he European Parliament held yesterday (12 March) a debate on the problems the ratification of the Istanbul Convention is facing in several member states, including Bulgaria. As Bulgaria holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, MEPs denounced the absence of the Bulgarian Presidency at the debate.
The Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention is the first instrument in Europe to create a comprehensive framework for the protection of women and girls from all forms of violence. It is also aimed at preventing, prosecuting and abolishing violence against them.
However, in several member states, notably in Bulgaria and Slovakia, detractors to the convention claim that the Council of Europe document is a Trojan horse aimed to introduce a “third sex” and same-sex marriage.
So far, the Istanbul Convention has been ratified by 17 EU members: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Finland, France and Sweden.
In an effort to spare itself further political problems, the Bulgarian government last week withdrew its decision on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
MEPs held a debate on the ratification of the Istanbul convention on the initiative of Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, Sweden). She alerted that in several countries, serious mobilisation was underway against the Istanbul convention.
“It’s a shame that nobody form the presidency is here, to tell us how they intend to take this forward in the Council”, she said.
“The last setback was in Bulgaria, the country holding the Presidency. This is ruthless, frontally sexist and homophobic attack that goes on against both women and LGBT people”, she tweeted.
I flera länder pågår nu allvarlig mobilisering mot @coe #Istanbulkonventionen .Nu sist sker det i EU ordförandelandet Bulgarien! Det är ett hänsynslöst, frontalt sexistiskt och homofobiskt angrepp som pågår mot både kvinnor och hbtq personer! #eupol @unizonjourer @CiHolmgren
— Malin Björk (@MalinBjork_EU) March 12, 2018
The Commission was represented in the debate by Vice President Andrus Ansip. He stressed that the Convention has no hidden purpose, and that its purpose is to fight violence against women.
Ansip stressed that the Istanbul Convention has provoked turbulent public debates due to misinterpretation and misinterpretation of the term “gender”.
“It is not an instrument for shaping gender perceptions or ideologies”, he insisted.
He also seemed to indirectly answer claims by Bulgarian nationalists who said the Istanbul Convention may force Bulgaria to accept “transvestites from Iran” on its territory.
“Nowhere in the convention is it stated that new refugee status should be established for transgender or intersex persons or for any other group”, Ansip said.
Several MEPs took the floor, may advocating the same messages as Ansip, but others pointing out that the issue is of national competence.
Jadwiga Wiśniewska (PiS, Poland) stated that the Istanbul Convention was “primarily about the implementation of a right-wing ideology”.
“This is a gender vision of society, where gender is socially defined. It’s a concept, it’s not a biological fact. The left would like to conduct a revolution here. I think it’s a matter of subsidiarity. The EU doesn’t have competence here. The competence lies with the member states”, Wiśniewska said.
The only Bulgarian MEP who took the floor was Angel Dzhambazki, from the party VMRO, member of the United Patriots, the junior coalition partner in Boyko Borissov’s government. Dzhambazki sits in the ECR group.
He claimed that most of those who took the floor confirmed that the issue was political.
“It is crystal clear that in this document [the Istanbul Convention] there is ideology, gender ideology. These things should be made clear and removed from this document. And nobody will be against. And it’s not only about Bulgaria. It’s also about the UK, a major Western country, and other countries that have doubts concerning this ratification. Please respect the internal order and the right of each society to manage its internal order”, he stated.
Labour MEP Julie Ward said she was not happy about her country’s delay in ratifying the Convention, but slammed Bulgaria in partcular.
“In Bulgaria, the use of transphobic and homophobic arguments against this convention is very disappointing. It is particularly worrying in the context of the Bulgarian Presidency, and I call on the Bulgarian government to revise its position on this crucial issue”, Ward stated.
In a tweet, Ward also slammed Bulgaria’s opposition socialists for their opposition to the Istanbul Convention, despite the position of their former leader Sergei Stanishev, now leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES), who is in favour of the ratification.
— Julie Ward MEP #FBPE #PCPEU (@julie4nw) March 12, 2018