Bulgaria hands over Committee of Ministers’ chairmanship to Estonia on 18 May in Sofia

The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states met in Sofia on 18 May.

The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers passed from Bulgaria to Estonia, at the end of a session held on 18 May in Sofia and attended by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states.

The session was chaired by Daniel Mitov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. Rossen Plevneliev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria, addressed the session at its opening.

The outgoing Chair, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, presented the stocktaking of his country’s achievements during his chairmanship.

The new Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Marina Kaljurand, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, presented the priorities of her country’s chairmanship which will run for the forthcoming six months as of today.

The items on the agenda were:  

- Democratic security for all in Europe in challenging times:

Secretary General’s report on the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law: a security imperative for Europe
Tackling violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism
Responding to the refugee crisis
The key role of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in conflict resolution

- Securing the long-term effectiveness of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights

- Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions

- Cooperation with the European Union

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Round table: “The standards of the Council of Europe in the practice and work of equality authorities of the Council of Europe member states"


 
 A round table with international participation was held on 7 April 2016 in Sofia with topic: “The standards of the Council of Europe in the practice and work of equality authorities of the Council of Europe member states", organized by the Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPD) in the framework of Bulgaria’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
About 50 guests took part in the round table, including representatives of international organisations, Bulgarian public institutions, the academic community and non-governmental organizations.
Apart from organizers the following official guests welcomed the audience at the opening of the event:
Ivaylo Kalfin – minister of labour and social policy, Diana Kovacheva – deputy ombudsman  of the Republic of Bulgaria with welcome address on behalf of Maya Manolova -  ombudsman  of the Republic of Bulgaria, Lachezar Toshev – chief expert at the Foreign Policy Committee  to the National Assembly with address on behalf of Dzhema Grozdanova – chairperson  of the Foreign Policy Committee to the National Assembly, Rayko Raychev – director general of Global Affairs general directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  
Rosen Grozev –  expert at Equality Legislation department, DG Justice and Consumers of the European Commission.
In the framework of the event, the entire range of activities (prevention, special proceedings, support of victims of acts of discrimination) of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination were presented, which as the Bulgarian equality body in close cooperation with other bodies and international organizations (like the Council of Europe) reinforces the national position of the Republic of Bulgaria for support of the anti-discrimination policy in Europe.
As guest lecturers were invited representatives of the academic community who introduced to the participants the existing arrangements for promoting and implementing the human rights and fundamental freedoms against the background of the political and socio-economic developments in Europe:
Prof. Blagoy Vidin – member of the ECRI from the Republic of Bulgaria – “The Role and Importance of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in the Fight against Discrimination in Bulgaria“;
Prof Gabriela Belova - dean of the Faculty of Law and History, South-West University “Neofit Rislki” – “Non-citizenship – Topical Problems“;
Ass. Prof. Nikolay Marin – deputy dean of the Faculty of Law and History, South-West University “Neofit Rislki” – “Protection of Refugees against Discrimination - Topical problems“.
In a specially organized panel a member of the CPD presented topical issues on the application of the standards of the Council of Europe in the field of human rights in the practice of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination.

 

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Children rights: equal opportunities, life free of violence, safe Internet

The Council of Europe adopts new strategy for 2016-2021

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted the Strategy for the Rights of the Child for the next six years.

Children’s rights are facing serious challenges nowadays: too many children on the move or otherwise affected by migration are suffering and dying. Poverty, inequality and exclusion as a result of the economic crisis have hit children hard. Violence against children – in the family, at schools and in other settings is still a persistent and sad reality. A justice system made for adults is ill-adapted to children’s needs and expectations. Racism, hate speech and radicalisation are on the rise. Growing up in a digital world exposes children to new risks.

The new Council of Europe Strategy (adopted by the Committee of Ministers late on 2 March) guides the 47 member States of the Council of Europe to address these challenges. The Strategy was drafted by policy makers and experts from member States in a truly participatory process, taking into account the views not only of civil society, but also of children themselves. Five strategy priorities include:

Equal opportunities for all children: fighting poverty and preventing exclusion, especially in the times of economic austerity; countering discrimination, including against children affected by migration, children with disabilities, those from minority groups, as well as LGBT and intersex children.
Participation of all children in policy-making processes: citizenship and human rights education in schools.
A life free of violence for all children: combatting sexual exploitation and abuse; eliminating of corporal punishment in all settings; countering other forms of violence – bullying, including homophobic and cyber-bullying, and protecting children from radicalization-linked violence.
Child-friendly justice: protecting children deprived of liberty through anti-criminalization and reintegration, safeguarding children’s rights in the family.
Rights of the child in the digital environment: promoting creative, critical and safe use of the Internet.

The new Strategy will be launched at a High Level Conference in Sofia on 5 and 6 April 2016, during the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

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International conference “Good Governance at Local Level – Challenges and Prospects“

 

"For several decades now the debate on introducing the principles of good governance to public administration has been very topical globally. The governments are under pressure to work efficiently, transparently and responsively to meet the peoples’ needs. The citizens are increasingly willing to proactively participate at different levels of decision-making reflecting directly on their lives, not only to exercise their voting rights when electing local and national authorities". This was stated by the deputy minister of regional development and public works Ivan Asparuhov at the conference “Good Governance at Local Level” in Sofia on 31 March this year. The event was held in the framework of the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

With this goal the Council of Europe launched the application of the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level, he reminded and added that the common goal of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works and the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria is to encourage and promote the Bulgarian local authorities which use dedicated efforts to improve governance and put citizens in the focus of their comprehensive policy.

The deputy minister noted that in 2007 our country started implementing the strategy by establishing for the first time and awarding the prize Label of Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level. Implementation of the strategy will continue this year and very soon we expect the National Commission for award of the Label to be accredited again by the European Stakeholders’ Platform of the Council of Europe with the right to award the prize, he added. Ivan Asparuhov reminded of the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Governance which extends the legal framework regulating important rights of the citizens and their organizations at local level, i.e. the rights to information and participation in civic life and the responsibilities of municipalities to create conditions for exercise of such rights.  

 

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Lilyana Pavlova: “The work of the Committee of Ministers can be strengthened by the contribution of local and regional authorities”

On the occasion of the 30th Session of the Congress, Lilyana Pavlova, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works of Bulgaria, spoke on behalf of the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. She addressed the various areas of common concern of the Committee of Ministers and the Congress, in particular terrorism, refugee and migration crisis and the situation in Ukraine. She welcomed the Congress’s commitment to combat radicalisation and violent extremism, in particular through a conference organised with the municipality of Aarhus in 2015, the adoption of a strategy on this subject and a handbook for local elected representatives offering guidance for the organisation of intercultural and inter-faith activities. Mrs Pavlova recalled that this fight is a top priority of the Committee of Ministers. She also mentioned the situation in Ukraine, which remains a serious concern for both the Committee of Ministers and the Congress. In the framework of the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, the Congress will participate in an international conference on good governance at local level to be held on 31 March in Sofia, and a High Level Conference, on 5 and 6 April in Sofia, on the new Council of Europe’s Strategy on the Rights of the Child.

 

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Statement by Minister Daniel Mitov, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

The case of Ms Nadiya Savchenko has been raised on a number of occasions within the Committee of Ministers. The Committee has already expressed its concern about Ms Savchenko’s health condition and called on the Russian authorities to release her without delay on humanitarian grounds.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe I reiterate the call for the release of Ms Savchenko. I am deeply concerned by the reports of her rapidly deteriorating health.

Meanwhile, I remind that Ms Savchenko, like any other person under Russian jurisdiction, is entitled to the right to a fair trial and appropriate detention conditions.

I insist once again on the importance for any member State of the Council of Europe to fully comply with its obligations under the relevant instruments of the Council of Europe, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

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Celebration of the National Day of the Republic of Bulgaria, March 3 at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

 

On the occasion of the Bulgaria Liberation Day, celebrated as National Day of Bulgaria - March 3, and in the context of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE), the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria in Strasbourg organized the painting exhibition "Light - a metaphor for the spirit" by the Bulgarian architect Polina Gerdjikova and a short opera concert of renowned Bulgarian opera singers Mrs. Daniela Dimova (soprano), Mr. Boyko Tsvetanov (tenor) and Mrs. Tsvetelina Vassileva (soprano).

The celebration was attended by representatives of the Secretariat of the CoE and of local authorities, ambassadors and diplomats of the Permanent missions to CoE as well as Bulgarians living in the town. The event was attended by the President of the International Criminal Court in The Hague - Judge Silvia Fernandez de Alezandra Gurmendi.

The celebration of the National Day, March 3 was opened by welcoming address by the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Katya Todorova.

Within the framework of the celebrations of the National Day, on 2 March in the cathedral "St. Paul" in Strasbourg was held a charity concert in which three Bulgarian opera singers Mrs. Daniela Dimitrova, d n Boyko Tsvetanov and Mrs. Tsvetelina Vassileva performed arias from operas by Catalani, Puccini, Verdi, Mascagni, Saint-Saens and others, as well as arias from operas by the famous Bulgarian composers Pancho Vladigerov and Dobri Hristov. The performances were highly appreciated by the numerous audience.

All proceeds from the concert support the Bulgarian Association "Cyril and Methodius" and Bulgarian Sunday school "Hristo Botev". Bulgarian Association and school were established in 2009 in Strasbourg. Currently, the school has trained more than 60 students and children coming from both sides of the Rhine. The school also organizes courses in Bulgarian language and Bulgarian folk dances.

The welcoming address by the Ambassador Katya Todorova is available here.

 

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High-level conference entitled “Democratic Security Based on European Unity and Cooperation” held in Sofia with the participation of the chairpersons of the Foreign Affairs Committees of CE member states and PACE representatives

On 9 February 2016 the National Assembly hosted the conference “Democratic Security Based on Unity and Cooperation”, attended by the chairpersons of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the parliaments of the Council of Europe member states. The forum was opened by the National Assembly President Tsetska Tsacheva and the Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Pedro Agramunt.

In a declaration about the values and principles of European unity and cooperation adopted at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 27 November 2015 in Sofia the parliamentarians of the Council of Europe member states called for convening of the fourth meeting of the heads of member states of the organisation. The proposal for adopting a declaration was made by the Chairperson of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee and Head of the Bulgarian Delegation to PACE Dzhema Grozdanova.

Dzhema Grozdanova noted to the participants in the forum that support for the fourth summit of the Council of Europe member states should come first from parliamentarians and after that from foreign ministers participating in the meetings of the Committee of Ministers.

The Chair of PACE Pedro Argamunt pointed out that the numerous challenges facing Europe call for common response by parliamentarians through dialogue, trust and solidarity. We have to confirm our political commitment to what unites us and update and develop further the strategic directions for action of our organization, he said. Pedro Argamunt added that he supports the proposal for convening a summit of the Council of Europe but the decision on holding the forum will be taken by the Committee of Ministers. We are ready to give our input to the preparation of this major event, he added.

The idea of gathering heads of state is excellent, commented the Chair of the Socialist Group at PACE Michele Nicoletti. This forum is one of the possible initiatives to address the challenges facing Europe today, he added.

The Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria Daniel Mitov stated before the participants in the forum that the current immigrant and refugee crisis in Europe is among the biggest challenges to the continent since the beginning of 21st century. The implications of this crisis are long-term and affect not only our political systems, economies, societies, and culture but our security architectures as well, he underlined, and added that the crisis requires collective decisions. Daniel Mitov highlighted the particular importance and input of PACE in seeking common European solutions and underscored that the Council of Europe has a major role in the search for a balance between protection and support of asylum seekers and the safety of our societies.

“Democratic security in Europe today” was the subject of the statement of the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni to the participants in the conference. The existence of efficient and independent judiciaries, the right to free assembly and speech, the functioning of democratic institutions, the fight against the main threats such as corruption, terror, financial crimes, trafficking in human beings, cyber crimes, etc. are the key elements of  the democratic security concept, she noted. The Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe expressed her gratitude for highlighting those problems and including them on the agenda during the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Rumiana Bachvarova specified that the crisis has a complex structure and should be resolved at different levels. We should seek solutions to protect the external borders of the EU, the fate of those who are already in Europe, the ways to continue to live with them without further problems, she said. Representatives of different ethnic, cultural and religious groups coming to Europe are mini societies with problems of their own, stated Rumiana Bachvarova and specified that in the last six months the structure of migrant waves passing through Bulgaria has changed significantly. Now the main part of them come from Iraq - 52 per cent, Afghanistan - 30 per cent and only 15 per cent come from Syria.

Statements were delivered at the forum by the Co-Chair of the World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilisations and former Secretary General of the Council of Europe Dr. Walter Schwimmer,  the Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development Michael Spindelegger, the Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria Vladimir Shopov and the Programme Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) Vesela Cherneva.

The forum is in the framework of the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe which will continue by May 2016.

 

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The President Rossen Plevneliev and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Mitov have participated in the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (25 - 29 January 2016)

 

“The Council of Europe has an important role to play in assisting our countries in the fight against terrorism, through the arsenal of its legal instruments, while respecting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms,” said Daniel Mitov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

“We will give the highest priority to the rapid implementation of the Action Plan on the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism, adopted in May 2015 by the Committee of Ministers,” stressed Mr Mitov, who also encouraged the governments which have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

In addition, Mr Mitov recalled the priorities of the Bulgarian Chairmanship, namely: strengthening the protection of the rights of the child and facilitating young people's access to culture; the protection of media from external influence; and protecting the rights of persons belonging to vulnerable groups – including the elderly, disabled, Roma and migrants – as well as preventing their marginalisation and social exclusion.

Finally, Mr Mitov reviewed some of the main activities of the Committee of Ministers since last autumn.

On the second day of his visit in PACE Mr Mitov joined the official delegation of the President Rossen Plevneliev who adressed the Assembly. Before the participants in the Parliamentary Assembly, the Head of State called on for lifting the post-monitoring dialogue for Bulgaria in the spheres of justice, media freedom and electoral legislation. The President was adamant that the former communist countries have come a long way since they joined the Council of Europe 20 years ago and with the support of the Organization have managed “to establish modern democratic states where human rights and the rule of law are held high.” In the Head of State’s words, the reforms in the spheres of education, security and justice prove that “Bulgaria has taken its future in its own hands and is acting in a responsible way, making reforms and achieving sustainable results.”  

Referring to the current migration crisis in the continent, Mr Plevneliev said that Bulgaria was following the rules of the Dublin Regulation and the Schengen Agreement. “Closing our doors to those fleeing for their lives is not an option. We show solidarity with all refugees and give humanitarian status to those that meet the criteria,” he stressed.

Statement by Daniel Mitov

Statement by Rossen Plevneliev

 

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Ceremony of the signing of Protocol № 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

 

On January 11, 2016, Ms. Katya Todorova, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe deposited on behalf of the Republic of Bulgaria the ratification document of Protocol № 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed by Bulgaria on November 5, 2013. The ceremony of the signing of the document was held in the office of the Deputy Secretary-General of the CoE, Ms. Gabriela Batayni-Dragoni.

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Congress of Local and Regional Authorities meets in Sofia

 

In the context of the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has been invited by the Bulgarian authorities to hold the next meeting of its Bureau in Sofia on 10 and 11 December 2015.

Among the items on the agenda were the situation in Ukraine, the priorities of the Congress (2017-2020) and a current-affairs debate on a topic to be decided at the opening of the meeting.

On 11 December, Bureau members held an exchange of views with Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, and Nayden Zelenogorski, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Regional Policy, Public Works and Local Self-Government.

On the sidelines of the Bureau meeting, Jean-Claude Frécon (France, SOC), Congress President, and Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General, met Lyliana Pavlova, Minister for Regional Development and Public Works.

On 10 December, a Congress delegation comprising Jean-Claude Frécon and Marie-Madeleine Mialot Muller (France, SOC), Chair of the Congress Governance Committee, met members of the Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee on Regional Policy, Public Works and Local Self-Government.

On the same day, Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria, SOC), President of the Chamber of Regions, and Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General, met students of Public Administration from Sofia University.

Also on behalf of the Congress Jean-Claude Frécon addressed the newly elected mayors at the forum held by the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria on 11 December.

A press conference was organised at the Sofia Radisson Blu Hotel at 10.15 am on 11 December.

 

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International conference on Building a Culture of Prevention through Disaster Risk Awareness Improvement among Children and Adolescents

 

The Bulgarian Ministry of Interior together with the EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement are organising, under the Bulgarian Chairmanship to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, organised an International Conference on Building a Culture of Prevention through Disaster Risk Awareness Improvement among Children and Adolescents on 10 and 11 December 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The main objective of the Conference was to bring together European experts and practitioners to take stock of actual progress in improving resilience of children and adolescents to disasters. Based on identified good practices in different countries, the necessary steps to build a strategy to promote a culture of prevention among children and adolescents have been discussed and concrete actions to implement it were highlighted.

The Conference was also a preparatory step of the implementation of the awareness-raising components of the Medium Term Plan 2016-2020 of the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) of the Council of Europe.

For More information and documents, visit  http://www.coe.int/en/web/europarisks/news 

 

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International Conference "New approach to integration" was held in Sofia


On November 26, 2015 at the National Gallery "Square 500"  an International Conference "New approach to integration" was held as a part of a series of events organized in conjunction with the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (November 2015  - May 2016). The conference was organized by the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) - Program Operator Programme BG06 "Children and Youth at Risk", funded by the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009 to 2014. The Program is administered by the Chief Directorate "Structural Funds and International Educational Programs" of the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Council of Europe.

On behalf of the MES vice - ministers Vanya Kastreva and prof. Nikolay Denkov took part at the conference. Among the official guests were Ms. Carina Ekornes , First Secretary of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway, Ms. Larissa Kireeva, program coordinator of the Council of Europe, Mr. Robert Djerassi - Advisor to the Minister of Education and Science issues of educational integration of minorities, Ms. Miroslava Pigova  - representative of the National Coordination Unit in the Council of Ministers, mayors of municipalities beneficiaries of the program , and representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in the integration of disadvantaged children and young people.


The main results of the Programme were:

- Construction of four youth centers, two of which (in Stara Zagora and Plovdiv) has already been found and is preparing to apply for a Quality Label by the Council of Europe and the other two (in Vratsa and Dobrich) will be opened at the beginning next year.

- The reconstruction and furnishing of the dozens of kindergartens throughout the country, in which hundreds of children have the opportunity to participate in various initiatives.

- The training of 179 teachers, 19 youth workers and 33 Roma mediators that promote the full integration of children and young people among Roma communities.

The importance of the Programme and its results were highlighted in the speeches of Mara Georgescu and Calin Rus - representatives of the Council of Europe as a partner of the Ministry.
 

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Standing Committee of PACE meets in Sofia as Bulgaria takes over CoE Chairmanship

The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) met in Sofia on Friday 27 November 2015, in the context of the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (November 2015-May 2016).

This Committee, which acts on the Assembly's behalf between plenary sessions, consists of the President and Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, the Chairpersons of the political groups, national delegations and Parliamentary Committees, totalling some 60 parliamentarians.

After the opening of the meeting by PACE President Anne Brasseur, the Speaker of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva welcomed the participants. The parliamentarians held an exchange of views with the Bulgarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Daniel Mitov in his capacity of Chairman of the Committee of Ministers for a six-month period. The discussions have been focused on Bulgaria's priorities during its Chairmanship and other issues in the framework of the Assembly's ongoing political dialogue with the Committee of Ministers.

The members of the Standing Committee also discussed other issues on the agenda such as:

- Observation of the elections in Kyrgyzstan (4 October 2015), Belarus (11 October 2015), Azerbaijan (1 November 2015) and Turkey (1 November 2015)
- Access to justice and the Internet: potential and challenge
- The fate of critically ill detainees in Europe
- Chinese migration to Europe: challenges and opportunities
- Draft Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events
- Promoting best practices in tackling violence against women

The parliamentarians held an exchange of views with Mykola Gnatovskyy, Chairperson of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), in the context of its 25th anniversary.

 

 

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18 November 2015 – European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse

 

Statement by Daniel Mitov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers

“Today is the first European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. The protection of children is a priority for the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It is therefore particularly pleased to support this initiative.                                            

Sexual violence is the worst form of violence against children.  Not only because of the immediate suffering it causes, but also for the irreparable, lifelong damage to the victim’s physical and mental health.  Today, we mark a Day when we – together – shout a resounding “NO” to these brutal and inhuman acts against children.

But it is also an opportunity to recall Europe’s commitment to combat these crimes, notably through the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse – “the Lanzarote Convention” – which requires the criminalisation of all kinds of sexual offences against children. We call on the nine member States that have not yet ratified the Convention, to consider doing so.

We must also promote national actions and initiatives with a view to raising public awareness of child sex abuse, to break taboos and barriers and to strengthen the protection of children.   To do this, all of us – governments, parliamentarians, NGOs, professionals working with children and the public at large - must take ownership of the European Day, by taking action together. So let us do it.”

 

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Bosnia and Herzegovina hands over chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to Bulgaria

Bulgaria assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe with the clear aim to preserve and promote the fundamental values of European integration and cooperation – democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This statement was made by Minister Daniel Mitov at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) in Strasbourg. Minister Mitov took over the rotating Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers from his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak for the period November 2015 - May 2016. This is the second Chairmanship of Bulgaria since its accession to the CoE in 1992.

In his statement Minister Mitov outlined the main priorities and the program of the Bulgarian Chairmanship, saying that they are taking into consideration the development of the main political processes which have an impact on the security in Europe. The Foreign Minister identified several priorities, among which strengthening the protection of the rights of the child and facilitating young people's access to culture; protecting media from external influence; protecting vulnerable groups.

Protection of the rights of the child is among the main priorities of the Chairmanship, as approved by the National Coordinating Mechanism on Human Rights, Minister Mitov said. He outlined the initiatives related to the access to culture, promoting the process of social integration and reducing the risks of racism and xenophobia. The Foreign Minister added that the focus of the Chairmanship will also be on media freedom and freedom of speech as fundamental elements of a democratic society.

“The realization and full implementation of the fundamental rights and freedoms require joint and coordinated actions by all relevant stakeholders in order to face the current economic, social and political challenges in Europe,” commented Minister Mitov. In this context, the Bulgarian Chairmanship will contribute to strengthening interaction of the Council of Europe with other international organizations.

During his visit Strasbourg Daniel Mitov signed the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism related to foreign terrorist fighters. Thus Bulgaria became the eighteenth country to sign the Protocol. CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland welcomed the signing and emphasized its strategic importance as a platform for concrete actions.

An exhibition entitled "Thracian tombs - world cultural heritage" was unveiled at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on the occasion of the Bulgarian Chairmanship.