Political Status and Democracy in Multi-ethnic and Multi-racial States
Paper Synopsis
Nadezhda Mihailova
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Bulgaria

The conflicts which shook former Yugoslavia and affected the whole region of South-Eastern Europe were based on the false idea of nationalism as doctrine and policy opposing one state to other states and one ethnic group to the rest. The nationalists in the region tried to demonize the Euro-Atlantic integration presenting it as an obstacle for the realization of the national interests and as well as a new loss of sovereignty of the states. The purposes of the nationalists, who actually sprang up from the circles of former communists, was the establishment of new dividing lines in the societies in order to prevent the real changes, in order to incite the people against the participation of the Euro-Atlantic Community in the settlement of the regional problems, presuming that in this way the principles of Euro-Atlantic solidarity would remain unfamiliar to the societies in our region.

The nationalistic circles in the region present the policy of opposition to nationalism as opposition to the national interests. However, the Modern world has already shown that the national interests could be achieved not by nationalism but by consistent implementation of the principles of European and Euro-Atlantic solidarity.

One of the manifestations of ethnic nationalism in South-Eastern Europe is the ungrounded claim that compatriots in the neighbouring countries should be given rights which their mother-state is not willing to grant to all ethnic groups on its own territory. Thus, the nationalist circles aim at breaking through the policy of the neighbouring States and ensuring mechanisms for influencing them. So the problems related to the minorities turn into an instrument for inter-state confrontation, which ultimately and paradoxically serves the interests of the nationalists in the neighbouring countries. Standing around a common position on the Kosovo crisis, the peoples in South-Eastern Europe rejected the obsolete concepts and pseudo-ideals for ethnically clean states, based on the policy of flagrant and massive violation of human rights. Bulgaria actively contributed to the creation of that common position of the states in the region.

The joint and decisive efforts of the international community towards stopping Milosevic in his aggressive nationalistic adventure proved the importance of Democracy and of the Rule of Law being fundamental, without alternative principles for the organization and regulation of international relations. The Kosovo crisis put to the test the ability of the international community to assure protection to human rights. The international community gave proof of a remarkable maturity while interpreting and implementing international law in the context of the dynamic vision of the United Nations Charter. Particularly, the accent was put to the fact that some affairs could not be considered being of the exclusive internal competence of a State when they relate to matters regulated by international law. These matters possess international legal dimensions and the international community, therefore, has its own competence to interfere and protect human rights as a value of priority significance.

The only way for strengthening the nations that have restored their sovereignty after the end of the Cold war is by establishing stable and prosperous democratic societies which already excludes ethnic opposition. Only the efficient exercise of human and minority rights guarantees the stability of the states. The use of ethic minorities abroad against the interests of the neighbours finally disintegrates the society of the very state which attempts at doing it because it is impossible to produce nationalism only for export.

For a long time Bulgaria was proud of itself as an island of stability in South-Eastern Europe. It is, of course, a great achievement. The Kosovo war proved that it was not enough to remain an island of stability but also to work towards the creation of a stable regional environment.

On its part, Bulgaria quickly managed to regulate its internal ethnic contradictions which had been inherited from the previous regime. The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria has promulgated as a supreme principle the protection of human rights and human dignity. Simultaneously, Bulgaria is a Party to all fundamental UN conventions in the field of human rights, as well as to some other 29 international documents of the Council of Europe in this field. Among them are: the Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities of Council of Europe, Protocols NN 6, 4 and 7 under the European Convention on human rights, as well as the European Social Charter (revised).

I would like to note in addition that a National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Matters was set up under the Council of Ministers in 1997. Among its tasks are: to protect and promote tolerance and understanding among the Bulgarian citizens belonging to various ethnic and religious groups; to take definite measures for the fulfilment of the international commitments of the country concerning the rights of persons who belong to religious, language and ethnic minorities, etc. Over the last few years the Bulgarian public model of ethnic tolerance and constructive co-existence of the minorities with the majority has been consolidated.

The invitation we received for starting negotiations for EU membership completely made our country part of the European and the Euro-Atlantic Communities of nations which share the values of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, guaranteeing the observance of human and minority rights. Now the Bulgarian citizens have the possibility to carry into effect their European identity in the context of the perspective given by the membership to the European Union. Europe is a common but also a personal project in which all people, notwithstanding their nationality and ethnic origin, can see their own perspective.

Today more that ever South-Eastern Europe needs a successful model, an example of a prosperous state in the region. Bulgaria proposes such a model to destroy the vision that the ethnic nationalism is the only matrix determining the relations both among the states and inside the societies. In such a way Bulgaria best shows that it shares the European and Atlantic values and supports the Euro-Atlantic Community in its efforts to build a better and fair world.