On 26-27 November, Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), conducted an official visit to Bulgaria. In Sofia, she met with President of the Republic Rosen Plevneliev, Minister for Foreign Affairs Daniel Mitov, Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva and Speaker of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva.
Ms Brasseur welcomed the priorities of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. “My interlocutors agreed that this chairmanship should give an additional impulse to domestic reforms, particularly with regard to independence of the judiciary, media freedom, the electoral system, fight against corruption and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. I was impressed with progress achieved in these fields, and I hope that cooperation within the parliament, as well as the stability of government, will reinforce the reform momentum”.
Ms Brasseur also insisted on the need to resolutely combat stereotyping and hate speech in Bulgaria where challenges remain. “I was pleased and proud that my high interlocutors all enthusiastically expressed their support for the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance and the No Hate Speech Movement”, said Anne Brasseur.
“I was impressed by the genuine European commitment of the Bulgarian authorities. I saw that Bulgaria has a truly European heart in the heart of the Balkans. Many of our member states may learn from the practices introduced in Bulgaria, such as the annual parliamentary examination of the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, and I truly hope that the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers that Bulgaria currently holds will also serve to demonstrate and confirm Bulgaria’s European achievements.”
“This chairmanship is also an opportunity to reinforce regional cooperation in the spirit of solidarity. This meaningful and open cooperation is all the more important in the present context, when Balkan countries find themselves on the frontline of the migration drama. As the President of the Republic recalled, the countries in the region could in the past achieve something great, but only when they worked together. This is an important history lesson – not only for Bulgaria and the Balkans, but for Europe as a whole”, Ms Brasseur said. “This lesson is particularly valuable now, when European democracies are under threat, on the one hand, from terrorists – whom we should rather call criminals, for this is who they are, – and, on the other hand, from populist xenophobic and liberticidal forces who would like the Europeans to give up their freedom and to abandon our way of life out of fear of the other.”
The visit took place on the margins of the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The cooperation between Bulgaria and PACE, the situation in Ukraine and the state of signature and ratification of the key Council of Europe conventions were among other topics discussed during the meetings.