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Democratic Bulgaria MP Antoaneta Tsoneva, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Policies for Bulgarians Abroad

Cleaning up corruption in the Bulgarian institutions could motivate Bulgarian expats to return to their country

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State policies towards Bulgarians abroad are the focus of a special parliamentary committee. Head of the Committee in the 47th National Assembly is Antoaneta Tsoneva, Democratic Bulgaria Coalition MP and co-founder of a non-governmental organization with extensive experience in monitoring the election process in Bulgaria and in Bulgarian sections abroad. One of her goals, as chair of the Committee on Policies for Bulgarians Abroad, is to allow Bulgarian citizens to freely exercise their right to vote, no matter where in the world they may be.

In an interview for Radio Bulgaria Antoaneta Tsoneva gave answers to important questions – will there be changes to the Law on Bulgarians Abroad, what will be the best ways to optimize the work of the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, when will Bulgarian expatriots be able to actually use electronic services?

The digitisation of the services provided by Bulgarian consular and diplomatic missions is a key issue work on which is already underway – by the Ministry of e-Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For now, Bulgarians abroad can only use electronic signatures when submitting documents for the issuance of an ID card, as well as submit an electronic request for an appointment at some of the consulates.

What other services will be added will be announced within days, Antoaneta Tsoneva says and adds:

“They will certainly be the services used most often by Bulgarian citizens abroad, so one would not need to catch a plane and return to Bulgaria to get the desired service more easily and quickly," Tsoneva explained.

On the other hand, the impact assessment of the Law on Bulgarians Abroad, assigned to the National Center for Parliamentary Research, will be ready by the end of February.

The Law’s modernization is essential, and is part of any meaningful discussion on the improvement of the legislative framework pertaining to the Bulgarians abroad.

"This law was adopted more than 20 years ago and the widespread view is that it is no longer adequate to the current situation.“

The latest national census in 2021 г. showed that the Bulgarian nation has shrunk by 11.5% in the last ten years. According to the National Statistical Institute, the population of the country currently stands at 6,520,000. The reasons for this are complex, but one of them is emigration:

“We are fully aware that Bulgarian expats who who have chosen to move to another EU member country are exceedingly mobile and often change their location,” commented Antoaneta Tsoneva. Lack of prospects is the primary reason for emigration among Bulgarians, said Tsoneva. “They want higher salaries, better career opportunities and a good environment to raise their children. When these conditions improve in Bulgaria, and the country starts to catch up with the European average, then people may reconsider their plans to return to their country. Our task as politicians is be successful in cleaning up corruption in the Bulgarian institutions. Otherwise, the recommendations on how politicians could motivate Bulgarian nationals who are living abroad to return to Bulgaria would sound more like slogans," added the chairman of the Committee on Policies for Bulgarians Abroad.

According to her, it is important to collect accurate information regarding the size of Bulgarian diasporas in the world, so that the resources of the Bulgarian state can be adequately distributed.

“It is essential to improve the reputation of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad (SABA). It suffered major reputational damage when the Agency’s chairman Petar Haralampiev was arrested in 2018 and charged as head of a criminal group for trasding in documents for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship. It will now take a lot of effort to intensify the participation of the SABS in the network of institutions working with and for our communities abroad”, said Antoaneta Tsoneva.

In her interview for Radio Bulgaria, Antoaneta Tsoneva also announced the establishment of a Public Council of the Parliamentary Committee on Bulgarians Abroad. It will have advisory functions and will help to identify, discuss and resolve issues related to Bulgarian communities abroad. Representatives of the public service media will also have their place in the new council. In Radio Bulgaria - the multilingual site of the Bulgarian National Radio, Tsoneva also sees a reliable partner for the parliamentary Committee on Policies for Bulgarians Abroad:

"I would very much like to use our contacts with Radio Bulgaria as an opportunity to inform our compatriots abroad of our work."

Translated from Bulgarian by Elizabeth Radkova

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