President of the Republic of Bulgaria

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 31 January 1991

Mr President, Madam Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to begin with a few general thoughts by way of introduction to what I have to say.

For Bulgaria, the fact of belonging to Europe has never been seen in a strictly geographical sense. We Bulgarians have always wanted to consider our country and our national culture as integral parts of the European cultural area, of the European genius.

Throughout our long history, turbulent forces had striven to tear us away by force from the intellectual community of this old continent and its system of values; that was regarded as a national tragedy, but the Bulgarian people always found the indefatigable courage and energy to return to the spirit of their origins, and to the invigorating traditions of their native place.

The last century will serve as sufficient example: after having suffered five centuries of Ottoman domination, Bulgaria managed to return to the European fold by firmly embracing the fundamental institutions of the European scene – a pluralist parliamentary system, private ownership of property, Christian morality, education and training for the mind. Today, after forty-five long years of totalitarianism and enforced Sovietisation, Bulgaria restates its firm intention to rejoin free and democratic Europe.

Lying at the crossroads of three continents, situated at a key junction with the Balkans, Bulgaria has managed to focus the spiritual aspirations of several cultural tendencies. The secular debris of a great many civilisations lies buried in our soil: Thrace, ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantium, the Slavs, the Proto-bulgars, and the great cultures of the East.

A detailed semantic examination of modern Bulgarian culture would reveal several elements that prove our intellectual kinship with the world’s cultural heritage, bearing in mind the ongoing tendency of Bulgarian artists to take their inspiration from antiquity, medieval Christianity, and the humanism of the Renaissance.

It would certainly be arbitrary to attribute to chance the fact that in the ninth century Bulgaria gave birth to the first Slavic alphabet, which spread a few years later to all the Slavonic peoples – the Serbs, the Russians, the Ukrainians and the Byelorussians – and served to promote the literature of the Slavonic genius in all its moral and intellectual dimensions.

In 1982, Pope John Paul II proclaimed brothers Cyril and Methodius saints; these were the first great leaders of the Bulgarian people, champions of a united Europe, and this seems to me to be the clearest evidence that the Bulgarian state belongs to greater Europe.

On the threshold of the third millennium, the nations of Europe once again have a unique opportunity to live together in a united world which aspires to a common future, and the people of my country cannot but welcome that. We are ready to co-operate in the most effective manner possible in order to make these profound desires a reality. Bulgaria is firmly resolved to be a full member of all the European institutions, and undertakes to shoulder its part of the responsibilities and to pay its proper share in the cost of building the new Europe.

We regard the Council of Europe as one of the most powerful and prestigious of the European institutions, which has provided tangible proof of its worth in setting European integration in motion. During the four dynamic decades of its existence to date, the Council of Europe has striven unflaggingly to encourage and give practical effect to the processes of European political construction.

Indeed, the accelerating democratic developments and economic reforms under way in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in recent years have been made possible by, among other things, the efforts of the Council of Europe to assist them. The democratic dissidents in our countries who did not hesitate to carry on the hard struggle under totalitarian regimes using Stalinist methods were greatly appreciative of the Council of Europe as the protector and defender of fundamental freedoms, human dignity, moral values and the ideals of humanist creation.

Today those regimes have collapsed not only in Hungary but also in the Czech and Slovak Republic, in Poland and in Bulgaria, and their peoples have opted for democracy, entirely legitimising their desire to be full members of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe constitutes a centre of gravity, for the states of Western Europe certainly, but also for those of Eastern Europe – all the more so as the democratic changes will surely continue over several years, that tiny revolutionary spark having grown into blazing fires which will burn for a long time and will be hard to extinguish. There will be many different approaches, the pace may be slow or fast, but it is perfectly clear to us that success in this ambitious enterprise will depend directly on an immediate upturn in the economy based on market principles, on improvements in the political, legal and cultural situation, and on the establishment of a suitable educational framework; all these elements must come together to guarantee that the processes begun are irreversible and to promote the status of citizens in our countries, inculcating in them European patterns of behaviour and reasoning.

Pluralist parliamentary democracy and the protection of human rights – two fundamental ideas which constitute the credo of your Organisation, as President Anders Bjorck said last year when he addressed the Bulgarian National Assembly – also constitute the credo of Bulgarian society.

Ladies and gentlemen, you who follow developments in Bulgaria closely are certainly aware that 1990 marked a decisive turning point in the country’s recent history.

With the totalitarian regime completely discredited, the country was painfully bowed down under the strain of the first steps towards a peaceful transition to a democratic constitution, towards the market economy. In a single year the picture in Bulgaria has changed substantially: for the first time for years there have been free, democratic elections in the country; a pluralist parliamentary system has once again begun to operate legitimately within the framework of the state; a President of the Republic has been democratically elected; in December 1990 a new government was formed, comprising all the political forces represented in parliament, and that government took upon itself the grave responsibility of setting economic reforms in motion; the interests of workers are defended by independent trade unions; radio, television, institutions of higher education and the press enjoy complete autonomy.

The Grand Constituent Assembly has already passed several laws of crucial importance to the country: laws on the depoliticisation of the army, of investigating judges, of officials of the Foreign Ministry and the President’s Office; the law on provisional local authorities, which gives a strong boost to the accelerated destructuring of local authorities; the law amending the Economic Activity Decree, opening up legal channels for the privatisation of state enterprises and the protection of foreign investment; the law on accountancy; the plenary debate on the ownership of land bill has already been completed.

Bills on local autonomy, drafted in the spirit of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, have already been put before parliament. Experts are working on the draft of the country’s new democratic constitution. The text of the constitution will be underlain by a few essential principles: the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and all the international texts in this field; separation of powers; and the rule of law.

There are also other bills being debated in plenary session – on banking reform, privatisation, competition, foreign investment, the code of commerce and others besides. Important amendments have been made to the law on public health and to the law on retirement pensions. Other improvements are also planned in the field of labour agreements and the social security system, so as to bring the various provisions into line with the principles of the European Social Charter.

There is one major concern that is causing much heart-searching at the present time – the ecological situation in Bulgaria. We are perfectly well aware that the united Europe of tomorrow will be impossible unless work begins now on a healthy environment at the European level. Accordingly, specialists are now looking into a framework for environmental legislation meeting international requirements and standards. The Republic of Bulgaria is giving very special attention to the development of European cooperation in the environment field, and seeks to give its full and active support to every aspect of it.

A bill vital for the country has been tabled in the Grand Constituent Assembly, a bill to combat ethnic discrimination. It is our firm hope that this legislative action will improve Bulgaria’s image in the world and pave the way for its proper participation in the building of Europe.

I am far from claiming that the processes in hand in Bulgaria are all plain sailing. On the contrary, misunderstandings and disagreements raise sometimes insurmountable obstacles to democratisation. We are in the throes of a serious economic crisis. As the country’s resources are limited, its foreign debt very heavy and its international economic relations almost completely disrupted, the social price of economic reform will be high. Put simply, this means that in our daily lives we will suffer severe hard-ship. We are fully conscious of the fact that we must effect the transition to a market economy ourselves, that we must mobilise all material and moral energies and stimulate all human and structural resources to succeed in this vast undertaking. But we cannot do so without substantial support from international financial organisations and without support from the industrialised countries. Unless we have this support, we will get nowhere. We will be ever mindful of the vicissitudes of the European idea and so on our guard against the perils treatening us: noble efforts can be undermined and the greater Europe divided and torn between rich regions and poor regions, between centre and periphery. A new division of this kind would make the European idea an empty shell.

Fresh difficulties triggered by recent international events have compounded the severe recession in the Bulgarian economy. The Gulf crisis has cast a dark shadow over the prospects for world economic growth. Small countries whose economies are totally dependent on imported energy, such as Bulgaria, have suffered particularly. When the conflict first began, the Republic of Bulgaria unreservedly supported the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions and all the attendant efforts of the multinational forces. The Bulgarian Parliament voted to permit Bulgaria to send a military contingent to take part in the multinational forces’ operations in the Gulf area. Its decision is a clear sign of the new policy in international relations and in the protection of universally acknowledged human values and is in full conformity with international law. We have strictly complied with the worldwide economic sanctions which the United Nations imposed on Iraq, and this has further worsened our already difficult economic situation. In purely economic terms, compliance with the international measures taken against Kuwait’s aggressor has cost Bulgaria 1400 000 dollars in 1990 alone. Although this price is really too heavy for us, we have unflinchingly supported the international community because we fully realise that it is impossible to build a peaceful and prosperous world without affording all countries – large and small alike – lasting guarantees as to their security. The tragedy of the people of Kuwait compels us to accept that we are now in a situation in which states will have increasingly to rely on the united efforts of the international community to combat and stifle violence.

Naturally, a happy and united Europe can be guaranteed a peaceful future only through the instruments recently adopted in Paris by the heads of state or government of the thirty-four countries participating in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Paris meeting re-emphasised the Helsinki Final Act’s ten principles, a solid foundation on which relations can be built between the countries which, fifteen years ago, signed that historic document and a strategy which has stood the test of time. As a European country, Bulgaria sees its democratic ambitions succeeding only in the context of absolute acceptance of the principles already mentioned, namely respecting the undertakings given and fulfilling the obligations entered into in the interests of the prosperity of all the countries concerned.

It is with this always in mind that the Bulgarian Parliament, the President of the Republic, the Government and the main political forces have condemned the use of armed force in the Baltic states and the resulting death of innocent people. The use of force against peaceful citizens and against state institutions based on democratic elections is an extremely dangerous form of repression which has stirred indignation and anguish in the people of Bulgaria. In the present world situation, security in Europe takes on a new dimension, and this is why we unreservedly support all measures to consolidate security and increase mutual trust among states.

When I talk here about security, prosperity and stability for all, I realise that I am talking about concepts which become tangible and real only in a democratic framework which guarantees human rights and fundamental freedoms. In Bulgaria we are paying particular attention to these issues in the reforms now in hand. In the steps we have taken regarding protection of the rights and freedoms of the individual, our aim has been to conform to the rules and standards of all democratic societies. And we are proud to be able to strike a new attitude for the country and to declare openly that it is our purpose and our will to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. Unceasing efforts are being made to improve legislation and bring it into line with international standards and to make the fundamental principles of equality before the law and abolition of all forms of discrimination a reality. Particular emphasis has been placed on the protection of individual ethnic, religious and linguistic rights, without which no set of fundamental rights and freedoms would be complete. Bulgaria will never accept that these problems be brushed aside but will seek solutions which respect the rights and freedoms of every Bulgarian citizen. Bulgaria will never accept discrimination and inequality. We have condemned the serious violations of the rights of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria and in so doing have resolutely broken with the criminal practices of the old regime. But the positive results achieved should not lull us into a false sense of satisfaction. We are convinced that it is the function of the democratic government to work unremittingly to protect rights and freedoms, to guarantee the rule of law and to ensure that the state always acts within the law. Bulgaria’s Government and political forces are resolutely taking effective steps to this end. We have enormous respect for the Council of Europe’s vast experience in this field and we see it as an important source of inspiration. Let me therefore repeat that it is Bulgaria’s purpose and will to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, a cornerstone of international life.

Bulgaria is particularly concerned about security and co-operation in the Balkans. History has given us a place which is in some respects unique; we shall endeavour to use it to minimise an all too present danger, the lack of stability. Cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity compounded by the bigotry and prejudices of the past are quite capable of generating distressing conflicts. Nationalism and chauvinism are a real threat to peace and democracy in the region. In this context, Europe-wide complementarity and interaction necessitate a new approach to the Balkan situation. The only way not to fall into painful traps is untiringly to promote democratisation in the Balkans, and Bulgaria is prepared to play its part in this. We welcome in our region all forms of co-operation based, as I have just said, on the principles of pan-European co-operation and the European idea. To us will surely fall the unique opportunity of performing the difficult but noble task of fostering links between all the states concerned in order to promote, in dignity, the Europeanisation of the Balkans.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Council of Europe’s experience in all fields of contemporary life is, for us, a valuable source of ideas. It will be the Council of Europe’s responsibility to give form to the rapprochement and enrichment of the peoples of Europe united in a single community. The Council’s achievements are clear evidence that democracy, protection of human rights and mutual respect are the fundamental principles which truly guarantee positive results – prosperity, social progress and lasting peace. These achievements are open to the whole world, to all peoples who aspire to a peaceful future. Bulgaria will be equipped to contribute to this historic task; it will also have the dignity to persevere in it and so deserve its place in the Council of Europe family. We support the idea of giving the European process a parliamentary dimension, which could be based on the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. This Assembly is for us a model of European multilateral co-operation and makes us very optimistic about future operations.

The Republic of Bulgaria is grateful to have been invited to accede to four Council of Europe conventions. I am pleased to inform you that the Bulgarian Parliament has ratified them. I would also like to reaffirm our determination to fulfil all the conditions necessary to become a full member of the Council of Europe.

The people of Bulgaria share the same joys, the same hopes and the same anxieties as all the peoples of Europe. And when we set out for Europe, we set out for and come back to ourselves, for Bulgaria is a European country.

Thank you.


Thank you, Mr President, for an interesting speech. The fact that you are here in the midst of our Parliamentary Assembly shows that you belong to the European family and we hope that relations between the Council of Europe and the Republic of Bulgaria will continue and will be upgraded.

You have been kind enough, Mr President, to agree to answer questions from the Assembly. Fifteen questions have been tabled. I remind members that these must be questions to the President, not statements – statements may be made only by the President. I hope that all speakers will be brief. According to the rules, speakers have half a minute to ask their questions. I call Mr Atasever.

Mr ATASEVER (Turkey) (translation)

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr President, may I congratulate you on your country’s transition to democracy after seventy years of communism.

Yesterday, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic became a full member of the Council of Europe and I hope that your country too will soon join the Council of Europe.

About 220 000 Turks, all of them elderly, have fled from Bulgaria to Turkey. Since I myself am a Turk of Bulgarian origin, from Tirgoviste, I am fulfilling my responsibility as a member of the Turkish Parliament by taking a close interest in this problem.


Will you please put your question, Mr Atasever.

Mr ATASEVER (translation)

I have almost finished, Mr President. Twenty thousand Turkish refugees from Bulgaria are now living in my constituency. I have found work, housing, training, state help, etc. for them all. However, the biggest problem is old-age pensions, for many are well over fifty years old and have no entitlement to a pension.

My question is, how can we solve this serious problem amicably, between neighbours? Thank you.

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that attempts were being made to solve the problems faced by Bulgarian citizens in Turkey. The whole system of old-age pensions was currently under review although many problems were still outstanding. All Bulgarians were entitled to a pension up until the time of their death.

Mr PROBST (Austria) (translation)

Mr President, in June 19891 led a Council of Europe delegation which visited the Turkish areas in your country. I should be interested to know what changes there have been. What is the situation of the Turkish Muslim minority in Bulgaria? Is emigration continuing? Is there much re-immigration? What has changed in the meantime?

To my second question. I have heard that remarkably large numbers of Russian workers, from eighty to a hundred at a time, are being brought into power stations, ports and so on in order to work there. This seems odd. I would be glad to hear your answers on these two points.

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that a fundamental change in attitude towards the Turkish ethnic minority in Bulgaria had taken place. All Turks could now use their Muslim names. In addition, they could express themselves freely in their mother tongue and study Turkish in Bulgarian schools. People of all creeds could now worship freely. There was even a current building programme for mosques. Of the 320 000 emigrants from Bulgaria to Turkey some 120 000 had now returned to Bulgaria and the rest were free to do so whenever they wished.

Mr NUNEZ (Spain) (interpretation)

said that he had taken part in the visit to Bulgaria. He asked what steps had been taken to deal with the flow of emigrants from Bulgaria to Turkey.

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that the Bulgarian Government had distanced itself from the former regime. The new government championed the cause of glasnost and condemned the treatment by the previous regime of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria. Now religious freedom was universally tolerated in Bulgaria.

Mr ESER (Turkey)

I listened carefully to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, a neighbouring country of mine. I thank President Zhelyu Zhelev for the information that he gave us and stress that I am very happy about the positive developments in his country.

In this period, where a new Europe is being built, regional co-operation is also of increasing importance. There are many examples of such co-operation in various fields, some of them at the project stage and some already functioning. Among these there is the co-operation between the countries around the Black Sea, working for the protection against pollution of rivers flowing into the Black Sea and of the Black Sea itself.

How do you, Mr President, see the future of this co-operation, and to what extent should its scope be extended?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that Black Sea pollution was a source of great concern to Bulgaria. Many of its holiday resorts were located on the Black Sea and these offered a vital source of foreign currency. Bulgaria was ready to collaborate with all countries, and to support all initiatives to limit the damage caused by pollution. A strong environmental movement flourished in Bulgaria, promoting the cause of ecoglasnost.

Mr BAUMEL (France) (translation)

Mr Zhelev, after the significant progress towards democracy accomplished in Bulgaria, what further political and economic action do you envisage?

What is the exact date fixed for the next general elections and what measures do you intend to take to ensure that they are conducted with due regard to pluralism and freedom of expression for the electorate?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that Bulgaria had already travelled a long way down that road. All the machinery necessary for democracy to function was now in place. The media operated free from censorship and the trade unions and higher education institutions were all autonomous. Bulgaria was now a pluralist state.

Even if the democratic structure in Bulgaria was not yet perfect, the basic elements were firmly established. The next step for the country was to move towards a market economy and he announced that, as from 1 February, prices would be liberalised. Private ownership of land would also follow shortly, along with considerable reform of the banking and finance systems.

As for the date of the general election, he felt it unwise for voting to take place in the middle of so many changes and was therefore unable to define any precise timetable.

Mrs GRENDELMEIER (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, may I again raise the question put to you by Mr Probst, which you may not have heard. I too have heard that Russian workers have been shipped in to your country and set to work in groups of eighty to one hundred in big centres such as cities and ports. There is a suspicion that these are not normal workers, but armed units on what is said to be a special mission, which might prove a serious threat to the fragile path of democracy.

The question is, is this information correct? If so, how do you judge the presence of these Russian groups? Is it conceivable that we are witnessing a process which might end in violence, as did events in the Baltic states? Lastly, what would you do in that case, Mr President?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that her concern was not fully justified as the workers in question were there as a result of an agreement between the Bulgarian and Soviet Governments. He mentioned one example involving about forty Russian workers who were being employed because Bulgarian workers were refusing to work in a particular factory. He felt that Bulgaria’s move to a market economy would mean that foreign workers might well need to be employed in the future. There was, however, no political danger arising from this situation.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

My question is about education. It seems to me that Bulgaria must face enormous problems in certain parts of the curriculum, notably history and economics. I understand that in what was East Germany there were 1 200 professors of Marxism Leninism. I wonder how Bulgaria is tackling the change from indoctrination to learning, and what the staff implications are of that.

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

agreed that changes were necessary, not only in terms of replacing outdated equipment, but in updating the school curriculum. The history of the Communist Party in Bulgaria, for example, was no longer needed as a core subject. His country was adopting a modern system designed to educate its young population without forcing political prejudices upon them.

Mr ROKOFYLLOS (Greece) (translation)

Mr Zhelev, first I should like to congratulate you on your speech, and particularly on the breadth of your vision and clarity of your convictions and then to ask you to give us some information about Greco-Bulgarian relations.

In fact, it seems to me that since the 1960s the two peoples and their leaders have been able to overcome their misunderstandings and hostility of the past and entered a new era of co-operation and collaboration in several domains.

What is your view of the present state of our relations and what do you think are the future prospects for our two countries?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

replied that relations between the two countries were a model to be followed by neighbouring countries everywhere. He hoped that such bilateral contacts could soon be established between Bulgaria and its other neighbours.

Mr AHRENS (Germany) (translation)

Mr President, my question concerns less the lofty realms of politics and more a practical political area, yet one which is extremely important for mankind.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of taking part in a conference on transfrontier co-operation, held in Macedonia, in north-eastern Greece. I could not help noticing that the contacts between the regions and local authorities of Greece and Bulgaria were sparse in contrast with the contacts that exist on borders within Western Europe.

My question is therefore whether your government should not soon consider signing the Council of Europe’s European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, adopted in 1989.

Thank you.

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that Bulgaria could not be opposed to such an accession, as nothing but benefit could follow. While measures had already been taken to improve the visa system, he hoped the move towards accession would speed up still further.

Mr PANGALOS (Greece) (translation)

Mr Zhelev, the Balkan countries have already made some progress which seems to be dictated by their geography, history and the requirements of economic development. Nevertheless, the military expenditure of our countries, in terms of national product, is among the highest in Europe, and perhaps in the world.

Do you not think that, given the end to confrontation between the politico-military blocs in Europe, we could not envisage rapprochement and the development of co-operation in the Balkans, especially in terms of a concerted reduction in military expenditure, particularly for conventional weapons, beyond what is already set down in the agreements signed at pan-European level?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that Bulgaria would be even more willing than other Balkan countries to reduce spending on arms as the country was suffering an economic crisis. Although moves in the direction of disarmament were being made, following the example of other European countries, the current situation in the Balkans had to be taken into account: the Warsaw Pact was collapsing and the USSR was in crisis. The future of Bulgaria’s bilateral treaty with the USSR was uncertain.

Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE (United Kingdom)

I am a farmer as well as a politician and I have had the good fortune to visit your country, Mr Zhelev, where I have seen some good land and farming, and some bad farming. There are some modern, big units in your country and it appears to be difficult for you to hand them back to private enterprise. Will you tell us a little about how you will organise that? It will be difficult, but I have no doubt that you can do it.

Mr President of the Assembly, my question took twenty-five seconds.


I congratulate you, Lord Mackie; I shall give you back your remaining five seconds another time. I call Mr Zhelev.

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that it was not intended to break up the farms; this would be a decision for the farmers themselves, some of whom would not wish to work in large cooperatives. Some of the large co-operative farms were remaining while reforming their organisation. He thought that returning to much smaller farms might be a backward step and those farmers who had experienced large farms might not wish to work on smaller ones.

Lord KINNOULL (United Kingdom)

Lord Mackie has stolen my question on agriculture. I congratulate the President on both his address and his replies. I should like to ask a general question about the economic changes facing his country. What co-operation and specific support can the pan-European countries give to his country and what support has already been given?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that help had been granted by the Council of Europe to assist the democratic process. For instance, a delegation had been sent to the elections in 1990 which had contributed towards ensuring that they were genuinely democratic. Other initiatives had included a seminar with invited experts on local autonomy and a visit by young Bulgarian journalists to Strasbourg. Council of Europe membership would help pave the way to membership of other international organisations.

Mr VURALHAN (Turkey)

Mr Zhelev, I congratulate you on your open and sincere statement. I hope that this genuine dialogue will allow your country, in time, to take its deserved place in the European family of nations. I wish to focus on the status of Turks in your country. I am happy to learn that you are now prepared to give them full citizenship. You also said that you are planning your elections for this year. Will your citizens of Turkish origin be given the status that will enable them, if elected, to participate in regional councils and to have their voices heard in any transformation that you, Mr President, are planning for your country?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that all Bulgarians including those of Turkish origin had the right to stand and, indeed, there were already twenty-four members of Turkish origin in the Bulgarian Parliament. Although the existence of political groups of same ethnic background might cause some problems, they helped take into account the needs of ethnic minorities.

Mr BASIAKOS (Greece)

Ever more frequently during recent times we hear fears expressed about the security of Bulgarian nuclear reactors, and especially of those close to the border with Greece. What is the position of the Bulgarian Government? What measures do they intend to take to avoid any friction with neighbouring countries?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

said that there were no nuclear reactors near the Greek border. The Bulgarian Government accepted the need to retain the country’s nuclear power industry – albeit in a modernised form – as it had no other sources of energy. A programme of co-operation with France to improve Bulgaria’s nuclear power industry was in hand. Bulgaria was negotiating with France, the United States of America and various companies to guarantee the security and stability of its nuclear installations.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom)

Mr President, I believe that your country incurred a great deal of international goodwill when the government established an inquiry into the assassination, by a poisoned umbrella tip in a London street, of the Bulgarian citizen, Mr Giorgy Markov, who worked for the BBC. Can you tell us about the outcome of the investigation? Who was responsible for the assassination? Would you agree that the suspected Bulgarian-Soviet KGB conspiracy that led to the attempted assassination of the present Pope is worthy of a similar investigation?

Mr Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria (interpretation)

replied that the Bulgarian Parliament had set up a committee to examine crimes of this nature. A sub-committee was investigating the murder of Giorgy Markov and hoped to publish the results in the near future. As a new democracy, Bulgaria felt that it was important to carry out such investigations, and to have public access to information on serious crimes. Only in this way could the confidence of the world be secured. Concerning links with the KGB, he said that the relationship between the KGB and the Bulgarian secret service was undergoing many changes. None the less, links did exist, as they did with other secret services, including the CIA. However, Bulgarian counter-espionage would be modelled more closely on West European secret services in future.


Thank you very much, Mr Zhelev. We have come to the end of our questions. You have answered them in an extremely effective manner. I say on behalf of the Assembly that we are impressed by the way in which you have been able to give short and concrete answers to the many difficult questions put to you. Once again, I thank you for coming here and for your speech. On behalf of the Assembly, I express the wish that there will be further good relations between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Bulgaria.