following the elections, the Union of Democratic Forces became the largest single party with 34.4% of the vote (110 seats). The Bulgarian Socialist Party gained 33.1% (106 seats). The Movement for Rights and Freedoms won 7% of the vote (24 seats). Other parties failed to clear the 4% threshold to win seats. The turnout was 83.87%.
12.       The Bulgarian Parliament held its first post-election meeting on 4 November and Philip Dimitrov formed the new UDF Government on
8 November. This did not include ministerial posts for MRF members, but the Government depends in parliament on MRF support.
Presidential elections
13.       Bulgaria's first-ever democratic elections for a directly-elected President and Vice-President took place in two rounds on 12 and 19 January 1992. The nominees of the ruling UDF party, the incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev and his running mate, Mrs Blaga Dimitrova (poet and UDF MP) won - after being forced into a second round - with 53% of the vote. Turnout was around 76%.
The Constitutional Court
14.       As provided in the Constitution, this Court was established in September 1991. It is composed of 12 members, one-third elected by the National Assembly, one-third elected by the Judges of the Supreme Courts and one-third appointed by the President of the Republic. There have been some questions raised about membership of the Court, specifically due to some links to the previous communist regime. But by history and by clearly-stated intent, Bulgaria's commitment to an independent judiciary of the highest professional and moral integrity should mean that the Constitutional Court will operate as it should as the interpreter of the Constitution and the defender of proper constitutional practice.
15.       The Constitutional Court has an extremely important role in interpreting the constitutionality of laws and ruling on the compatibility between the Constitution and international legal instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights. Reassurances have been given that the Court would uphold the Convention's supremacy over the Constitution should one be found at variance with the other, at time of ratification.
16.       This is specially important in the light of the Court's present consideration of the legality of the MRF, accused of being a mainly ethnic Turkish movement by the BSP, the previous Communist party. This is based on Article 11.4 of the Constitution: "There shall be no political parties on ethnic, racial or religious lines, nor parties which seek the violent usurpation of state power" - unique in Europe, and in fact contrary to guarantees in some national constitutions, for example, Germany and Romania, and in the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Economy
17.       The disintegration of communist trading bloc arrangements has caused serious cutbacks in the supply of oil and other staple products, and has closed the main markets for the country's exports. A serious foreign currency debt crisis, precipatating a unilateral moratorium in 1990 on all servicing, led to cutbacks in trade with the West. With foreign trade virtually paralysed and tight monetary policies, industrial production has been dropping, GDP fell by 15% in 1991 and gross production by 29%. Much of Bulgarian industry is operating at a minimal level because of lack of raw materials, spare parts and fuel. Registered unemployment stands at 432,000 (12%) and is rising - the true figure is probably a lot higher. Retail prices rose by more than 500% in 1991 (mostly due to a leap at the time of price liberalisation): the current annual rate is about 60%. Price liberalisation has alleviated shortages of goods in shops and markets, but prices are high in relation to wages, obliging many Bulgarians to spend nearly all their disposable income on basic essentials.
Agriculture and Food Supply
18.       The agricultural sector faces severe problems. Uncertainty over land ownership has reduced sowing and contributed to under-investment in fertilisers. The problems have been aggravated by shortages of seed and agrochemicals, and mildew caused by late rain in 1991. Supplies of animal feed are expected to be sufficient to last until the spring because of a better than expected maize harvest and extensive slaughtering of livestock in 1990/91. High prices have reduced the demand for meat by 50%, which is consequently in ready supply. A shortage of mineral and vitamin feed additives is to be made up under EC's PHARE programme.
Humanitarian and Technical Assistance
19.       Bulgaria received humanitarian aid (food and medical from the European Community and others) in the winter of 1990/91. Aid has also come from the EC's PHARE programme of technical assistance (25 million ECU in 1991, mainly for agriculture), as well as national Know How Fund contributions. Following an IAEA inspection the EC is providing some 8 million for safety improvements at the Kozlodui nuclear power station (which provides up to 40% of Bulgaria's electricity). Technical failures at the plant have resulted in 50% electricity rationing.
IMF and Economic Reform
20.       Bulgaria joined the International Monetary Fund in October 1990 and in March 1991 agreed a 12-month Standby Agreement (SBA) for SDR 279 million. A successful IMF visit in November 1991 has opened the way to loans from the World Bank and other official lenders and to a re-scheduling of Bulgaria's government-to-government debts in the Paris Club. However most of Bulgaria's $11 billion debt is owed to commercial banks, with which re-scheduling is still under negotiation.
21.       IMF help is conditional on implementation of a far-reaching programme of economic reform and adjustment, including tax reforms, price liberalisation, limitation of the budget deficit, an incomes policy and limited internal currency convertibility.
22.       In 1991/92 important reform legislation has been or is being passed, notably on land ownership, foreign investment, (though it is now being revised), company law, and amendments to the existing law on privatisation. The land law has not yet had its hoped-for effect: only 10% of 2 million landowners had applied for restitution by October 1991, most preferring their holdings to remain within co-operatives. Prices have been liberalised, with the Government retaining powers to regulate the prices of some basic foods and utilities only. The privatisation of small businesses has taken off - 150,000 were registered by October 1991. Legislation on large-scale privatisation is expected very soon.
23.       These economic and financial aspects are mentioned in some detail because of the inter-relationship of democratic development and economic reform. Living standards fell with the start of economic reform a year ago. High prices forced Bulgarians to spend most of their income on increasingly difficult to find food, and on housing and heating. There seems to be a determination to succeed in continuing economic and political evolution. But it is accepted that it is neither easy, nor lacking risky elements.
CONCLUSION
24.       Though social upheaval is one primary risk, there seems to be determination among people and politicians to succeed. New freedoms of democratic choice, media and religion are valued and are being enjoyed.
25.       Even though the transition from communism has already taken two years, little has taken place in the way of economic reform - and Bulgaria's economic problems are daunting. But the economic collapse seems to be generally seen as being the reason for the end of the old regime. And there is acceptance that Bulgaria has taken the decisive steps, which means that irrevocable change has taken place with:
-       a multi-party political system;
-       a culture dominated by political pluralism;
-       re-established constitutional law;
-       free press;
-       freedom of movement and freedom to study one's own language;
-       right to strike;
-       depoliticisation of the army, the police, the courts and the civil service.
26.       The Bulgarian Government has disavowed the Brezhnev doctrine of limited sovereignty and abandoned "socialist internationalism". It embraced the policy of good relations with neighbours and of expanding participation in the ongoing process of European integration - as vividly illustrated by its request for full membership of the Council of Europe and acceptance of the responsibilities that involves. This includes "adaptation as necessary of Bulgarian legislation and of the new Constitution to the requirements not only of the European Convention on Human Rights but also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child" (President Zhelev speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 20 February 1991).
27.       On this basis, as recognition of the existence now of a Bulgarian pluralist democracy (as required for membership of the Council of Europe), as encouragement for further political and economic improvement in Bulgaria, and as a crucial step in Bulgaria joining the developing community of European nations, I recommend that this Committee and the Assembly endorse acceptance of Bulgaria as a full member of the Council of Europe at the earliest possible opportunity.
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee
Committees for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None
Reference to committee: Doc. 6396 and Reference No. 1724 of 11 March 1991
Opinion: Unanimously approved by the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries on 4 May 1992.

1 1       See Doc. 6591.

Първият български посланик при Съвета на Европа  - Д-р Светлозар Раев


         СНИМКИ
от Уикипедия, свободната енциклопедия  и от личен архив





Д-р Светлозар Раев, Първият посланик на България в Съвета на Европа, 1992-1999г.


Изказване на Н.Пр. Д-р Светлозар Раев в Комитета на Министрите

Д-р Светлозар Раев председателства Комитета на Министрите на Съвета на Европа, 1994г.


Д-р Светлозар Раев в качеството си на Председател на Комитета на Министрите посреща кралицата на Обединеното Кралство Н.В. Елизабет II, при посещението и в Съвета на Европа,


Д-р Светлозар Раев и Папа Йоан Павел II  във Ватикана. Връчване на акредитивни писма.

Д-р Светлозар Раев (вдясно), дипломатът Марин Райков (вляво), до него Лъчезар Тошев, Митко Николов - секретар на българската делегация, депутатката Елена Поптодорова - от другата страна депутатът Иван Н.Иванов и шофьорът на посолството Емил, на чаша шампанско по повод избирането на Лъчезар Тошев за Вицепрезидент на ПАСЕ, 1998г. Кафенето до пленарната зала на ПАСЕ в Двореца на Европа.


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