DECISION No 2 OF FEBRUARY 18, 1998
ON CONSTITUTIONAL CASE No 15/97
The decision in response
to 50 Members of the 38th National Assembly ruled that the provisions of Arts.
7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National
Minorities that was signed on October
9, 1997 and the Convention as a whole comply with the
Constitution of the Republic
On the compliance of the
Convention term “national minorities” with the Constitution of the Republic
and on the effect of the Convention.
Court found that Bulgarian
and international law does not have a definition of the term “national minorities”
that is a legally binding definition on the Republic
The Convention itself gives no definition of this term.
Court assumes that it is the
will of signatory states at this stage of the international law regulations to
leave the definition of this term at the discretion of each signatory state.
Court upholds the view that
the Convention does not create collective rights and does not provide for the
protection of such rights. The rights that are exercised collectively are the
rights of individuals. It is impossible for a contradiction to arise between
the Convention and the Constitution in this respect.
Art. 7 of the Convention.
freedom of association that is provided for in Art.
7 of the Convention is not different in content from the
Constitution-sanctioned freedom that Art. 44 para 1
of the Constitution provides for. Freedom of association is universal. It is an
individual human right and covers all persons regardless of the possible ethnic,
religious and language differences between them. Freedom of association can be
restricted only and when the Constitution or the international instruments
Art. 8 of the Convention.
The Constitution and the
international treaties to which Bulgaria
is a party explicitly proclaim freedom of religion.
Freedom of religion may
be restricted for the sake of explicitly listed Constitution values like
national security, law and order, public health and decorum, the rights and
freedoms of other citizens and the dignity of each individual. To resort to
religious communities and institutions or to religious beliefs in order to
preach religious fundamentalism or extremism is always a gross violation of the
fundamental principles that are expressed in a number of Constitution
Arts. 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention.
The three articles of
the Convention treat the right of persons who belong to national minorities to
express themselves in the minority language, to obtain and disseminate
information in that language and to use that language in private and in public.
Court thinks that the
possible discrepancy between the concepts “minority language” in the sense of
the Convention and “mother tongue” in the sense of the Constitution can affect
solely the range of persons covered. The possible discrepancy does not affect
the right of using a “minority language”, respectively a “mother tongue” and in
that sense it cannot be treated as a discrepancy between the Convention and the
Court underscored that the
analysis of the Convention provisions does not reveal non-compliance with the
Constitution in legal terms. The Explanatory Report to the Convention
explicitly indicates that “The obligations of the Parties vis
a vis the use of minority languages shall in no way
affect the status of the official language or languages of the country in
the compliance of the whole Convention with the Constitution.
The rights and freedoms
listed in the Convention are duly provided for and correspondingly protected in
the Constitution. They are recognized to every individual regardless of his or
her national identity.
The content of the
rights and freedoms that are treated both in the Convention and the
Constitution is determined by the modern standards of fundamental human rights.
Court recalled that respect
for territorial integrity is a fundamental principle in international law and
is also a fundamental principle enshrined in Art. 2 para 2 of the Constitution. The exercise of rights
and freedoms under the Convention is possible and admissible only when this
principle is strictly abided by both under the Convention and the Constitution.
Court concluded that the
Convention provisions do not affect the principle of national unity that the
Constitution proclaims. National unity does not exclude religious, language or
ethnic differences among the citizens of the Republic