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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers the report of Bulgaria

GENEVA (5 May 2017) - The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded this morning its consideration of the combined twentieth to twenty-second periodic report of Bulgaria on its efforts to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Deyana Kostadinova, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the report, stated that in 2013 a National Coordination Mechanism on Human Rights had been established, while the Commission for Protection against Discrimination had optimized its administrative structure. Necessary legal amendments would be made in order for the Ombudsman to apply for reaccreditation to status A as a national human rights institution. Prevention and combatting of hate crimes were priorities for the police and the judicial authorities. As a result of the unprecedented migratory pressure faced by Bulgaria since the summer of 2013, activities had been carried out to increase the capacity of the reception and accommodation of foreigners applying for international protection. The Government was constantly improving its national procedures, while bearing in mind that the protection and surveillance of the State border was a legally binding obligation. The National Roma Integration Strategy had been developed as an omnibus document, strengthening the comprehensive approach of the whole package of documents in that area. Serious challenges remained and included the rate of economic development and economic growth.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Committee Experts focused on the status of Roma in Bulgaria, and pointed out high school dropout rates of Roma children, unsatisfactory employment opportunities for Roma, forceful evictions, and hate speech and hate crimes against that minority group. Questions were also asked about the treatment of refugees and migrants, including minors, and efforts made to help their integration. Experts also wanted to know about the State party’s efforts to combat hate speech, and particularly about the role and the effectiveness of the Council of Electronic Media in that regard. The situation of other minorities in Bulgaria, especially ethnic Turks and Muslims, was also brought up. Other issues raised by Experts include the reform of the judiciary, human rights education for law enforcement officers, compensation for victims, accreditation process for the Ombudsman, which served as the national human rights institution, treatment and protection of domestic workers, and steps taken by Bulgaria to mark the International Decade of People of African Descent.

Kemal Anwar, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Bulgaria, concluded by stating that the Committee would deliberate and prepare concluding observations based on the information provided by the delegation.

Ms. Kostadinova, in her concluding remarks, stressed that the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance was a priority of the Bulgarian Government, and the country’s history presented numerous evidence that Bulgarian society was based on mutual respect.

The delegation of Bulgaria included representatives of the Prime Minister’s Political Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Council for Electronic Media, the State Agency for Child Protection, the State Agency for Refugees, and the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 12 May at 3 p.m. for the adoption of its annual report and the closing of its ninety-second session.

Report

The combined twentieth to twenty-second periodic report of Bulgaria can be read here: CERD/C/BGR/20-22.

Presentation of the Report

DEYANA KOSTADINOVA, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated that the report presented today had been prepared in a transparent manner with the active participation of all authorities as well as relevant non-governmental organizations. The Ombudsman and the Commission for Protection against Discrimination had been consulted and involved in the preparation of the report.

Bulgaria was committed to eliminating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. When it came to the national and international legal framework, Ms. Kostadinova informed that in 2013 a National Coordination Mechanism on Human Rights had been established; its members were Ministers, heads of agencies but also representatives of independent institutions and civil sector. The Commission for Protection against Discrimination had optimized its administrative structure in order to increase its efficiency three times. The number of case files had doubled recently, after the public increasingly recognized the Commission’s role. Meanwhile, the number of complaints on the grounds of race and ethnicity had decreased in the past two years. Necessary legal amendments would be made in order for the Ombudsman to apply for reaccreditation to status A as a national human rights institution. The prevention and combatting of hate crimes was a priority of the police and the judicial authorities. Racial and xenophobic motivations were qualifying circumstances in the elements of crime in the commission of homicide and bodily injury. During the national censuses, the ethnic composition of the population could be established through anonymous and voluntary self-identification. During the reporting period, Bulgaria had acceded to a number of international human rights instruments. In 2014, the Government had decided to proceed with a one-time payment of compensation for all individual complaints, for which damages had been recommended by the United Nations treaty bodies.

As a result of the unprecedented migratory pressure faced by Bulgaria since the summer of 2013, activities had been carried out to increase the capacity of the reception and accommodation of foreigners applying for international protection. The Government was constantly improving its national procedures, while bearing in mind that the protection and surveillance of the State border was a legally binding obligation. Bulgaria was strictly observing the non-refoulement principles and providing all persons with the possibility to apply for humanitarian protection and asylum. Accelerated application procedures had been put into practice in order to respond to the increasing migration flow. Asylum seekers had the right to formal education from the start of the asylum procedure; the right of access to formal education for children seeking international protection was regulated by law. Additional training in Bulgarian as a foreign language, with the help of non-governmental organizations, was provided for foreign minor asylum seekers enrolled in Bulgarian schools. However, Bulgaria was witnessing the rise of populism, observed in many countries in Europe. Bulgarian authorities closely monitored all alleged manifestations of intolerance against any person on its territory, and, where necessary, took decisive steps to prosecute such acts and bring those responsible to justice.

Ms. Kostadinova informed that the National Roma Integration Strategy had been developed as an omnibus document, strengthening the comprehensive approach of the whole package of documents in that area. The National Action Plan for 2015-2020 had been adopted in 2016. Between 2005 and 2015, the group net enrolment ratio in pre-school of Roma children aged three to six had increased from 73.6 per cent to 82.9 per cent. Measures concerning Roma employment were being successfully implemented, while annual prophylactic examinations in settlements and neighbourhoods inhabited by Roma were conducted annually. Nonetheless, serious challenges remained and included the rate of economic development and economic growth, as well as a rising need to establish better communication with communities. Better allocation of financial resources was also necessary.

Questions by Experts

KEMAL ANWAR, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Bulgaria, noted that the report was somewhat late, but informative and well prepared.

He asked for details on the current population of Bulgaria, wondering if the number of inhabitants was continuing to decline. A question was also asked on the continuation of a health strategy for disadvantaged groups in society.

The Convention should be made better known, especially in the judiciary, said the Expert. There was no mention of the Convention being invoked in domestic courts. Could the delegation provide information on the training of law enforcement personnel and direct applicability of the Convention in domestic courts?

Several European institutions had recommended strengthening the independence of the existing equality and human rights bodies in Bulgaria. Bulgaria had accepted a recommendation to further strengthen the Ombudsman and bring it in line with the Paris Principles. Any further elaboration in that regard would be welcome, said Mr. Anwar.

How many cases of racial discrimination had been brought to the Ombudsman or the Commission for Protection against Discrimination in the reporting period? Information was sought on the compensation provided to victims. Disciplinary measures undertaken by the Commission were relatively mild, given the rise in hate speech by certain groups. How about cases in which anti-discrimination criminal provisions had been applied by law enforcement agencies? Previously, the Committee had expressed concern that criminal processes related to racist acts were still missing.

On the issue of racist hate speech and hate crimes, the Expert referred to a recent Committee recommendation on how to deal with that problem. With so many migrants and refugees coming to Europe in recent years, hate speech had increased across the continent. States parties needed to educate their populations and undertake steps to combat racist, intolerant hate speech against migrants and refugees. A question was also asked on the Council of Electronic Media, which had the authority to monitor compliance of media outlets with the relevant legislation. Why had so few cases reached the court and why were there so few convictions? A good law already existed on the books, but it seemed that it was not fully implemented.

Roma continued to live in spatial isolation, which led to social isolation. Their situation was rather concerning, commented Mr. Anwar.

The problem of expediting and enhancing asylum procedures was also brought up by the Expert. There were reports of illegal pushbacks of migrants, including excessive use of force and ill treatment. What about the implementation of the national strategy on international protection in Bulgaria? Clarification was sought on whether children of asylum seekers would also receive training in the Bulgarian language so that they could then join Bulgarian schools. It had to be acknowledged that the State party was experiencing severe humanitarian pressure.

Another Expert referred to her visit to Bulgaria in 2011, when she had been the Special Rapporteur on minority issues. To what extent had the statistics on Roma in education, employment and other fields changed since then? Back then, 67 per cent of Roma had been among the 20 per cent poorest Bulgarians. They had been particularly poorly represented politically. To what extent had the Government looked into the issues of trafficking? Were high dropout rates for Roma still persistent? Training that existed for Roma mostly used to be for low-end, dangerous positions. The 2011 census had showed that there were over 23 per cent of Roma children out of school, compared to only five per cent of non-Roma children. There seemed to be little to no employment of Roma in civil service, the Expert noted. A question was also raised on forced evictions of Roma from the neighbourhoods missing the requisite legal status. How had the 2011 statistics changed over the past six years, given all the programmes Bulgaria had implemented since then? The level of discourse disparaging Roma used to be shocking.

An Expert noted that, while the current report was late, the follow-up to the previous report was not, for which Bulgaria was praised. Areas in which the Committee expected to hear more from Bulgaria included education and employment of Roma, and penalization of media and political organizations for hate speech and targeting of minorities.

Roma people were the third largest ethnic group in the country, after Bulgarians and Turks, noted an Expert, and were one of the most vulnerable groups in many European countries. The delegation was asked to provide more information on the events of September 2011, when anti-Roma protests had taken place in 14 cities and towns. Information was sought on achievements made in providing education for Roma children, and increasing employment opportunities for Roma adults.

Turning to the issue of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria, the Expert inquired about the existence of television channels in the Turkish language.

Women’s employment rate was still five per cent lower than the comparable rate for men, and there was no information on women from ethnic minorities. To what extent were minority women exposed to such discrimination?

A question was asked whether segregated schools for Roma children still existed.

On minorities, an Expert noted the absence of disaggregated data and asked about variables in the population census. What was the self-perception of minority groups? Did they want to make themselves more visible or rather merge in the Bulgarian nation?

The Expert wished to get more information on reparations given for racial discrimination, as well as court prosecutions for such cases. Was there a principle of the reversal of the burden of proof in courts? Were there any statistics on fines or sanctions for hate speech in the media?

Another Expert wondered whether statistics were kept on religion and ethnicity of migrants.

Referring to his term as an ambassador to Bulgaria 10 years earlier, the Expert inquired about current levels of poverty in Bulgaria and steps taken to empower Roma.

A question was then asked about the seven-year plan for the reform of the judiciary, which aimed to render the judiciary free of corruption. Did the plan still exist and when would it come to an end? He asked for an insight into Bulgaria’s prosecution system, in order to understand the relations between three main prosecutors.

The Bulgarian authorities monitored all manifestations of intolerance and racism under their jurisdiction, Bulgaria’s report said. Who decided whether it was necessary to take steps and push forward with a prosecution in cases of racism? How many cases related to manifestations of racism had been initiated by the authorities and had led to punishment? How many violators had been noted and reported by the Council for Electronic Media and with what outcome?

An Expert asked how the success of anti-discriminatory measures and policies was measured. Were African citizens in Bulgaria transient or settlers, and could more information be provided on their status? She also asked about racism in sports.

Further information was also requested on efforts made in education for minority children. What provisions were there for tertiary education, and were there special courses of the Bulgarian language for children who were not fluent in it?

The delegation was asked to provide disaggregated data on access to the labour market, and on procedures started by the labour inspectorate with the view of combatting labour discrimination.

How many homes for Roma had been constructed in the reporting period, asked the Expert? The inclusion index for Roma showed that a significant proportion of Roma children attended schools exclusively dedicated to Roma, which was a symbol of segregation. Hate speech was reportedly one of the main reasons for high school dropout rates by Roma students. More information was also asked about cases of forced displacement of Roma from their settlements.

Regarding children of Roma origin, it was said that obligatory two-year training was provided for them before they would head to elementary school. That should be extremely beneficial.

Clarification was asked about community centres mentioned in the State party’s report. Who was in charge of such centres and how were they financed?

Another Expert requested details on proceedings by the Commission for Protection against Discrimination and compensation for victims. Discrimination was not only about providing compensation, but also about punishing perpetrators. Once the victim had been compensated, did it mean that there was impunity for the perpetrator?

What was being done to bring the national human rights institution to A status in line with the Paris Principles?

With regard to the prison population in Bulgaria, a question was asked on its ethnic composition. What kind of access did the population as a whole, and especially minorities, have to the justice system?

KEMAL ANWAR, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Bulgaria, asked questions about the composition of Bulgaria’s population. One of the minorities were people of Turkish origin, who could be divided into two categories – one speaking Bulgarian who had converted to Islam and identified with Turks, and the other descending from the Ottomans who settled in Bulgaria after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. To which degree were those two groups accepted as integral members of the Bulgarian society? Most in those communities had been living in Bulgaria for a very long time. What steps was Bulgaria taking to curb Islamophobia and to educate the public in that regard?

Turning to the VMRO right wing political party, an Expert mentioned that their political programme referred to gypsies in very pejorative terms.

He also asked about the status and treatment of the ethnic group Sarakatsani, a Greek-speaking minority in Bulgaria.

Was Bulgaria planning to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention 189, which related to domestic workers?

A question was also asked about measures taken by Bulgaria within the framework of the Decade for People of African Descent.

Finally, an Expert brought up the issue of the excessive use of force by the police, especially against minorities.

Replies by the Delegation

With regard to the Bulgarian judicial system, the delegation said that judicial reform was one of the key priorities for the Government. Special focus of the newly elected Deputy Prime Minister would be exactly on the reform of the judiciary. It had to be taken into account that the judicial reform was still ongoing; within the next seven years, the judiciary was to be modernized and cleansed of corruption and political pressure. A dedicated council monitored the implementation of the reform. In March 2017, a wide public discussion had been held on the implementation of the reform strategy.

An anti-corruption strategy had also been adopted; and an independent, free-standing and independently funded body had been formed. In 2015, the National Council for Anti-Corruption Policy had also been established in order to coordinate State bodies and to monitor the implementation of anti-corruption policies. The Prosecutor-General had approved a series of measures to combat organized crime and corruption, and work on criminal proceedings on these measures was also being streamlined. Procedures for the promotion of and disciplinary actions in the judiciary had also been revised.

On the national system for the protection and promotion of human rights, it was explained that there was the Ombudsman and the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination, which had nine commissioners, including a Roma representative. A comparative analysis had shown a three-time increase in the efficiency of the Commission’s work in recent years. In 2017, the Commission’s budget stood at 2.5 million Bulgarian leva. Currently, the Commission had 25 regional representations, all adequately staffed and funded. They were informing citizens about their legal rights.

The Convention was regularly invoked in the Commission’s rulings on protection against discrimination. In the 2014-2016 period, six case files had been initiated on the grounds of race. In 2016, there had been more than 20 cases on the grounds of ethnicity. Regarding the reversal of the burden of proof, the delegation said that the respondent needed to prove that the principle of equal treatment had not been infringed. The Commission was the national authority looking into all kinds of discrimination.

On the other hand, measures had already been undertaken to comply with the recommendations so that the Ombudsman would be fully in line with the Paris Principles. Further steps were being undertaken to increase the transparency of the appointment process in the Ombudsman’s office.

Regarding the structure of the prosecutor system in Bulgaria, it was explained that the Prosecutor General oversaw and provided methodological guidance to all other prosecutors. The Supreme Court of Cassation was a supreme body on civil and criminal cases, while the Administrative Court dealt with administrative matters.

According to the penal code, a person who crossed the border without a permit and in undesignated places, would be imprisoned and/or fined financially. At the same time, no one would be punished if they entered the country for the purpose of seeking international protection.

The Ministry of the Interior provided education for police officers on human rights and anti-discrimination legislation. To that purpose, two handbooks, published in 2014 and 2015, had been widely distributed. Both initial and in-service training sessions had been developed and implemented; a train-the-trainers programme was also in place. Fighting hate crimes was among the priorities of the prosecutor’s office. A special training of prosecutors had also been conducted, stated a delegate.

There also had to be a proper balance between the use of force by law enforcement officers and the gravity of the situation necessitating that force be used. The delegation informed that police misconduct constituted an administrative misdemeanour and sanctions could be used against the perpetrator. Motives or biased behaviour were considered as aggravating circumstances.

A hate crime was defined as a crime committed because of a biased attitude towards one’s race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, or other discriminatory elements. There was a trend towards constant increasing of discriminatory indicators. Gender identity, for example, would be added to the list of indicators.

Regarding the Council of Electronic Media, the delegation stated that the Bulgarian regulator was not different from many other such independent bodies in Europe. The main rationale behind its creation was to protect the minor audience from inappropriate content. Five members and 62 experts worked with the Council to monitor over 200 television and radio programmes. Any viewer, listener or organization could submit a complaint; ad hoc monitoring could also be established on issues such as hate speech. Programmes inciting intolerance among citizens were inadmissible, stressed the delegation. Nonetheless, hate speech as such was not defined in the Radio and Television Act; work was being done to introduce its legal definition. The fight against hate speech was a priority for the Council of Electronic Media. Hate speech had been observed in programming of several TV channels, which had since significantly reduced display of hate speech.

In the period 2015-2017, the Council had issued more than 20 punitive decrees, including administrative penalties. Currently, the Council devoted as much attention to advising it did as to sanctioning. Constructive dialogues with media sector representatives held on the daily basis emphasized that the right to freedom of expression was not absolute. It was important to strike the balance between fundamental rights and respect for international standards.

Turning to the issue of Roma, a delegate stated that the integration policy had commenced in 1999, with the adoption of the first framework for Roma integration, in line with European standards. The last national census had been conducted in 2011, and the richness of national diversity had been registered once again. Information on ethnic and racial affiliation had been provided purely voluntarily. Respondents could also declare no religion at all for the first time. In preparation for the census, extensive consultations had been carried out with Roma representatives in particular. The census had shown a demographic drop among all groups in Bulgaria. The largest groups in the country were Bulgarians, Turks and Roma (4.9 per cent). Regarding mother tongues, Bulgarian was dominant, followed by Turkish (nine per cent) and Romani (4.2 per cent).

The Roma community in Bulgaria faced special social and economic challenges, which were being addressed through a number of measures implemented by an inter-departmental working group. The fact that Parliament had adopted a national strategy made it a law of the country and it thus became obligatory for central and municipality authorities alike. Financing of all activities came primarily from the national budget and the European Union funds. There were currently 220 municipal action plans for Roma in place, developed with taking in mind specifics of each locality.

The Ministry of Education and Science had taken all necessary steps to ensure access to education for all children, but further work was still needed by all in order to overcome the ingrained social stereotypes. Conditions had been created for all students to choose their respective ethnic folklore, including Roma folklore, which allowed them to familiarize themselves with their traditions. The number of school dropouts of Roma children had decreased, stated the delegation.

Annual prophylactic examinations were carried out in Roma neighbourhoods and settlements, including general and specialized medical tests. During the 2011-2015 period, more than 44,000 such visits had been carried out, informed a delegate. Morbidity rates among Roma were decreasing.

The delegation also informed that there were currently more than 250 community mediators, who worked in most Bulgarian municipalities.

Turning to the issue of migrants and refugees, the delegation said that currently more than 2,300 asylum seekers were accommodated in official welcome centres. Given an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers, efforts had been made to increase capacities of facilities for foreigners seeking international protection. The asylum granting capacity of Bulgaria had significantly improved since the increase of migratory pressures several years earlier. Sports grounds were available in the facilities, which were also being reconstructed, as needed. An innovative approach to encourage Bulgarians to look at refugees with different eyes had been promoted through video spots, viewed by more than one million citizens.

Registration of asylum seekers had to be completed no later than three days after receiving the application by a relevant State agency. The Chairperson of the State Agency of Refugees had two months to decide on granting or refusing refugee or humanitarian status.

Further Questions and Answers

KEMAL ANWAR, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Bulgaria, expressed appreciation for the State party’s efforts to combat hate speech. When negative things were said about minorities at the political level, responses and corrections ought to come from the same level, he said.

How many people had passed through Bulgaria during the migratory crisis? How many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were there at present?

The Expert inquired whether Bulgaria had any special measures in place, including representation in Parliament for minorities, or quotas in universities.

Another Expert returned to the subject of Roma and insisted on receiving information on programmes to desegregate schools. She also asked about evictions of Roma families, which were still going forward, including a recent case in Plovdiv concerning which the European Court of Human Rights had issued a staying order. The use of force in those cases was disproportional. A law had been changed so that if mothers were under 18, they were no longer receiving allowances for children, which seemed to be targeted at Roma. The Expert referred to anti-Roma hate speech in the Bulgarian Parliament, and asked about what happened to the politician who had said it.

The delegation responded that a rise in populism was on the rise in Europe and all over the world, and Bulgaria was no exception. The populist speech increased during election campaigns. The person who had delivered the hateful speech in question in Parliament was now Deputy Prime Minister. One needed to look at the programme of the Government, and the leadership of Bulgaria was committed to ethnic peace. While there were occasional incendiary statements at the high level, there were many more numerous positive, pro-migrant declarations by State dignitaries. The Constitutional Court was in charge of enforcing anti-hate speech provisions when it came to political parties. Members of Parliament needed to provide their written consent so that they could be prosecuted.

On the number of migrants in Bulgaria, the delegation informed that 720 migrants had been apprehended in 2017, most of them at the Turkish-Bulgarian border. The top three nationalities were Afghani, Syrian and Iraqi.

Bulgaria adhered to the concept that the protection of minorities was ensured through the protection of individual rights and freedoms. On the basis of equality and non-discrimination, a successful model of voluntary integration of minorities was promoted. Persons from minorities were active in political, social and economic life; one successful example was the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a mostly ethnic Turkish political party.

Regarding the issue of Roma, it was said that the Government guaranteed access to education for children in all regions of the country. The authorities were trying to prevent dropouts. Apart from projects financed for educational purposes, many projects focused on regional development and human resources of those in vulnerable situations. Housing programmes focused on the sustainability of the solution. Evictions were a constant problem, but every case was undertaken after long due process and a decision by a court. Efforts were made to provide those evicted with alternative housing, including in the latest case in Plovdiv which the Expert had asked about.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy pursued a consistent policy on the employment of vulnerable groups. Over 120,000 unemployed Roma had been registered in labour directorates over the previous decade. Problems facing their unemployment were partly due to the lack of education and work habits. Good practices included Roma labour mediators and specialized labour exchanges.

Mothers under 18 received allowances in kind rather than money, clarified the delegation.

An Expert inquired whether any cases of corruption had been prosecuted and wanted to know more about the effectiveness of the anti-corruption institution. What were the results of the reform of the judiciary, he asked. What was the impact of the reform on combatting racial discrimination?

A question was asked about what private companies were doing to combat racism in their midst.

Another Committee Member asked about differences within the Muslim community in Bulgaria.

An Expert praised Bulgaria for its history of humanitarianism.

The importance of disaggregated data was stressed by an Expert, who asked the delegation to provide statistics on Roma so that it could be compared to that on the general population. Bulgaria seemed to be underreporting problems. The large number of victims of human rights violations did not report those.

Further information was asked on the situation of persons of African descent in Bulgaria.

The delegation said that detailed socio-economic data, as requested by the Expert, would be sent in writing subsequently.

It remained to be seen how the new National Assembly would deal with the establishment of an anti-corruption body.

A delegate explained the history of two separate Bulgarian States, which had co-existed for four centuries; one of them had accepted Islam and become Tatarstan. The overall attitude of Bulgarians towards Islam was favourable. Among Bulgarian Muslims, there were those of Turkish and Bulgarian origin, he explained.

The delegate reminded of the history of African students in Bulgaria, many of whom today held high public positions. There were still several hundred African students in Bulgarian universities, some of whom eventually stayed on. There were very few xenophobic acts during sports matches in Bulgaria.

Community centres were traditional Bulgarian institutions, in existence for more than 160 years. Cultural and educational activities in those centres were accessible to all citizens.

Concluding Remarks

KEMAL ANWAR, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Bulgaria, thanked the delegation. The Committee would deliberate and prepare concluding observations based on the information provided by the delegation. The delegation was thanked for its professionalism.

DEYANA KOSTADINOVA, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stressed that the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance was a priority of the Bulgarian Government, but also a common attitude in the society. Bulgaria’s history presented numerous evidence that Bulgarian society was based on mutual respect. Ms. Kostadinova assured the Committee that Bulgaria remained fully committed to continuing its interinstitutional coordination and the dialogue with stakeholders, with the view of ensuring the necessary follow-up to the review process. She thanked all members of the Committee for their interventions.

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