UK Daily Mail/Telegraph put pressure on Bulgaria

Several articles in the last few days have brought my attention to a problem I’ve already discussed here – about obtainting Bulgarian citizenship, and how the Macedonians are looking for it. See what the Sunday English press says, and my reaction to this:

The Daily Telegraph was the first one to give some space to a Macedonian and a Romanian journalist to publish an article under the headline “Bulgaria opens back door to the EU with give-away passports bonanza

The article begins with “Bulgaria is giving away passports to tens of thousands of non-European Union foreigners who will be able to work in Britain when the country joins the EU next January.” and further it continues, “However an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found that many applicants openly admit to not speaking Bulgarian, having no Bulgarian heritage and knowing nothing about the country.”

The newspaper does not give any proofs about the so-called investigation, but that’s another story.

Daily Telgrapg continues, “Ljubomir Frckovski, a professor of international law and a former minister of foreign affairs in the Macedonian government, called on the EU to clamp down on Bulgaria’s passport policy.
“It is a mere remnant of an outdated type of romantic-nationalist politics,” Prof Frckovski said. “I assume that the EU, once made aware of these practices, will revisit them and make sure that its future member Bulgaria adheres to certain standards rather than randomly giving away citizenship.”

Other newspaper, among them the “Daily Mail” took the article, and continued with bombastic headlines, “Bulgarian officials handing out thousands of passports to non Europeans”, by James Chapman.

He quotes 1:1 the article from the Telegraph, here are some examples: “More than 20,000 people from countries such as Moldova and Macedonia have taken up Bulgarian citizenship in the past few years, and at least 55,000 more are believed to be on the waiting list.”

It’s not my task to say that these “last few years” are 16 now, and that means about 1200 / year, or 100 people / month – far away from the figures for the UK itself. This task should have been performed by the English journalists.

Here’s another example of one-sidede journalism, “But yesterday it emerged that some applicants openly admit to not speaking Bulgarian, have no Bulgarian heritage and are motivated by the prospect of tapping into the EU job market.
A unnamed 34-year-old security guard from Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, who admits having been arrested for possessing unlicensed weapons, said: ‘I haven’t got a drop of Bulgarian blood in me, and I certainly am not a traitor to my own country, but I speak good English and I know that working in the security industry pays off in the UK. I read about all the Poles getting jobs there.”

After reading these articles, I’ve sent more or less similar letter to both newspapers. Here’s the one to the Daily Mail:

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for publishing a story today, based on Sunday’s article from the Daily Telegraph “Bulgaria opens back door to the EU with give-away passports bonanza”. In your newspaper the headline is “Bulgarian officials handing out thousands of passports to non Europeans”.

I am born in Skopie, Macedonia, and I have an in depth knowledge of the problem you describe, as I am a Bulgarian citizenship since two months after my birth, in 1968.

The Daily Telegraph authors, one in Skopie, and one in Bucharest, have missed one very small, but important detail.

Giving Bulgarian citizenship to foreign nationals is not an easy procedure, and is being done in accordance with the laws that existed at the time when the candidates-for-Bulgarian-citizen were born. Bulgaria has had two laws that are relevant to the article – one before October 1968, and one – after. Why they are relevant? Because the majority of the Macedonians asking for citizenship are born around 1968.

The older law was saying that anyone, whose TWO parents are Bulgarians by birth, can claim Bulgarian citizenship. The new law changed that into requiring only ONE of the parents to be a Bulgarian by birth.

In the case of Macedonia, that means that if the candidate for citizenship has a parent, born between 1941 and 1944, when Macedonia was administered by the Bulgarian authorities, then he or she could claim to be Bulgarian by birth, if he or she was born after October 1968. That would be the case with the 34-year old security guard you quote.

To say, as the “Telegrapg” stated, and you almost repeat “All applicants need to provide is a birth certificate and say that they have no convictions, and then sign a statement claiming they are Bulgarians by origin” is simply not correct, given the laws I quoted above. The Birth certificate has to be of one’s parents (two certificates, if the candidate is born before October 1968, one – if he/she is born after that), and issued in Bulgarian.
These are the ones issued by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church between 1941 and 1944. If one does not have Bulgarian parent(s), it is not as easy as you describe in your article.
Now, clearly, if one’s parents are Bulgarians, why would he or she not get what belongs to him or her by birth? Such are the laws in every European country, after all.
Which means the Mail’s statement that “A unnamed 34-year-old security guard from Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, who admits having been arrested for possessing unlicensed weapons, said: ‘I haven’t got a drop of Bulgarian blood in me, and I certainly am not a traitor to my own country…” has some contraversial issues in itself: if a security guard has been arrested for possesing unlicensed weapons, he wouldn’t be a security guard – they all require to have clean court file. If he doesn’t have a drop of Bulgarian blood, then why would he use his parent birth certificate to obtain citizenship? And if he’s not a traitor, then why would he betray his country, and move to Britain?

In anycase, the current Bulgarian law is tougher to obtain citizenship probably than the UK laws; even if one is married for a foreigner, the foreigner can obtain citizenship only after they have lived for quite a whlie in the country, and have been married for at least three years. That’s more difficult than to obtain a green card in the US.

I have blogged more about this issue on July 25, 2006, and there have been some responses to my entry.

Hope that my mail makes it more clear for you readers.

Hope that makes things clear to my readers, too.

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One Response to UK Daily Mail/Telegraph put pressure on Bulgaria

  1. Kieren, a friend who is brittish journalist, sent me today this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ram/today2_bulgarians_20060816.ram

    It is the BBC attacking the story from the Daily Mail/Telegrahp on the extremely influential Today radio programme this (Wednesday, August 16th) morning.

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