1. The Committee
considered the third periodic report of Bulgaria on the implementation
of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(E/1994/104/Add.16) at its 30th-32nd meetings, held on 16 and 17 November
1999 (twenty-first session), and adopted, at its 50th and 51st meetings,
held on 30 November 1999, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the submission of the third periodic report by the State
party which conforms generally with its guidelines. The Committee
appreciates the comprehensive written replies submitted by the State
party to the list of issues. It also notes with satisfaction the openness
and candour of the exchange of views with the State party's delegation,
as well as the comprehensive oral answers given to the questions put
to the delegation during the dialogue.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that despite the difficulties of the transition
period, the State party has made extensive efforts to comply with
its obligations under the Covenant.
4. The Committee
notes with appreciation the ongoing consideration of the establishment
of an Ombudsman's office in Bulgaria, and encourages the State party
to proceed as speedily as possible towards the creation of the post.
5. The Committee
welcomes the readiness of Bulgaria to give favourable consideration
to acceding to an optional protocol to the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
6. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that despite the privatization of health services,
medicines will continue to be distributed free of charge to the disadvantaged
groups of society, and that mental health services will remain public.
7. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the establishment, at the Higher Institute,
of a programme for the training of police officers in human rights
and refugee law. Similarly, the Committee welcomes the training in
human rights afforded to magistrates.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
8. The Committee
acknowledges the negative effects of the armed conflict in the Balkans
on the Bulgarian economy, especially the destruction and blockage
of trade routes and the disruption of navigation on the Danube.
9. The Committee
takes note of the information supplied by the delegation that the
financial stringencies related to structural adjustment programmes
undertaken by Bulgaria in agreement with international financial institutions
have negatively affected the ability of Bulgaria to comply with its
obligations under the Covenant.
D. Principal subjects of concern
10. The Committee
is deeply concerned that despite the efforts of the State party to
improve the situation of the population, there is still an alarmingly
high level of poverty in Bulgaria and that the social protection of
the population continues to deteriorate, especially among the vulnerable
11. The Committee
deplores the discrimination against the Roma minority in many aspects
of life, including education, work, social benefits and access to
land. The Committee is especially concerned about the high rate of
unemployment among the Roma minority and the poor quality of education
afforded to this group.
12. The Committee
notes with regret that the delegation was not able to specify any
procedure through which minorities can voice complaints about the
status of their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
13. The Committee
notes with regret that despite the Government's efforts to combat
unemployment, success has not been achieved in this regard.
14. The Committee
deplores the situation where those who are employed receive salaries
which do not allow them to secure for themselves and their families
an adequate standard of living.
15. The Committee
regrets that there is no legal prohibition of dismissal from employment
on grounds of pregnancy.
16. The Committee
takes note of the comments of the Committee of Experts of the International
Labour Organization on limitations to the right to strike in Bulgaria,
in particular concerning paragraph 11 (2) of the law of 1990 on collective
labour disputes regarding the conditions for voting to exercise the
right to strike in companies, and paragraph 16 (4) of the same law
prohibiting the right to strike of workers in the health services,
energy production and communications system sectors.
17. The Committee
regrets that the State party has not accorded sufficient attention
to the well-being of older persons, nor has it made an effort to guarantee
to them a dignified life.
18. The Committee
deplores the deterioration of the housing situation in Bulgaria and
regrets that only ineffective measures have been taken by the State
party to alleviate overcrowding and the generally poor condition of
the housing that is available.
19. The Committee
regrets the lack of opportunities for minorities to receive education
in their own languages.
20. The Committee
is also concerned about the low wages of teachers in Bulgaria.
21. The Committee
is concerned that the fees introduced in higher education may represent
a serious obstacle for disadvantaged groups of society seeking such
E. Suggestions and recommendations
22. The Committee
recommends that the State party seek the technical cooperation and
assistance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights with a view to establishing a national human rights institution
in conformity with the 1991 Principles relating to the status and
functioning of national institutions for the promotion and protection
of human rights ("the Paris Principles").
the State party has to strike a balance between reforming the economy
and safeguarding the rights enshrined in the Covenant, the obligations
arising therefrom require that an adequate standard of living for
all citizens, and in particular the most vulnerable groups, must be
assured. The Committee refers to its General Comment No. 12 (1999)
in this regard.
24. The Committee
recommends that the State party evaluate the economic reform programmes
with respect to their impact on poverty, and make efforts to adjust
these programmes in such a way that they adequately respond to the
current social needs of the population. The Committee recommends that
in negotiations with international financial institutions, the State
party take into account its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil
all the rights enshrined in the Covenant.
25. The Committee
recommends that the State party take the necessary measures to allow
for the full exercise of the right to strike, and in particular to
amend paragraphs 11 (2) and 16 (4) of the law of 1990 on collective
labour disputes concerning the right to strike.
in mind the United Nations International Year for Older Persons and
the increase in the number of older persons in Bulgaria, the Committee
recommends that the State party take affirmative action for the well-being
of older persons.
27. The Committee
calls upon the State party to continue its efforts to integrate ethnic
minorities into society, and to undertake measures to provide the
opportunity for such minorities to be educated in their own languages.
28. The Committee
recommends that the State party establish a plan of action to improve
the housing situation, in particular the social housing situation.
If necessary, the State party should request international assistance
in this regard.
29. The Committee
takes note of the measures taken to alleviate the situation of asylum-seekers
and refugees, such as the adoption of a new law on refugees and the
construction of a new centre for asylum-seekers. The Committee urges
the State party to implement fully the law reforms and to ensure that
there is an improvement in the situation of refugees detained at the
international airport in Sofia.
30. The Committee
recommends that the State party prohibit dismissal on the grounds
31. The Committee
requests the State party to provide information, in its fourth periodic
report, on the phenomena of child labour, street children and domestic
violence against women.
32. The Committee
requests the State party to explain, in its fourth periodic report,
the measures it has taken to ensure that all teaching staff enjoy
the conditions, including wages, commensurate with their status, in
accordance with article 13 (2) (e) of the Covenant.
that fees for higher education may represent a serious obstacle to
disadvantaged groups, the Committee requests the State party to explain,
in its fourth periodic report, the steps taken to improve access to
higher education for all, such as the introduction of an effective
fellowship system, as provided for in article 13 (2) (e) of the Covenant.
34. The Committee
urges the State party to undertake the necessary measures to ensure
that the provisions of the Covenant are widely disseminated, particularly
within the legal profession and among members of the judiciary.
35. The Committee
requests the State party to provide information, in its fourth periodic
report, on case law, if any, concerning the provisions of the Covenant.
36. The Committee
requests the State party to ensure the wide dissemination of these
concluding observations. In its fourth periodic report, to be submitted
on 30 June 2001, the State party is requested to provide detailed
information on the steps it has undertaken to implement these recommendations
of the Committee.