16 April 1992

Doc. 6598


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


      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.


      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.




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



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

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

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

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

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