Post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria

Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

17 December, 2019

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of EuropeReport | Doc. 14904 | 07 June 2019

http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp

Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Co-rapporteur: Mr Frank SCHWABE, Germany, SOC
Co-rapporteur: Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, Hungary, EPP/CD

Origin - Reference to committee: Resolution 1115 (1997). 2019 - Third part-session


A. Draft resolution

18.2. with regard to human rights:

18.2.2. racist and intolerant hate speech in political discourse targeting Roma, Muslims, Jews, Turks and Macedonians continues to be a serious problem in Bulgaria. Serious efforts need to be made on the part of the Bulgarian authorities to systematically and unconditionally condemn hate speech, including by following the recommendations of the latest report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on Bulgaria;

18.2.4. the Macedonian minority is not recognized by the Bulgarian authorities as such due to the strict application of formal criteria, although this group has repeatedly expressed its wish to benefit from the protection of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS No. 157);


Explanatory memorandum by Mr Frank Schwabe and Mr Zsolt Németh, co-rapporteurs

3.4. Media

113. Bulgaria has the worst press freedom status in the European Union. In 2018, Reporters without Borders (RWB) ranked Bulgaria 111th (out of 180 countries) in the world. Countries such as Ghana, Mongolia or Kyrgyzstan are ahead of Bulgaria. The situation has been deteriorating systematically over recent years as illustrated by earlier rankings: in 2010 Bulgaria was 70th, in 2011 – 80th and in 2017 – 109th.

3.6. Human rights issues

3.6.1. Implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

136. Since its accession to the Council of Europe, Bulgaria has lost more than 80 cases on inhuman and degrading treatment before the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) including cases concerning a lack of a fair trial and some instances of torture. By comparison, the Czech Republic, which has a larger population than Bulgaria, has lost only two such cases.

137. In 2017, following the Court’s rulings, Bulgaria had to pay €641 535 in indemnities – roughly 12 times more than Germany and 15% more than the previous year.

138. Bulgaria has one of the largest shares of unimplemented Court judgments. In Resolution 2075 (2015) on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Assembly pointed out that it was one of nine States which had the highest number of non-implemented judgments, including certain particularly important judgments awaiting implementation for over five years and revealing structural problems.

3.6.3. Minority groups

151. According to the 2011 census, the population of Bulgaria was 7.3 million, of whom 5.6 million (84.8%) were Bulgarians, 588 000 (8.8%) were Turks, 325 000 (4.6%) were Roma and 49 000 (0,7%) declared themselves as others (Russians, Armenians, Macedonians, Vlachs, Greeks, Ukrainians and Jews).

152. Non-governmental sources estimate that the Roma population is much higher than the official figures and oscillates around 700 000. At a meeting with a Roma representative during our visit, the number of 1 million was mentioned. We were told by the authorities that this discrepancy with the census results from the fact that many Roma identify themselves as Bulgarians or Turks.

153. Bulgaria ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1999 and since then its implementation has been the subject of four reports of the monitoring mechanism of the Convention. The relevant structures, as well as legislative and administrative framework, have been put in place and as they were already analyzed in the report of our predecessor in 2013, we will not come back to this question.

154. During our visit, we met representatives of civil society dealing with minority issues, including representatives of Roma and Macedonians. We would like to raise here several concerns which they shared with us.

155. On a more general level, we were told that racist and intolerant hate speech in political discourse continues to be a serious problem in Bulgaria. The main targets of hate speech are Roma, Muslims, Jews, Turks and Macedonians. In the last report on Bulgaria, the Assembly called on the Bulgarian authorities to systematically and unconditionally condemn hate speech against minorities, step up measures aimed at fostering tolerance and mutual respect and encourage exemplary behavior by political leaders. Regrettably, we learnt that the situation has not improved in this respect. We call again on the authorities to follow the detailed recommendations of ECRI included in its fifth monitoring cycle report on Bulgaria.

160. Another concern relates to the Macedonian minority, which is not recognized by the Bulgarian authorities as such due to strict application of formal criteria, although this group has repeatedly expressed its wish to benefit from the protection of the Framework Convention. As a result, there is no Macedonian representative on the Commission for Minorities. Macedonians are not included in any programs concerning ethnic communities and do not receive any type of assistance from the State for the conservation and development of their culture and identity. There is no Macedonian language or history in schools. No Macedonian organization or party has been registered. Our interlocutors claimed that there was discrimination against members of their community.

161. We raised all these questions with the authorities.

168. Cases of incitement to intolerance and racism have been reported. There is still no special provision in the Criminal Code making racist motivation an aggravating circumstance.

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