National Assembly President Tsetska Tsacheva took part in the Annual Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments in Brussels. The conference was held on 3 – 5 April, 2011 at the Chamber of Representatives in the Federal Parliament of Belgium in Brussels. The main topics discussed were: “Parliament, public opinion and the media” and “Parliamentary scrutiny of the common foreign and security policy”.
In her expose Tsetska Tsacheva noted that the discussion on the interrelation between “Parliament, public opinion and the media” is getting more and more practical shape and the attention of the political circles and the civil society in Europe. She emphasized that in countries like Bulgaria, which is undergoing a very difficult post communist transition, it is very important to keep this subject constantly on the agenda of the society. She shared with the participants her observations on the issue with respect to Bulgaria. She specified that only the harmonious and balanced interrelation between parliament, media and public opinion could ensure their good functioning and viability. Giving priority to one of the components is at the expense of the rest.
Tsetska Tsacheva stressed that Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic, but nevertheless the parliament does not look for a privileged place in the public space and never uses PR techniques and much less the instruments of power to secure a comfort and influence on the public opinion. In the contrary the institution is directly involved in the political debate. In her view, in the light of the stronger meditization of the societies in transition, the parliament itself is transforming into a media of some sort, particularly during the parliamentary control plenary sittings. It is when messages are conveyed to the national audience, when different points of view collide, giving “life” to further media interpretations and public debate.
According to Tsetska Tsacheva the development of the media and publicity environment of the recent years confirms without any doubt the concept that the protection of media independence includes the need to “protect the protectors”. If the media independence immediately after the democratic changes was ensured mainly through the pressure and control of the civil society now it depends mostly on the ownership structure of the capitals in the sector. If the independence of the media previously was mostly a matter of politics now it has become more economical. She referred to the European Parliament’s Resolution of March 10th 2011 concerning the Media Law of Hungary, which expresses concern about the media independence in both Hungary and Bulgaria.
The National Assembly president told the conference that Bulgaria’s parliament had adopted last year amendments to the Mandatory Deposit of Copies of Printed and Other Works Act, which for the first time unveiled the natural persons, owners of newspapers and magazines and added the Bulgarian parliament is working in the direction to do the same with the electronic media. That is the only way, she added, to put to the light and make public the real beneficiaries of the media busyness and influence in the country, to make visible their connections with political circles and lobbies, with the former secret services and the existing criminal groups.
In conclusion Tsetska Tsacheva called the media to exercise its duty to make the powers more transparent but noted that authorities are also obliged to ensure the transparency of the media. The participants in the conference discussed also the topic of "Parliamentary oversight of the common foreign and security policy" and the "Common Policy for Security and Defense". After the cessation of the West Еuropean Union and its parliamentary assembly it has become necessary to create an organization to replace it within the framework of the EU. It has been proposed to found a forum named: “Interparliamentary Conference on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security”.
Tsetska Tsacheva defined the initiative as a valuable contribution to the large process of completing the new architecture of the European institutions. She stressed that the aim should not be to create another bureaucratic entity but on the contrary a flexible functioning forum. In her words the future Interparliamentary conference will strengthen the dialogue between the parliaments in this area of European politics and ought to also include the heads of parliament of the candidates for EU membership countries as well as the NATO members not in the EU. She underscored the position of Bulgaria that the future Interparliamentary Conference on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense should be structured to the same model as COSAC (Conférence des organes spécialisés dans les affaires communautaires).
The participants in the Brussels conference were unanimous that national parliaments are to play an important role in the formation of the EU politics in the area of security. They agreed that the civil control over the executive branch of government in the area of security and defense and the supply of information to the society and the consequent commitments on its behalf should be exercised through the parliamentary debate.