Bulgarian Expats Demand Equal Rights at VP Forum in Brussels
The Bulgarian diaspora reiterates requests for the establishment of a voting region "Abroad" and elimination of restrictions for Bulgarians with dual citizenship to actively participate in the politics of the country.
A conference, titled "Policies for Bulgarians Abroad," is held on November 7 and 8 in the capital of Belgium. It is organized by the Member of the European Parliament, Emil Stoyanov, under the patronage of Vice President, Margarita Popova.
The four main topics for debate were: "Preserving the National Identity of Bulgarians Abroad," "Studying Bulgarian Language and Literature in Bulgarian Schools Abroad," "Lobbying for Bulgaria," and "Social Practices Affecting Bulgarians Abroad."
In mid-September, over 30 expat organizations sent a letter to say they refuse to participate in such initiative. The expats were outraged that the topics on the agenda did not include their priorities such as equal voting rights, eliminating discrimination practices for Bulgarians with dual citizenship, and improving the services of Bulgarian Consulates.
In addition, the idea to have a voting region outside the country was stated in a letter sent to Popova and President, Rosen Plevneliev, in May from Bulgarians united in temporary Public Councils in France, the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Spain and Brazil.
In this voting region they want to be able to register party ballots and independent candidates, and elect their own Members of the Parliament, as it is done in Bulgaria. Currently, the expats can vote only for party lists, but not for majority candidates. Expats cannot be elected either.
The Bulgarians abroad stress the current situation is voiding their votes; is depriving from representation millions of Bulgarians, and is discouraging them, all while deforming the vote in the country
Their idea also received support during the weekend at a round table in the Borovets winter resort, designated as the first National Conference on Election Issues. There, MEP Stoyanov proposed to establish a Global Congress of Bulgarians to work in the sectors of cultural and education policies for the diaspora.
Despite the opposition for the gathering in Brussels, Popova voiced firm belief in the benefits of the event and pointed out she saw participants, like herself, being overcome with positive emotions after seeing the State wanted to do something for them.
The majority of the expats also demand better funding, including EU financing, and better organization in providing education for Bulgarians abroad and for the 200 Bulgarian schools across the globe. 60 of them are united in an Association with concrete ideas for improvement.
According to unofficial data, over 2 million Bulgarians live abroad. Official data, however, shows they make huge contributions to the homeland economy with sending between EUR 1 M and 2 M annually.
Article 26 in the Bulgarian Constitution, adopted in 1991, guarantees all Bulgarian citizens equal rights wherever they are located. However, Articles 65 and 93 of the Constitution, at the same time, impose voting restrictions for Bulgarians with dual citizenship and for Bulgarians who in the last five years have not resided in Bulgaria.