Foreign Minister Zaharieva, Norwegian Ambassador Discuss Cooperation on Bulgarian Citizens' Problems with Norway's Child Welfare Service

Sofia, June 7 (BTA) - Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva Thursday received Norwegian Ambassador Lise Nicoline Kleven Grevstad, accredited to Bulgaria, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Norwegian diplomat accepted Zaharieva's invitation to discuss possible cooperation between the two countries' governments and institutions in cases when Bulgarian nationals have problems with Norway's Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet).

The meeting was occasioned by cases involving Bulgarian mothers resident in Norway whose children had been taken away by the child welfare service.

Zaharieva stressed at the start of the meeting that children come first in Bulgarian culture and mentality and that their place is in the family. "We are aware that each country tries to protect children's rights according to its own rules. However, we are strongly concerned about the cases of children who are Bulgarian citizens and are taken away from their parents. We also find it perplexing that a brother and sister can be separated by hundreds of kilometres and stopped from seeing and talking with their mother, which will inevitably break their bond and tear them away from their roots and mother tongue. That is why we want to work in close cooperation with Norway's institutions and help the affected families," she said.

The Bulgarian chief diplomat presented to Ambassador Grevstad a letter to Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide, proposing consular consultations between the two foreign ministries.

The Norwegian Ambassador thanked for the invitation and for Bulgaria's positive approach in a difficult situation, stressing that contrary to the angle taken by the news media, she found many similarities between the two countries' child welfare systems. Both Norway and Bulgaria hold that the institutions should work with families to solve their problems and only when this proves to be impossible, children can be taken away from their parents as a very extreme measure, said Ambassador Grevstad.

She briefly explained the functioning of the Norwegian child welfare system and suggested that in addition to the consultations, Norwegian experts should work with the families, NGOs and the competent institutions to explain the procedures at workshops in Bulgaria.

Zaharieva and Grevstad agreed that the Norwegian Embassy in Bucharest would help organize the consular consultations and the workshops as soon as possible.

At the end of the meeting, the Norwegian Ambassador congratulated Bulgaria on its successful EU Council Presidency. She thanked for its open approach to Norway and for the invitations to various forums so far this year. She said that a few weeks ago Oslo launched the new programme of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the 2014-2021 programming period.

Source: Sofia