Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me first to thank you for the invitation extended to me to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – this most prestigious European forum, long recognised as a cornerstone of European parliamentarianism, which has served as a valuable school of democracy for the countries of central and eastern Europe.

It is a great honour for me, as Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, to speak to you, the elected democratic representatives of all European nations and all political trends, bearers of European diversity and unity, who are called upon to safeguard and promote the core values of our Organisation – democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the beginning of the 21st century is marked by the emergence of new realities and new substantial challenges to our civilisation, which directly influence the prospects for the future development of our continent and beyond. These realities and challenges require the re-thinking of the problems our countries and societies face today, novel approaches and decisions by the international community, based on the intransient values and achievements of democracy which unite us. In this context, we need a new clear vision of Europe, its role and future.

With the progressive enlargement of European structures, enhancing the process of the reunification of Europe, the political and institutional architecture of our continent assumes essentially new dimensions. We are firmly convinced that the processes of integration will continue to set the pattern for the future prosperity and security of our continent, leading to further stabilisation and strengthening of the democratic space in Europe and its adjacent geographical areas.

In this context, taking stock of the results of the 3rd Summit of our Organisation last year, it can be clearly stated that the Council of Europe has reaffirmed its role as an essential component of the European political architecture, as a unique framework for the protection and promotion of human rights, for the advance of democratic principles and values and for the strengthening of the rule of law throughout Europe.

Transforming the priority goals approved by the Warsaw Summit into concrete actions is the collective responsibility of all of us. After the first review in November 2005 by the Committee of Ministers, this part-session is yet another opportunity to build on this reinforced sense of common purpose and further boost co-operation among the member states on major issues on the agenda of our Organisation, thus reasserting its prime role in the current political debate in Europe.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Bulgaria is deeply attached to the fundamental core values of our Organisation – human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and to the principle of their universal applicability.

It is in the light of these values that two years ago we brought to your attention the case of the Bulgarian medical nurses and the Palestinian doctor sentenced to death in Libya. Your clear conclusion, based on the facts contained in the compelling report of the rapporteur, Mr Tony Lloyd, and explicitly stated in the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendation 1726 of 6 October 2005 – that the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor should be regarded as completely innocent – by coming at a crucial moment helped to avoid the worst.

Let me use this opportunity to reiterate the gratitude of my government and the Bulgarian people to all the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to its President, Mr René van der Linden, as well as to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Terry Davis, for their consistent, resolute support and solidarity.

As you may already know, on 25 December 2005, the Libyan Supreme Court decided to order a retrial of the case by another chamber of the Criminal Court in Benghazi. While we evaluate positively this decision of the Supreme Court, we are also carefully considering all its possible consequences. We expect that the new trial will eliminate all the numerous procedural and other violations committed in this case and that the judges will consider comprehensively and in depth the convincing evidence presented by the defence, which explicitly and unconditionally proves the complete innocence of the Bulgarian medical staff and the Palestinian doctor. We further hope that the new trial will be held within the shortest possible time, bearing in mind the dire physical and psychological condition of the Bulgarian medical staff, who have been kept in Libyan jails for seven long years already.

My country will persist in its efforts to find a favourable outcome to the case, which would allow our detained innocent compatriots to return to their motherland. We believe that the case will be resolved through a constructive approach with the help of the international community.

Bulgaria again reiterates its deep sympathy for the infected children and their families. We will continue to contribute to the efforts of the international community to relieve their plight and fully support the European Union’s action plan as a constructive expression of international solidarity with them.

The participation of Bulgaria in the search for a solution, however, does not imply that our country has accepted the demand to pay compensation to the affected Libyan families. We firmly maintain that the Bulgarian medical nurses and the Palestinian doctor are innocent. This basic truth has been supported also by expert witnesses who are leading world authorities in the field, including Dr Luc Montanier, who first isolated the HIV virus. In this context, the payment of compensation would imply acceptance of their guilt, which would render all efforts to prove their innocence futile.

We will also count on the support of the Council of Europe for a speedy and just resolution of this case.

Mr President, Bulgaria attaches primary importance to the uniform protection of human rights throughout our continent. We firmly believe that the European Court of Human Rights – this genuinely pan-European institution – has a vital role to play in the evolving new institutional architecture of Europe in the 21st century. Therefore, Bulgaria has consistently supported all measures aimed at preserving and improving the efficiency of the Court in the light of its constantly increasing workload.

Therefore, my government signed, and the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria ratified, Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. However, we fully realise that it is equally important to improve the application of the Convention by preventing violations of its provisions at national level. Having already achieved significant progress, Bulgaria reiterates its strong commitment in this regard.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as with the other countries of central and eastern Europe which joined the Council of Europe in the beginning of the 1990s, Bulgaria has substantially benefited from the unique expertise of our Organisation in the process of the consolidation of the democratic transformation of the Bulgarian institutions. We fully realise, however, that this is indeed an ongoing process, which never stops.

In this respect, my government has recently submitted to the Bulgarian National Assembly several important proposals for amendments to the constitution. The proposals refer to improving the work of the judiciary and, in particular, to the role of the prosecutor’s office and the examining magistrates in the national judicial system, the immunity of judges, magistrates and investigators. Various provisions are aimed at avoiding overlap of powers at the pre-trial phase, thus improving its efficiency and transparency. The National Assembly would also have the authority to recall the Public Prosecutor and the chairpersons of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation. The immunity of the deputies would be ex cathedra – with respect to statements and opinions expressed in the National Assembly and their activities as people’s representatives. Other changes would increase the competencies of the municipal authorities with respect to the tax system.

We have also undertaken determined efforts to improve the effectiveness of the national judicial and administrative institutions. The National Assembly, together with the competent authorities, has commenced a process of substantial review and amendments of all relevant provisions in the existing legislation. For example, the changes introduced last October in the criminal procedure code are aimed at the speedy conclusion of an investigation, effective legal assistance and better witness protection. Furthermore, the amendments provide for increased transparency of all the activities of the judiciary, including enhanced overview by the National Assembly. In addition, a new law on legal assistance has entered into force.

The government has also elaborated amendments to the law on the judiciary.

The new draft law on the Ministry of the Interior is already under consideration by the National Assembly. It provides for the overall reorganisation of the police, aimed at avoiding overlap in the functioning of the various specialised police services. A new directorate general of the police will be created, encompassing the various existing national services. Within this directorate general, a special central service will be set up to combat organised crime which will enhance the efficiency in countering serious criminal offences, particularly the activities of organised criminal groups.

The National Assembly has also started consideration of the new administrative procedure code. Furthermore, by this summer, we expect Bulgaria to have a new civil procedure code, fully in line with European standards. The state administration is also currently undergoing a process of overall functional analysis of all its components, aimed at improving their performance in providing more adequate services to the citizens.

One of the government’s main priorities is the prevention and combating of corruption. In October 2005, specific new measures were introduced to implement the national strategy for countering corruption. The authorities, in active co-operation with civil society – a novelty in our country – have focused their efforts on training civil servants in professional ethics to react more efficiently to reports of cases of corruption and to communicate them to the prosecutor’s office. In its activities in this field, the government is supported by business associations. I emphasise again that we regard that as an ongoing process and that a great deal remains to be done. Be assured that my government is fully committed to this task.

Mr President, if democracy is truly to mean government of the people, by the people and for the people, it cannot only be a legislative process – it must be a part of everyone’s practical daily experience. We therefore commend the launching of the Forum on the Future of Democracy, which held its first session in Warsaw to discuss ways of enhancing civic participation in decision-making processes and, more generally, in democratic life. By promoting and developing a culture of democracy at all levels, by building more cohesive societies, we are strengthening our common security. Bulgaria fully shares the view that in order to be effective in the fight against terrorism, we need a broader, long-term strategy to provide solutions to those political, economic and social problems that feed the motivational base for terrorism. The Warsaw Summit gave us new tools in that regard. Firm in its commitment to contribute to their effective implementation, Bulgaria has already signed the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

Trafficking in human beings is yet another serious challenge to the security of all our societies, and it requires a comprehensive approach and well coordinated efforts. Attaching the highest priority to this issue, the Bulgarian Government has constantly upgraded its policies and programmes aimed both at preventing trafficking and at providing adequate assistance and protection for the victims. To be effective, however, the international community must fully take into account the primary reasons leading to this phenomenon, including the socio-economic situation in the countries of origin. This requires further efforts to provide equitable access to social rights. Based on that understanding, Bulgaria has made concerted efforts to meet the high standards of the Council of Europe in the social sphere, aspiring to ensure the rights of every citizen to live his or her life with dignity. Our aim is to achieve the stability and sustainability of Bulgarian society, so that everyone who is in need or in an inequitable situation receives the necessary social support. In that regard, it is our conviction that only by implementing the principles of freedom, equality and solidarity, and by transforming the notion of social cohesion into a political priority, will our society be able to create the prerequisites needed to overcome negative social phenomena and guarantee well-being for everyone.

In that respect, the Bulgarian Government is fully aware of the challenging nature of the issues facing the Roma community in the country. It is firmly committed to continuing to improve the conditions of the Roma in Bulgaria. To enhance their equal integration in society, the authorities, in co-operation with Romany non-governmental organisations, have implemented specific measures in education, housing, employment, social assistance and health care. Furthermore, additional budgetary support is provided for various programmes in the long-term national action plan aimed at achieving the goals of the decade for Roma inclusion.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the fundamental values of our Organisation provide the framework for Bulgarian action aimed at active support for the processes of democratic reform and European integration of the western Balkan area that foster good neighbourly relations, co-operation and solidarity. In this context, one of the key challenges that we collectively face is finding a fair and sustainable solution in Kosovo. Before I proceed, may I pay tribute to the late President Rugova, whom we all knew as an eminent political leader with high moral authority in the Kosovo Albanian community and beyond?

Bulgaria is convinced that any such solution must provide for long-term political stabilisation, regional integration and economic prosperity. Notwithstanding the specific definition of the future status of Kosovo, we consider as imperative the full implementation of all standards regarding democracy, human rights and rule of law in Kosovo, as this is a conditio sine qua non for the stability and security of South-Eastern Europe as a whole. The incremental progress in this respect is of utmost importance for the future European perspective of Kosovo and the western Balkans. Bulgaria will continue to work with its partners for a stable European solution in Kosovo, as we strongly believe that the European perspective provides the most appropriate approach to the various complex political and socio-economic issues in Kosovo and the region. It also strengthens the sense of solidarity, preventing the creation of new dividing lines in the region.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we would be willing to share our own positive experience in this respect. On the basis of the values of pluralist democracy and civil society, a successful model of interethnic relations has been firmly established in Bulgaria. This model is essentially based on the concord of the principles of voluntary integration of minorities into civil society and the protection of the ethnic, religious and/or linguistic identity of the persons belonging to these minorities. This model represents one of the intrinsic characteristics of contemporary Bulgarian society. The preservation and further development – the new realities – of this positive model, which could serve as an example to other nations, is one of the major priorities of the Government of Bulgaria.

In particular, the activities in this field aim at elaborating and implementing appropriate legislative and other measures to improve the general status of all persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities who are objectively in a disadvantaged position, especially the Roma, thus providing for full and effective equality of opportunity in the economic, social, political and cultural sphere. Specific measures are undertaken to ensure the necessary conditions for the citizens of Bulgaria belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities to preserve and develop their culture and to maintain the essential elements of their identity.

Bulgaria has always been strongly committed to more effective co-operation among the main European organisations based on their common values, comparative advantages and the principle of complementarity. We therefore unequivocally support and look forward to enhanced co-operation and political dialogue between the Council of Europe and the European Union. In this regard we are keen to receive the proposals of Mr Jean-Claude Juncker.

On relations with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, I recall that one of Bulgaria’s priorities as chairman-in-office of the OSCE for 2004 was the further development of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE in all spheres, and we remain fully committed to this goal.

Last, but not least, we favour and encourage closer co-operation between our Organisation and the United Nations, especially on issues of a global nature.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise once again the significant role and contribution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, whose work provides an important political impetus for the preservation and promotion of the core values of our Organisation. Moreover, let me reiterate my conviction that the debate on the future institutional architecture of our continent has reaffirmed and enhanced the role of the Council of Europe as the keeper of the fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I sincerely believe that our common efforts will bring us closer to our shared goal – a Europe of citizens, a Europe of justice and a Europe of social cohesion. Thank you.


Thank you, Mr Stanishev, for your clear speech and your commitment to the Council of Europe and to the Assembly. Thank you also for supporting the Assembly’s position by taking the Juncker report as the key element in future co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe. You can be sure that our colleagues, Mr Eorsi and Mr Lloyd, will do their utmost with the full support of the Assembly to bring your people home from Libya.

I remind members that questions and supplementary questions must be limited to thirty seconds and no more. The Prime Minister has expressed his desire to answer questions, so I shall give the floor to Mr de Puig, the first speaker.

Mr DE PUIG (Spain) (translation)

Prime Minister, Bulgaria is in the process of acceding to the European Union. A treaty has been approved and various agreements have been concluded. Some people believe that Bulgaria will become a member of the European Union on 1 January 2007. However, there have also been calls for accession to be delayed by a year because of the crisis affecting the European Union at present. What therefore is the current status of Bulgaria’s accession process?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you for that interesting question. You correctly noted that Bulgaria aims to join the European Union in January 2007. That is not simply the goal of the government and the National Assembly; it is broadly shared among the political forces, including those in opposition, and across Bulgarian society. The consensus in Bulgaria is unique not only for a candidate country, but in comparison with the first wave of countries that joined the European Union, which have become more sceptical as the accession process develops.

All the efforts and deep reforms that Bulgaria has made in the past fifteen years were subordinate to the basic public and political will to join the European Union and reunite Bulgaria with the European family. We want to be an effective member of the Union, and that is no less important for us than it is for current EU members.

We all know that 2005 was not an easy year for the European Union. There were problems with the European Constitution. The two referenda in France and the Netherlands failed, which created an institutional vacuum and serious political hesitation about which way Europe is going. Some people have asked whether the European Union is serving the interests of its citizens and whether Bulgarian and Romanian entry should be postponed for one year in order to clarify the issues. Such a move would send the wrong political message: Bulgarian society has made so much effort and so many sacrifices that it does not deserve such a postponement.

We take the problems highlighted by the European Commission monitoring report very seriously. The government and the National Assembly are working very hard to overcome those problems not only because the Union says that we must do so, but because it is in our interests. The problems with the judiciary and of organised crime are not only future problems for the European Union, but obstacles to the normal development of our society and our market economy, which is why we have the political will to overcome them. I cannot promise miracles overnight, but we are working towards the greater co-ordination of the judicial system. We want to achieve results in that field and many other areas.

The postponement of Bulgaria’s accession would send the wrong message to the western Balkans, because the leaders of those nations are following what happens to Bulgaria – will it become a member of the Union in January 2007? Those countries, where some reforms are still fragile, wonder whether they should follow Bulgaria’s good example. In those countries, people also aspire to the goal of reuniting Europe.

In some of the old member countries, there is the fear that the Union has been extended too far and that citizens from new member states are taking jobs away from people in the old member countries. However, if one considers the realities of enlargement, the process is mutually beneficial. Of course, the new countries are benefiting from the cohesion and structural funds and the Union’s policy to assist the least-developed countries and regions. At the same time, however, we are entering an open market that offers great advantages to the strong companies in the old member states. It is a challenge for us and for our companies and we know that it will not be easy. That is why we are preparing very seriously for competitive pressure and for the development of the Bulgarian economy.

The Bulgarian economy has done very well in recent years. We usually have annual growth of more than 5%. Last year it was 5.8% and we expect the same level this year. The country is developing and people’s way of thinking is changing rapidly. I am absolutely confident that Bulgaria will be a good member state of the European Union that contributes to the common success of the European project not only in the 20th century, as it used to do, but in the 21st century.

Mrs MIKHAILOVA (Bulgaria)

Mr Prime Minister, recently your government proposed a new draft law concerning the activities of the Ministry of the Interior. Article 71.5 suggested the use of force and special means against pregnant women and children. Do you think, Mr Prime Minister, that such practices are compatible with the spirit of the Council of Europe? What is the reason for transferring in law the responsibility for such a decision from you to the Minister of the Interior?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you, Mrs Mikhailova, for your question. I would like to underline that the structure of the Ministry of the Interior is based on one of the best European examples – the German example. The parliament is ready for the second reading of the law to discuss and amend many of the texts. I wish to be very clear in stating that there is no intention of having human rights violations in government policy. On the contrary, we are increasing control over the directions of the Ministry of the Interior in order to limit the cases of police violence and to have fewer problems with the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. These texts will be carefully monitored by the parliament. I believe that the best solution will be found on the basis of European criteria.


Would you like a supplementary question? That is not the case. I give the floor to Mr Bender from Poland, who speaks on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

Mr BENDER (Poland)

Prime Minister, your country intends to join the European Union. Is the so- called European Constitution dead, or can it be resurrected?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

The way in which the European Constitution is drafted was, of course, a compromise which took many months of discussion and debate within the Convention. Although we were not members of the European Union at that time, we were very active because we believed that the enlarged European Union needed a better institutional framework to facilitate it in its enlarged format. It had 15 countries until two years ago, has 25 countries now, and will have 27 countries in less than a year. That is a tremendous challenge.

Several countries, including Bulgaria, ratified the constitution as it was drafted. The votes against the constitution in the referendums that were held were not always against the text itself – sometimes they were against the governments that were in power in the countries concerned or an expression of dissatisfaction with the way in which European institutions are functioning in terms of not being accountable enough. I believe that the role of the European Parliament should be increased in the European Union because it is elected directly by the citizens of Europe and is accountable to them.

Nevertheless, at the end of last year in the Council of Europe there was one important success for the European Union – the financial perspective was agreed. That is a breakthrough. I believe that the Austrian presidency will now focus the debate on the future of Europe, including the institutional framework. With a common will, a satisfactory outcome should be found that will give Europe a better future.

I believe that after the hesitations and reflections of 2005, the many countries that have still not ratified the accession treaty with Bulgaria should proceed faster with that process. I am addressing, through you, your national parliaments. As I said in my reply to the first question, it is a matter of the credibility of the European Union. A treaty that has been signed by the heads of state and government of your countries should be respected. In May, we expect the report of the European Commission, which will assess Bulgaria’s positive progress and efforts. However, the ratification process is different and independent – it is an act of the political will of nations.


Thank you. Do you want to ask a supplementary question, Mr Bender?

Mr BENDER (Poland)

I think, Mr President, that today it is very difficult to get a real answer to my question.


I would defend the Prime Minister because he gave a real answer. I give the floor to Mrs Hurskainen from Finland from the Socialist Group.

Mrs HURSKAINEN (Finland)

Equality lies at the heart of human development and human rights. Gender inequality may be considered an obstacle to the progress of human development and the realisation of human rights. It therefore needs to be taken seriously into consideration. What is the gender equality situation in Bulgaria at present, and what will the Bulgarian Government do to improve its development?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you, Mrs Hurskainen, for your question. This issue is very important in principle. Of course in every country there are certain traditions and specific features. In the period before 1989, Bulgarian women had quite good integration into the economic and social life of our country. The reforms and transition which took place in society affected the position of Bulgarian women in the workplace in many ways. Many have lower incomes, although of course not necessarily, and have less chance of promotion than men.

It is a problem that is recognised by the government and we are working hard on it. Recently we accepted a national mechanism for gender equality which will contribute to overcoming the existing problems, which are typical and which every country is facing. I will never give up working on this. Apart from being Prime Minister, I am the political leader of the Socialist Party, and it was my initiative at my party’s last congress in December last year to introduce a gender quota and a quota for young people in the higher leadership of the Socialist Party. Personally, to be frank, I am not a supporter of quotas. However, until one establishes a political culture – a habit – that the position of young people and women should be preserved and well developed in political and social life, perhaps it is a good solution. We shall establish that policy on a state level.

Mr KOSACHEV (Russian Federation)

Russia is a Black Sea country. As you know, Romania recently presented a proposal to establish one more regional organisation, which is the Black Sea forum of dialogue and partnership. Does Bulgaria have a position on that proposal, given that we already have the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation, the Black Sea Economic Forum and so on?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you, Mr Kosachev, for your question. I believe that you are well aware that Bulgaria is conducting an active policy of good neighbourliness and co-operation not only in South-Eastern Europe but in the Black Sea area as a NATO member country and a country that is shortly to join the European Union. Our country also traditionally has good relations with most nations in the region. You correctly said that there are several mechanisms, for example, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Organisation and the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation itself, the bank of which is based in Thessaloniki. In principle, I would support any initiative that promotes good co-operation, political dialogue and good neighbourly relations in the Black Sea area. Of course, we have to view the initiative per se in a concrete form so that we do not create initiatives that overlap with other internationally recognised institutions. Such initiatives should genuinely contribute and not simply be something on paper that is not efficient enough. Several practical issues, such as financing and the decisionmaking mechanism, should be discussed. In principle, Bulgaria is very open minded and we shall consider the initiative, of which we are aware, and declare our position. In principle, it is favourable.

Mr PANGALOS (Greece)

Welcome, Mr Prime Minister. I want to speak about the lack of energy resources, which is an obstacle to this part of the world. I should like to know your feelings about possible European Union programmes that will allow further use of hydraulic resources for the sustained growth of our energy capacity in the region. What are the possibilities of greater use of nuclear energy? If we all agree about the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, why is it not being established faster?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you, Mr Pangalos, for your question. Indeed, energy development of SouthEastern Europe is an important issue for the countries in the region because it affects the competitiveness and stability of all the countries and the positive development of the nations.

Bulgaria is currently one of the most serious exporters of electricity in Europe. We are fourth in the league of electricity exporters and we also contribute substantially towards the energy balance in neighbouring countries. We intend to continue to do that. We are interested, based on our knowledge and experience of the tradition in Bulgaria, in developing different sorts of energy in our country. We want to work on energy efficiency and also to develop the nuclear power plant in Belene, which is a substantial international project. Many international companies have shown an interest in the project and it could contribute substantially to the energy balance of the region after the nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, according to the wishes of the European Union under the terms of the accession treaty, will have been progressively closed. We are working on the matter and are open to co-operation.

Bulgaria strongly supports the project for developing the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. We are in active contact with the governments of Greece and Russia and we expect the relevant companies to be more active. I believe that the project should move forward as soon as possible because it will bring greater energy stability not only to the region but to European Union energy supplies. It will also avoid the environmental problems of the tankers that pass through the straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardenelles. It therefore has an environmental benefit. Bulgaria will also work on energy efficiency programmes, which are of paramount importance. I can inform you that a week ago in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, identified Bulgaria as an example of a country that is working actively on the matter.

Mr ZERNOVSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Corridor No. 8, which connects Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and indirectly Turkey and Italy, is again on the European Union list of priority transport corridors. Given that Bulgaria is an accession country and the Republic of Macedonia is a candidate country, do you believe that it is possible for our two countries to join our European partners in supporting that important project?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you, Mr Zernovski. The answer is that I believe so. It depends on our action and seriousness. Let us be frank, the political leaders of the countries that are establishing that corridor – Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia and Albania – have been talking but we have not done enough to pursue international financial institutions, possible donors and countries that might be interested. We are working hard on implementing all aspects of the corridor – the railway, the approach corridor and the Albanian- Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil (AMBO) pipeline, which is the eventual pipeline between Burgas and Vlore.

The governments that have an interest in developing the corridor should be much more active. We could cooperate with some European nations, for example Italy, which is a strong supporter of Corridor No. 8. My general understanding is that the more transport corridors and pipelines we have in the region and in Europe, the greater our stability. Every infrastructural project which passes through the territory of several nations links them and creates a common interest. That is the European way of thinking, which is important to implement. I can see it growing year by year in South-Eastern Europe. The approach is one of willingness for a common future and to work together. The Bulgarian Government is fully open to that.

Mr ZERNOVSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

I am very glad that in your speech you emphasised that you fully support the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. Does that mean that Bulgaria will finally accept that Court’s decision to register the organisation of the Macedonian minority called OMO Ilinden?

Mr Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Thank you, Mr Zernovski, for your question. I can tell you that Bulgaria will fulfil the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which does not automatically imply that the organisation should be recognised by the Bulgarian Court. I must emphasise that this is not a governmental issue; the independent Bulgarian Court registers such organisations, as well as political parties, and that is well within its competence. I believe that the court will take into consideration the decision of the European Court of Human Rights but I stress that in the Bulgarian Constitution every human being has the full right to declare himself of any national identity and to implement his religious rights. No minority can be oppressed in our country. That is clearly stated in the Bulgarian Constitution. In the Bulgarian census, including the last one, which was conducted in 2001, any person who wants to declare himself to be of a certain nationality can do so. In that context, the number of people declaring themselves Macedonian was a little more than 5 000 in a population of almost 8 million.


We must now conclude the questions to Mr Stanishev. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank him most warmly for his valuable contribution to the debate and especially for his address. I wish him all the best for success in preparation for membership of the European Union and I count on your support in strengthening co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe, especially in supporting Prime Minister Juncker in his report. Thank you very much.