Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 24 April 1995

Mr President, Mr Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, I take the floor with a feeling of satisfaction at having the opportunity to pay my respects to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Organisation which in the Bulgarian mind stands for the principles of democracy. The Council of Europe, the Organisation that was the first to open to the East after the fall of the Berlin Wall, indicates to the other European institutions the way to the future, the way to the unification of our continent.

Currently, Europe is at a crossroads similar to that which appeared after the end of the second world war, the fiftieth anniversary of which we will celebrate soon. The continent was divided then by an ideological and political barrier, which in the course of over four decades horrified the European nations.

Five years ago, it was believed that, once the wall tumbled down, the problems would be solved. It was believed that it would not take much time. That was a period of romantic illusions. Life was not that simple and it confronted us with political, economic, social and ethnic problems on a tremendous scale. The division that in 1989 we believed we had overcome threatens to re-appear if we do not realise the imperatives of the future and the challenges of twenty- first century Europe.

Mr President, I need hardly persuade you and the esteemed members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of the historical responsibility that we all share so as not to miss the real chance to settle conflicts in the continent and to stabilise and unite Europe in a cohesive social, economic, cultural, legal and political European space. I need hardly note the profound meaning.of the goal to create a Europe of citizens.

We all realise that the attainment of this alluring goal is a common challenge, the response to which requires the concerted efforts of the European states and institutions and of every individual citizen of the continent. This is the way to overcome, to put it mildly, the obstacles that exist today, such as bloodshed and the general instability in some regions in the Balkans and in the eastern part of the continent; the grave economic, social and other problems of transition in central and east European countries; the continuing economic recession in the west, to say nothing of the various forms of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, militant nationalism, religious and ideological intolerance that occur in one part of the continent or another.

The destiny of people, both in the east and in the west, and their security and prosperity in the coming decades, will depend on the decisions that we politicians will take in the next few months or years since security, be it political, military, economic or social security, is indivisible. We all want a peaceful, secure, democratic, fair and prospering Europe which guarantees its citizens all rights and freedoms. It may seem an ambitious goal in the context of the present- day conflicts and hardships of the transitions as experienced by the new democracies. However, it is absolutely feasible. Its achievement will require the sustained and concerted efforts of all countries. Naturally, there are risks. However, if a new division of the continent, with all the ensuing political, social and migration threats which that division entails, is to be prevented, we have to take those risks.

We believe that peace in Europe and its advancement can be guaranteed solely on the basis of making it a cohesive political, economic, military and social area. Therefore, we consider Bulgaria’s integration into this area as the major task of the Bulgarian Government. We believe that the existing invisible, but tangible division of the continent may be overcome on the basis that brought together the west European countries after the 1940s when they united to overcome the centuries-long enmity and rivalry.

The elements composing the formula of an effective response to the challenge of a united Europe are multiple and diverse. They include the efforts to build political stability, to develop further the democratic institutions, to establish a system of democratic security in the continent, to recover the ailing economies in central and eastern Europe and to provide social security to all members of the European community.

I would like explicitly to underscore another element of the formula and that is the pressing need to change the way of thinking; to depart from the clichés of the bloc approach of rivalry and division in favour of the modem European concepts of the present day. Is there a more vivid example of the advantages of such an approach than Strasbourg, the centuries-old crossroads city that used to be an apple of discord in a whole period of history and which today is one of the capitals of Europe, a meeting place of European ways and a symbol of the pan-European identity? History has shown that the problems of each country could be solved in a united Europe alone.

The Council of Europe was destined to play the burdensome role of a pioneer in the integration of central and east European countries into the European structures. Loyal to freedom, democracy, the rule of law, human dignity and human rights, the Council of Europe is successfully performing its functions to guarantee and to promote those underlying values and to be a bridge in respect of the cultural unity of the different parts of the continent.

The Council of Europe, has been recording undeniable achievements ever since it was established. They are the continually evolving unique system of enhancing, guaranteeing and protecting human rights and freedoms; an ever-enriching system of standards in all areas; efficient and fruitful co-operation at government-to-government, parliamentary, regional and local level, and so on. Regardless of whether it is national security or the protection of the environment, cultural exchanges or transborder co-operation, you have remained loyal to your mission to bring democracy to each individual citizen of Europe and to make democracy a way of thinking and a life pattern from Gibraltar to Vladivostock.

The European architecture confronts the Council of Europe with new problems, responsibilities and tasks. We are deeply convinced that the Council of Europe should evolve into a real pan-European institution. Today it has thirty-four members, of which my country is one. However, the process of enlargement is far from complete. It is a question that is cardinal not just for the Council of Europe, and a question that has more to it than a geographic dimension alone. I avail myself of the opportunity to welcome the excellent co-operation and active commitment between this Assembly and the Committee of Ministers to bring the underlying values of the Council of Europe to the applicant countries on the way to their full integration into the Organisation.

The relations of the Council of Europe with other European structures, especially the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the European Union, are likewise a relevant issue. We are all aware that there are many points of contact, even overlapping spheres in the activities of those institutions. However, I am convinced that each of those institutions has its future place in a Europe of the citizens and this requires promotions of relations and co-operation between them. I am also convinced that, in the future, the Council of Europe will retain its identity in the new European architecture.

Let us not forget that, unlike the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union, Nato or Western European Union, the Council of Europe is the only organisation which, in the foreseeable future, will assume a real pan-European identity. This makes it a unique forum of political dialogue and interaction where all European states can meet and focus their efforts on the solution of the problems that they have in common. That possibility should not be underestimated or neglected.

The efforts of the Organisation, and of the member states, to align its structure and activity to the new requirements of the present day and the new role of the Council of Europe are praiseworthy. The effective use of the existing potential could be of crucial significance in surmounting many of the challenges that we face. Let me just mention the Organisation’s capacity to prevent existing or potential sources of tension, which constitutes an essential part of the Council of Europe’s contribution to the Pact on Stability in Europe. .

The admission of new member states occasionally leads to new problems which need to be solved, or it focuses attention on different aspects of problems that have been discussed for quite a long time. At present, some east Europeans feel insecure because of the conflicts raging around them, the lower living standards, the impossibility of travelling freely around Europe and the losses that they have sustained as a result of UN sanctions. That makes them feel inferior. They do not want to be treated as second-rate Europeans. It is evident that new concepts and new mutually shared ideas are required if the discontent, scepticism and indifference which make their way into the minds of the public are to be overcome.

I want to refer to another issue. The Vienna meeting of the heads of state and government of the Council of Europe member states put on the agenda the contribution of the Council of Europe to democratic security and the need to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century. We all know how significantly the economy affects social and political security. In relation to that, I would like to note that it is perhaps time already for the Council of Europe to address within the framework of its competencies some key political aspects of the economic development of the continent. I think that that is an issue that deserves to be considered.

Central and east European countries are in an uneasy process of transition. Beside the common goals and direction, there are specific features in the development of each. The Republic of Bulgaria is sustaining difficulties that are typical of each of them but there are also difficulties arising from geostrategic realities.

In addition to the high social costs of transition, my country, perhaps in largest measure among the countries that are not directly involved in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, sustains the burden of the huge direct losses from the strict implementation of the trade and economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro and against Iraq and Libya. I am referring to direct losses amounting to many thousands of millions of dollars, and no assistance or support rendered to help us cope with the extremely negative consequences of the sanctions. While we recognise our democratic transition as an undeniable achievement, I should like to stress the complicated socioeconomic problems that our people are currently facing. This predetermines some of the first actions of the Bulgarian Government and I should like to mention some of them in brief.

Parliamentary elections in my country late last year resulted in a new domestic political configuration. The impressive victory in the elections by the socialists, left-wing agrarians and ecologists led to a new majority in parliament and to a cabinet of coalition. The definitive expression of the will of the voters generated conditions for political stability and development of a long-term strategy to pull us out of the deep socio-economic crisis and continue building a democratic society and socially oriented market economy.

The Bulgarian Government today is a team of politicians who agree in their evaluations and concepts of the country’s present day and future and who are determined to be committed to efficient administration and governance based on the values of pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. All these values lie at the heart of the work of the Council of Europe and constitute the basics of the future of our continent. For us as a government the attachment to European democratic standards is an indisputable priority.

The government’s major objectives in the economic and social spheres are gradually to achieve a stable economic growth, curb inflation, contain crime and establish clear rules for the economic life of the country. Our effort is focused on the revival of production, restructuring of the economy and advancing the reforms in agriculture. The government attaches extreme importance to privatisation. Its large-scale implementation is about to start.

Technological and infrastructural innovation is a primary task for the Bulgarian Government. Our integration in Europe is impossible without modem communications and without active and free exchange of goods, capital and people.

The social cost of the transition borne by the majority of the Bulgarian people is very high. Despite the tremendous difficulties, we have the ambition resolutely to slow down the drop in living standards and reduce it to zero for the most vulnerable social strata. It is absolutely clear to us that the country can pull out of the crisis only with the joint efforts of Bulgarian citizens in the key sphere of economic development and in solving the most acute social problems. Social legislation and reforms in this area are among the government’s main priorities. We intend to institute legally autonomous social funds operating on the principle of being self-financing and with only partial budget subsidising. I should like specially to underline the hopes that we pin on our participation in the Social Development Fund of the Council of Europe so as to facilitate the solution of problems in areas such as health, education and the reduction of unemployment.

Reliable operation of our law enforcement system, naturally strictly abiding by the principle of the separation of powers, will be essential in the government’s work. I should emphasise that we specially appreciate interaction and co-operation within the framework of the Council of Europe in the future development of institutions in Bulgaria as a state committed to the rule of law.

Through executive and law-making efforts we are seeking to guarantee democratisation and further development in local self-government. This will improve our participation in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the importance of which forum it is difficult to overrate.

A characteristic feature of the transition in my country is the successful solution of ethnic problems and tensions that we inherited from the turbulent history of the Balkans. Equality of citizens before the law, the protection of all fundamental human rights and freedoms and the creation of conditions for the free development of individual and civil society are the pillars of our constitution. All this, in addition to our historical tradition of tolerance, gives us grounds to believe that Bulgaria will be a country of peaceful co-existence for the mutual enrichment of different regions and cultures.

Our government is committed to its foreign policy, the major targets of which are to guarantee national security and economic growth and strengthen democratic processes. Bulgaria’s integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic economic, political and security systems is a major priority for us. This means that continuity is a clear-cut feature of our foreign policy strategy.

We intend to make all necessary efforts to fulfil the rights and obligations under Bulgaria’s association agreement with the European Union which became effective on 1 February this year. We are convinced that the results of these efforts will give further opportunities to Bulgaria to continue negotiating admission to the European Union immediately after the Intergovernmental Conference in 1996. As a parallel step we will intensify co-operation with the states associated with the European Union and the interaction with their structures that are already in place. We intend to take an active part in regional forums and initiatives that tally with our foreign policy targets.

In formulating policy on security systems, the government is guided by an important declaration agreed by the consensus of the political forces in parliament at the end of 1993. We will use the opportunities furnished by Nato and Western European Union so that if organisations are enlarged in future it will be possible for Bulgaria to join them with complete respect for our national interests and on the full understanding that Bulgaria’s security will not be detrimental to that of other states, near and far.

As we have repeatedly stated, the government will pursue a policy of stabilisation in the Balkans based on principles such as the renunciation of territorial claims, the inviolability of national borders, respect for national sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and equitable relations with all neighbouring states. We intend to seek new integrated forms of Balkan co-operation and assistance to promote initiatives correcting military imbalances in the region. In no form, direct or indirect, not even under the aegis of international organisations, will Bulgaria be involved in military operations in Balkan conflicts.

May I say a few words about the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the international sanctions imposed in relation to it. We are deeply concerned about the real threat of a further outbreak of the conflict with fresh vigour and a possible spillover. The Republic of Bulgaria continues to believe that a peaceful, just and lasting settlement is possible in the European context alone, with the help of the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions and the United Nations, while the balance of power in the region is retained.

The issue of phasing out the Yugoslav sanctions has become a growing urgent political and economic necessity in the general context of the peaceful settlement of the Yugoslav crisis. Sanctions are increasingly threatening the stability of the third states that they affect. The losses caused by sanctions and the deficit in adequate material for international assistance increasingly undermine the democratic development and economic reforms in the states that border on the states where there is conflict and stand in the way of their ambition to integrate into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. No doubt the removal of the Yugoslav sanctions, in parallel with a peaceful, just and lasting settlement of the conflict, will give an additional vital impetus to the development of European integration processes. It is claimed that there can be no peace in the Balkans in the absence of European unity and understanding; however, there cannot be a united Europe in the absence of peace in the Balkans. Concerted efforts are therefore required.

The Bulgarian Government believes that the countries bordering on the country of conflict – the states in the north, south-east and west alike – that are directly affected by the Yugoslav sanctions can and should contribute to a stepping-up of the process of seeking a solution to the conflict, a parallel removal of the restrictions on trade with Serbia and Montenegro and a revival of the political dialogue among all countries in south-east Europe.

It was at our initiative that five of the countries affected by the Yugoslav embargo agreed on a collective demarche to the United Nations Secretary General and the Security Council concerning the special economic problems faced by third countries as a result of the Yugoslav sanctions. The initiative is open to other affected states wishing to adhere to it.

Mr President, let me again express my satisfaction with the opportunity to present to you some of the Bulgarian Government’s views on domestic and European issues.


Thank you for your interesting speech, Mr Videnov. Again, a record number of colleagues want to ask questions: twenty-one in all. As we must finish in forty-five minutes, I am afraid that I shall not be able to give everyone the usual opportunities. So that all who ask questions will be able to receive answers, I ask all questioners to be reasonably brief. I call Mrs Lentz-Cornette with the first question.

Mrs LENTZ-CORNETTE (Luxembourg) (translation)

Could the Prime Minister of Bulgaria tell us whether the Constitutional Court and the judiciary in his country are independent of the political parties?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

The new Bulgarian Constitution is solidly based on a distinct division of powers. Every court and every administrative institution is now entirely free to fulfil its duties and obligations under Bulgarian law – free from parliament, apart from the necessary parliamentary control; free from political parties; free from subjective pressures of all kinds.

In Bulgaria, we often have problems arising from the different views and standpoints of different institutions. The courts differ from the government, the government from parliament and the parliament from the president. Up to now, however – our experience is not long, but it is rich – we have never failed to solve such problems by constitutional means. That is proof that the current division of powers, and the lack of any mechanisms for direct involvement of ideologies or party interests in the government of the country, are real.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom)

Since February 1993, international human rights organisations have reported the concerns of non-Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria about a campaign against them that is resulting in various kinds of suffering, including the loss of jobs, physical attacks, attacks on church buildings and problems with local authorities, such as the refusal to register new churches. Can Mr Videnov assure us that all Christian denominations in Bulgaria are being treated in exactly the same way as Orthodox Christians, without discrimination or restriction?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

It is true that, in the Bulgarian Constitution, the Orthodox Church is described as the traditional Bulgarian religion; but that implies no preference, and gives no opportunities for discrimination against other non-Orthodox Christian religions.

Bulgarian public opinion sometimes becomes very occupied with problems and conflicts arising from the activities of different sects in the country, and that sometimes provides the motive for sections of the public to attack non-Orthodox Christian religions as well. The problem is sometimes due to a lack of adequate, up-to-date laws governing religions, churches and associated activities in Bulgaria, but measures have been taken. The different religions were registered last year, as were the foundations that deal with religious matters and the various churches. I assure Mr Atkinson that, following that action, the Bulgarian Government will not tolerate any discrimination against non-Orthodox Christian religions and churches, regardless of the section of public opinion from which such attacks might come.

Mr RECODER (Spain) (interpretation)

asked about Bulgaria’s view of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and when Bulgaria would sign it.

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

The convention is one of the most important documents on which the Council of Europe has worked over the past few years. All Bulgarian representatives in the Parliamentary Assembly are aware – as is Bulgarian public opinion – that it constitutes a decisive step forward, solving some of the bitterest problems in the European continent.

The Bulgarian Government is considering every detail of the convention. It is a slow procedure – in which the Bulgarian Parliament will participate at a later stage – but I do not think that it will be long before we are ready to announce our country’s position. We do not wish to create problems in signing and implementing such an important European document.

Certain problems arise from the lack of a definition of the term “national minorities”. We in Bulgaria know that ethnic, religious, cultural and language differences do not necessarily lead to the creation of national minorities within a national state. We know that certain mechanisms should be built on the basis of a better understanding of national minorities. That applies especially to the Balkans. Countries should be more flexible and perhaps more industrious when solving the problems that we are discussing according to the specific features of a given society. I am sure that the problem to which attention has been drawn will be solved by means of the Bulgarian Constitution and on the basis of discussions in the Council of Europe. There will also be new concrete texts for an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which will be analysed by our specialists.

Mr SEITLINGER (France) (translation)

You rightly said that there would be no European union without peace in the Balkans. And you mentioned the effects of the economic sanctions imposed by the UN. The deciders are not the payers, and your country is an innocent victim of the UN decision. You have suffered considerable losses, estimated at three thousand million US dollars, without any compensation, whereas after the Gulf War countries like Egypt, Turkey, Jordan received compensation. Disregarding the basic political issue of whether or not to maintain the sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, is there any prospect of the international community compensating you for the damage you continue to suffer bearing in mind that your former colleague Mr Perinski, now Minister for Foreign Affairs, presented a report to our Assembly back in December 1993 on the losses your country had already suffered? What are the prospects of this burden being shared?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

It is difficult to talk about the sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. We must bear in mind the cost to third countries, or neighbouring countries. We must analyse ways of compensating the losses suffered by innocent victims. Even according to the most conservative estimates of the International Monetary Fund, total losses amount to about two thousand million US dollars. That will be the position by the end of the first year, and that is only Bulgaria. Similar problems are faced by other countries such as Macedonia, Albania, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Italy and especially Greece.

We have taken the opportunity to raise these matters before the competent international authorities and organisations. There are several United Nations and Security Council resolutions. We feel that the time has come for the Balkan states to try to step up the momentum of the peace process in the former Yugoslavia and at the same time to phase out sanctions and to pay compensation to affected third countries for some of the losses that have been suffered during the three or four years of conflict.

First, we look to the international financial institutions to adopt a more preferential attitude. All the countries concerned have their own problems. Secondly, we look for investment in building alternative infrastructures and communications for the territories or countries round the country of conflict. We seek freer access to European markets for those countries’ goods. We wish to see their participation in the revival of the region’s economy after the conflict has come to an end. A collective effort by countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, Romania and Greece can be taken up by the countries neighbouring Yugoslavia. I hope that there will be a positive response from the competent international institutions and organisations.

Mr RUFFY (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, when the press in western Europe talks about your party, the Bulgarian socialist party, they always add the adjective “ex-communist” with pejorative overtones. Would you tell us what basic elements of your programme reflect your socialist convictions and ought to dissipate any such doubts, rendering this label obsolete?

What is your government’s attitude towards the resurgence of nationalistic movements? Could you explain why, when you formed your government, you were unable to achieve the grand coalition you hoped for when you stated that you would count on all Bulgarians to promote the development of your country?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

That is an important question. There are many ideological differences between the recent socialist parties in Bulgaria following the former communist regime. There is much proof for saying that. Our recent history provides much proof. I have in mind reformist efforts. The evolutionary development towards democracy and a socially oriented market economy is without an alternative. One of the strongest supporters for that development is the Socialist Party. An important feature is the lack of a nationalistic figure in Bulgarian political life, especially on the left wing. That is the position after several years of difficult transition. There has been good co-operation between different political parties, including the representatives of the Bulgarian Muslims during the past two years. There are good prospects for joint effort in some specific fields in the future.

A coalition proved impossible in Bulgaria after the elections, not because it was not promoted but because an absolute majority of the Bulgarian people demanded from its statesmen a bigger political responsibility. Those changes were felt in Bulgaria and the leaders of the political forces in parliament felt that also. It may be that they were wise to provide the chance of making the socialists and ecologists fulfil their promises and ambitions before the eyes of the public. I underline that this is not an example of prejudice, especially religious prejudice. It is a political reality and does not mean that there are nationalistic splits down the middle of Bulgarian society. This is part of Bulgaria’s past and may be there for ever.

Mr FRUNDA (Romania)

My question is linked to a previous question asked by Mr Ruffy. In the Bulgarian Government are there ministers who were also ministers in the former government when Mr Zhivkov led Bulgaria? Is it true that there are ministers in the Department of the Interior who were leaders of the political police in communist Bulgaria?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

There are people in the first rank of Bulgarian political life and in the Bulgarian Parliament, local authorities and courts who served in those positions during previous decades. In the recent past one of our ministers was the Minister for Education but he was kicked out by Mr Zhivkov at the beginning of 1989. However, that is not the most important fact. He is a well-known Bulgarian academic and a man of great virtue. He has attained some great achievements in the field of science and especially history. He is someone whom Bulgarians regard as an opinion-former. He has a value of his own. No one, until now, has criticised him because of his past, although there has been criticism of some recent activities by ministers.

As for the police, the high ranking staff of the Ministry of the Interior has almost completely changed. I do not have the exact data but I think that none of the leaders of the important sections – especially the political police – are now working for the Ministry of the Interior. The lack of professional experience in this field has been detrimental to the efforts of the courts to fight crime and to curb its most horrible atrocities, which the Bulgarian people detest more and more every day.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs also served in that position in previous regimes but many people here in Strasbourg know him well and would not criticise him because of that. They respect him because of his activities as a member of this Assembly during the past two years.

Mr HARDY (United Kingdom)

Will our distinguished visitor advise us of the current position with regard to the conditions and operation of nuclear power generation in Bulgaria? Can we be satisfied that the operation is secure? Is Bulgaria receiving all desirable technological assistance in this field? If not, what support could be sought, perhaps with the encouragement of this Assembly?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

The Bulgarian atomic power plant in Koslodny is under strict international observation. It is one of the most secure atomic power plants in Europe today. I can assure the Assembly of this fact. We have received assistance in this field from different European countries and institutions, and that has been enough until now to raise the standards of security in the power plant and to make it safe for the future of Bulgarian energy.

From the point of view of protecting the environment, we must think more about the conventional power plants in Bulgaria which badly need investment for their future technological development. We must seek to change to alternative energy sources which Bulgaria will be able to follow as we develop in the years to come. We see this as a major field for co-operation with the interested parties in the economic life of western Europe.

Mr PAVLIDIS (Greece)

I would like to welcome the Prime Minister of our neighbouring country, Bulgaria. I hope that he and his people are successful in their efforts to build on a stable basis of democracy.

What is the Prime Minister’s opinion on the idea to sign an agreement between Balkan countries to guarantee existing frontiers, in the first place for the frontiers of recognised countries, and, in the second place for the frontiers of other countries which will be established at the end of the peace process in the area?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Government is well-acquainted with this idea, which we think will be a step in the right direction as stability in the Balkans is very important. However, things are more complicated in the Balkans. We can make further steps – recognising the internationally recognised borders of the Balkans among the countries that are not involved in the conflict and then settling the problems with the countries involved. That will create a new atmosphere in the Balkans, where not only direct claims but even hints of claims for parts of neighbouring states are always dangerous and always create suspicion. A firm recognition of the international borders of the Balkans and the definite lifting of such claims, and guaranteeing that position in the constitution and laws of every country, will provide far more stable Balkans than we have now.


How can you assist, Prime Minister, the position of Bulgaria in the Balkan region with regard to Bulgaria’s association with the European Union? What is your opinion of the probable timing of Bulgaria entering the European Union and Nato?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

As you know, Mr Szymanski, this problem faces every central and east European country today. We will be able to make an application for full membership of the European Union immediately after the Intergovernmental Conference in 1996. There is a lot of work to be done and time is short, but for Bulgaria the integration into the European and Atlantic structures relating to economic, cultural and military matters, are courses without alternative.

As far as Nato and Western European Union are concerned, we central and east European countries will have to participate actively in debates about the future and in the decision-making process. We realise that positions that are not contradictory to one or another of the east European countries are important in trying to build better and bigger security for every one of us. We must consider the need to build the security of the rest. Participation in the European Union and in Western European Union and Nato are the future for central and east European countries.

At the same time, the future of those international organisations depends to a certain extent on the development of our countries. I would not like to look at the problem only from one side. The solution depends on us all – Bulgarians, Poles, Romanians, Czechs, Slovaks and so on.

Mr PARISI (Italy)

I would like to ask the Prime Minister, who has certainly given us an indication of his resolve, effectiveness and, most of all, skill in his replies, if it is true and, if so, why his government has repealed the provisions invalidating the deeds of title to property acquired by the old nomenklatura – communist, of course – thanks to profits made by the regime. Given that he spoke of the Socialist Party as his own party, does he not feel that he is taking certain steps to prevent a return to the political arena, albeit under a different name, merely so as to make it possible to affirm that the division of power actually exists?

The attacks, on the Constitutional Court and the judiciary, which are now well known in international political circles, by members of the Socialist Party and above all by the Justice Minister do not fully reflect the concern that I believe Mrs Lentz-Cornette was voicing when she asked whether there truly was separation of powers.

I think the young Prime Minister has shown that he is exceedingly bright – and we wish him every success – yet he also has to bear in mind that the Council of Europe has often admitted countries from central and eastern Europe as an act of generosity and faith. We want to ensure that there are solid foundations for this definitive admittance to the circle of democratic nations and are not looking for formal replies but practical steps. And practical steps means aspiring to erase from history Bulgarian democracy’s reputation as one which is corrupt and bogged down, where what is said on paper and in constitutional documents is unexceptionable but where the situation in practice is a source of uncertainty. For that reason we ought certainly to be in a position to put in place more extensive monitoring in central and eastern Europe.

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

I can say once more that the constitutional principles of the division of power are adequate for the specific features of Bulgarian society today. At the same time, they comply with the general principles of the Council of Europe and all European communities today. The parliament, although with an absolute majority, is always subject to a possible presidential veto on every law. That often happens – three or four times over the past three or four months. The Consitutional Court often rules out some measures undertaken by parliament. The Supreme Court often enters into argument with the government. Until now, that has not happened with our government, but under the previous government it happened quite often.

Exactly from that point of view the Bulgarian Consitutional model works well – not very efficiently, I must admit, sometimes. Everyone can feel unhappy about delay, but, after all, that is the division of power. That is one of the main principles of democracy, and there is consensus in Bulgarian society that that must be preserved.

Mr FIGEL (Slovakia)

In the process of transition, newly emerging European democracies are looking for broader and deeper mutual political and economic co-operation in their parts of the continent. Mr Prime Minister, how do you evaluate Bulgarian participation in the so-called European initiative and in the Black Sea economic zone, which you have not mentioned in your speech? What political benefits do you expect from Bulgarian membership of the economic zone?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

I thank you for your question. The Black Sea economic co-operation zone is one of the mechanisms for economic integration in our part of the continent in which we are deeply interested. Many projects involving big investment, more active trade between the member countries and building communication links of interregional importance can be activated, to a certain extent, and that is something which must be supported. Some efforts to turn the Black Sea economic co-operation zone into an integrated forum with parliamentary or other mechanisms quite different from what economic co-operation needs for its development have not been very well based until now.

We attach the greatest importance to the development of economic links for the mechanism of the Black Sea economic co-operation zone, especially with regard to energy. Bulgaria has initiated some of the most important ideas in that area today with direct links from different member states of the Black Sea economic co-operation zone. That will soon prove to be helpful to the development of the region through the potential of the member states and with the help of the European organisations and institutions.

At the same time, we pay attention to the development of the central European initiative. As a rich country, Bulgaria is quite interested in developing its resources in infrastructure and communications in the Black Sea zone and in central Europe. There is no competition between the two ideas. There are perfect ways of combining them for the mutual interest and that is what the Bulgarian Government thinks is its biggest objective now.

Mr MIMAROGLU (Turkey) (translation)

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your clear and balanced presentation, and for your interesting and important remarks concerning the Balkans. May your voice be listened to in the region.

My question has to do with the situation in the Balkans. Do you fear a sudden deterioration of the situation in the Balkans one day, do you think the conflict will suddenly spread, and that a military intervention will take place? Do you think that your country’s membership of Nato would be of assistance in this regard? And how does the attitude of Russia on the issue affect you?

Mr Videnov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Government thinks that the prospects of localising the recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia are not bad, although the bloodshed continues and we see the chance of new conflicts and numerous victims of the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The localisation of the conflict is still a fact and we do not see a great danger of its expansion to the south, west or east.

At the same time it is true that the system of collective security in Europe is challenged strongly by the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. In the future, it should be built upon according to the bitter lessons that we learn from these specific conflicts. The participation of every Balkan state, including Bulgaria, in those systems and structures and in those activities and mechanisms, will be against new conflicts of that kind.

It is clear to us that that participation will not be enough if the biggest powers on the continent, including Russia, but not only Russia, are not dedicated constructively to such efforts. In that area, and from that point of view, we do not think that the problems of regional stability, peace and security in respect of the Balkans, will have to be overcome in the future. The resistance of some European states, especially the strongest ones, is important. We feel that there is a need to mobilise efforts in those countries to maintain peace in the region and on the continent. That is why we pay great attention to the position of other Balkan states with regard to all European countries, including those in the west and in the commonwealth – not only Russia and Ukraine – in respect of security issues in order to reach a consent.


Thank you very much, Mr Videnov. I am very sorry that nine of our colleagues will feel deep frustration and that they will hate the President. I must state that Mr Videnov is not responsible for not being able to answer the questions which nine colleagues intended to ask him.

Mr Videnov, on behalf of the Assembly, I thank you very much. Your statement was extremely important and your answers to questions were precise and will certainly contribute to our having a better knowledge of your country. We shall keep in touch and you may be sure that we wish you, your country and your people the best in your difficult function.