Simeon Dyankov, Bulgarian Deputy PM and Minister of Interior, talks about the Bulgarian community in Moldova in an interview for Focus News Agency.
Focus: Mr Dyankov, Radio Focus has been transmitting its 24-hour programme in Moldova for one year, now, in Bulgarian. What do you think is the part played by the media for the preservation of the Bulgarian identity of our compatriots living abroad?
Simeon Dyankov: The media have a very big influence, and I would even say responsibility. I have spent around 20 years living abroad in different countries – Austria, Germany, and USA. This was the time before we had internet and receiving information about Bulgaria was much more difficult. As time goes by, having access to information becomes more and more important. Having a flow of information in your native tongue, to keep you in touch with events and policies in Bulgaria, is very important for Bulgarians and Bulgarian communities abroad. This is even more important for communities like the one in Moldova. As a Deputy PM, I have visited Moldova with Bozhidar Dimitrov [former Minister without portfolio, responsible for Bulgarians living abroad], and I have also visited Moldova on a number of occasions, while I was working with the World Bank, and I have met with members of the Bulgarian community there. Having a Bulgarian radio broadcasted in Moldova helps a great deal, as along with the stories about the family history told after dinner, people can also listen to the latest news from Bulgaria. (When I was) in Germany and in USA up to a few years ago there was no access to such information and it was very difficult to stay connected to Bulgaria, and even to your family. The only way to do this was over the phone, and in such conversations you would not discuss politics, but rather ask how the children, grandparents, and cousins were doing. The media, on the other hand, have a much more immediate perspective on the situation in the country, which helps a lost, as Bulgarians living abroad remain connected to the country, as most of them still support the idea that they will one day return to Bulgaria. There is a much better opportunity for people to feel closer to Bulgaria.
Focus: The Bulgarian community in Moldova depends on the Bulgarian state, what does Bulgaria do for these people and how will this care continue in the future?
Simeon Dyankov: We have a programme called “Mother Tongue”, which is very popular in Moldova. There are a lot of Bulgarian primary and secondary schools there. The Bulgarian Ministry of Education sends teachers there, who teach Bulgarian, history, literature, musical education and different crafts. I have visited most of these schools. There is also a programme for support of the church and cultural-historical heritage, as a part of which we have invested in churches, and in donating icons and iconostases as well as other materials. The Bulgarian community in Moldova is a very united one, and on the other side of the border – the Bulgarian community in Ukraine is also a united one, as there are whole villages and small towns, which speak Bulgarian and receive news from here. A considerable part of people from the Bulgarian community in Moldova already have Bulgarian passports, and they travel often to Bulgaria. Another thing we did, which would be felt seriously in September, is that we changed the regulations in the programme for attracting students from Bulgarian communities in Moldova, Ukraine, Macedonia, and other countries. We made this change in cooperation with the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, in order to be able to use the system for evaluation of the best faculties and universities, and we directed money there, so when Bulgarian students from Moldova and Ukraine come to study in Bulgaria they could go to the best possible faculties. This will start in September. There is a huge interest in this programme. There were two tours in Bulgarian universities organised for children from Bulgarian communities abroad. I personally asked the deans of the faculties to meet the children in person and to explain to them the details of this programme, in order assure them hat they would make the right choice. We plan to pour more money in this programme in the future, and to start with the information campaign earlier. Children from Bulgarian communities abroad should have the same information as Bulgarian children, so they could not only say that they wanted to study in Bulgaria, but to know that if they decided to study archaeology, the good faculties in this field would be in the Veliko Tarnovo University and the New Bulgarian University. We will disperse more information from this type in the future.
Focus: What are the opportunities for enhancing the ties between Moldova and Bulgaria?
Simeon Dyankov: When I was with the World Bank, I worked on many projects in Moldova and I became acquainted with the state and the banking system of the country. I know their corporate sector and their universities. There is always room for enhancement of bilateral ties. Bulgaria is a part of the EU, and from this point of view a very interest sequence of initiatives is the so-called tuning projects. As a country that wants to join the EU, Moldova has interest in working with Bulgaria in several spheres, including education and public finances. I have spoken with their Minister of Finance, and we will share our experience with Moldova on how the methodology of reporting budget results works, which is something that we have completed two years ago, and now methodology is 100% identical to the EU one. In the healthcare sphere, Moldova is interested in the opportunity of learning from Bulgaria how to make big projects work. They are trying really hard and want to become a part of the EU. The question about the Bulgarian community in Moldova and whether they enjoy equal rights and opportunities for social and career development, as is supposed to be in a democratic European society, is always very important for us.
Focus: You are about the come up with a strategy for Bulgarians abroad. What should be the main accents of this strategy? Which country should change its approach to Bulgarians living in it?
Simeon Dyankov: My team is working very actively with this strategy, in cooperation with a team from the Ministry of Justice. We have several ideas, which are being developed from a legislative point of view. We are ready to propose them, and some of them were even approved at the Council of Ministers, like the amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act. We want to facilitate the procedure for receiving Bulgarian citizenship for members of Bulgarian communities abroad. Currently there are two procedures – first they have to prove that they are from a Bulgarian community and after that they have to go through the formal procedure for receiving Bulgarian citizenship. We think that the first procedure, especially for people from Bulgarian communities in countries like Moldova and Ukraine, is unnecessary, because they can very easily prove that all their parents and relatives are Bulgarian. For such communities we have proposed the two procedures to be merged, so that it would not be necessary to ask them for additional prove that they have Bulgarian roots. On the very basis of where they reside, or where they have studied, by simply providing a certificate and they should directly go to the passport procedure, which would facilitate the whole process significantly. This regulation will also be applicable for people from Bulgarian communities in Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia. Currently they have to go through a very tough and lengthy process, which eventually shows clearly that they have Bulgarian roots.
A more important topic for Bulgarians abroad is how we can help them, not only socially through programmes like Mother Tongue and the church and educational programmes, stay connected, well-informed, and with the opportunity for career development exchange programmes in Bulgaria. It is good when people are well informed for all the opportunities that Bulgarians have in Bulgaria, not only from a media, like the case with your radio in Moldova, but also from the website of the Agency for Bulgarians abroad. We want to make the strategy in such a way that it would complete the legislation. There are several things that are allowed from a legislative point of view, and others, which need to be included in the strategy, as they are more technical. The idea is to make Bulgarians living abroad feel close to Bulgaria at any given moment, and not only when they visit our country.