Human Rights: What can we hope for from the Bulgarian EU Presidency?

Written by on January 4, 2018 in Perspectives - Comments Off on Human Rights: What can we hope for from the Bulgarian EU Presidency?

Krassimir Kanev is founder and chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee​. In this opinion piece for “Liberties”, he analyses the role of human rights in the Bulgarian government’s Programme for the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

In mid-December, the Bulgarian government presented to the National Assembly its Programme for the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Programme establishes four priorities: economic growth and social cohesion; European perspective for the Western Balkans; safety and stability in a strong and united Europe; digital economy and skills for the future. None of these priorities is related to human rights. Moreover, the phrases “human rights” and “fundamental rights” are not even used in the Programme. There are no references to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In general, it does not show that Bulgaria recognises human rights, which need to be strengthened during its Presidency, as they are one of the fundamental values of the Union.

Upon assuming the presidency of the Council of Europe, which rotates through the member states, each government is responsible for determine the Council’s agenda and setting a work programme during the course of its presidency.

Instead of mentioning human rights, Bulgaria’s Programme says a lot about “migration management”. The aim is to increase the efficiency of the “policy of returning people” and “border control management” and to “strengthen the external borders” of the Union in the context of “terrorism”. In the few cases when human rights policies are mentioned, the Programme says that the Bulgarian Presidency will work for the equality of men and women and for the rights of people with disabilities and their integration in society. However, nothing specific is mentioned.

Therefore, it is clear that the Bulgarian Presidency does not intend to address any of the human rights problems in the Union, which so far proved to be difficult to swallow. They include: undermining the rule of law and the system of checks and balances in several countries of the Union; widespread racial, ethnic and religious discrimination, Islamophobia and hate speech; discrimination in national criminal justice systems; limited access to quality education for those who are excluded from society; constantly shrinking freedom of the media; restrictions of the activities and in some member states even persecution of the human rights organisations.

Please continue reading this opinion piece here.

Photo at top of page shows Krassimir Kanev. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.


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