The Bulgarian Chairmanship will encourage the Council of Europe’s relations with its partner states and the joint co-operation with other international organisations for the sake of peace and stability in Europe.    

Promoting the values and standards of European unity and co-operation – Human rights, democracy and the rule of law

On the basis of the two reports provided by the Secretary General on the “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law”, and following the efforts of the Chairmanships of Belgium and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Bulgaria will work in order to achieve the reform of the Organisation in conformity with the priorities of the Committee of Ministers. The Bulgarian Chairmanship will pay special attention to the policy of democratic stability followed by the Council of Europe, thus aiming to provide an adequate reaction to the imminent political challenges.

The values of democratic Europe and the promotion and fulfilment of the fundamental rights and freedoms represent the main priority of the Organisation. The realisation of those rights and freedoms requires further efforts in order to face the current economic and social challenges in Europe. In this context, the Republic of Bulgaria will contribute to strengthening interaction with other international organisations, especially with the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the European Union.

The Bureau and the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Sofia on 26 and 27 November 2015. The capital will also host the meeting of the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (10 - 11 December 2015). The Council of Europe’s Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Roma Issues will meet in Sofia in April 2016. This event is organised jointly with the Secretariat of the National Council for Co-operation on Ethnic and Integration Issues to the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Complying with the three pillars of the Organisation – human rights, rule of law and democracy - the Bulgarian Chairmanship envisages to organise the following initiatives: High-level Conference “Democratic stability based on the European unity and co-operation”; International Round Table “The Council of Europe’s norms in the practices and the activities of the authorities for equality of all member States – Towards the creation of a social and just community”; Outcome Conference “A new approach to integration” under the “Capacity building” project implemented jointly with the Council of Europe; Meeting of the Committee of Experts on the Council of Europe strategy on education for democratic citizenship and human rights, under the auspices of the Committee of Ministers; High-level International Conference on “The independence and efficiency of the judiciary as a premise for the rule of law”.

In implementing its overall strategic objective of promoting the values and standards of European unity and co-operation, the Bulgarian Chairmanship will pursue the following priorities:

 

I. Strengthening the rights of the child and facilitating young people’s access to culture

The protection and implementation of the rights of the child are among the key priorities of the Republic of Bulgaria and have been confirmed by the National Co-ordinating Mechanism of Human Rights.

During the Bulgarian Chairmanship, the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 will be adopted. Thus, a high-level conference for the promotion of the Strategy will be organised.

An International Conference “Building a prevention culture among children and adolescents through raising awareness and improving knowledge of risks in times of disaster”, which aims at popularising the Council of Europe’s Major Disaster Agreement EUR-OPA, will take place in December 2015.

In addition, an International Conference “Our future together” will be held under project “Children and youth at risk” implemented in co-operation with the Council of Europe.

Special attention will be paid to the problems related to access to culture as “conditio sine qua non” for self-expression and self-improvement to facilitate the social integration and to decrease the risk of racist and xenophobic acts.

During its chairmanship, Bulgaria will organise a national event “Facilitating young people’s access to culture” and a Regional Conference for the South-East European countries “Council of Europe Framework Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society – Towards democracy, transparency and widening of youth’s access to cultural heritage governance”.

 

II. Protecting media from external influence

The protection of the public interest and freedom of speech, of pluralism and equality in the media environment is facing new challenges and may require additional legal instruments with the full involvement of the civil society. Therefore, the issue of media protection from external influence has been placed among the priorities of the Bulgarian Chairmanship. The existing media regulation does not fully cover the internet area and therefore is an insufficient tool to meet the challenges raised by the new information technologies and services. Adequate remedies could be discussed at institutional level between the Council of Europe’s member States.

Having in mind that freedom of speech is a core issue on the agenda of the Organisation, the Republic of Bulgaria, during its chairmanship, will organise an international forum devoted to hate speech as a subject of regulation and self-regulation. Another conference entitled “Learning to live together in the 21st Century in a tolerant and integrated society – The role of independent media and freedom of speech” will take place in Sofia in May 2016.

 

III. Protecting vulnerable groups

Bulgaria attaches particular importance to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. It will organise an international expert conference for the exchange of good practices “Equal enjoyment of human rights and freedoms by persons with disabilities: achievements and practices”.

Bulgaria also considers the proper functioning of democratic institutions a necessary prerequisite for the effective management of the migration processes. It will contribute actively to the Organisation’s efforts aimed to support member States in complying with the international standards on the rights of migrants and refugees. During its chairmanship, Bulgaria will organise: an International Conference “Our Europe: Learning to live together in the 21st century – Migration issues” with the participation of youth wings of pan-European parties, in co-operation with the Council of Europe; an International Conference “Protecting the rights and facilitating the social inclusion of the refugee children” in partnership with UNICEF Bulgaria.

 

IV. Other priorities

As Committee of Ministers’ Chair, our country will encourage the process of signature and ratification of Protocols No. 15 and 16 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention).

Alongside the adoption of the Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, Bulgaria will facilitate the co-operation between member States in the fight against violent extremism and the radicalisation leading to terrorism.

Our country will contribute to the implementation of the Action Plan for Ukraine (2015-2017) on the reform agenda in the areas of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Based on the Minsk Agreements, the Council of Europe will continue to support the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine.

In close co-operation with all responsible bodies, the Chairmanship of the Republic of Bulgaria will strive to associate Belarus to the Council of Europe, if the country confirms its readiness to comply with the main principles and values of the Organisation, in particular regarding the abolition of the death penalty.

Bulgaria will deploy efforts to accelerate the process of the EU’s accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.