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EUROREG Regions, minorities and European integration


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Two fundamental factors influence the changes in the two districts, namely: the liberalization of minority rights and the restructuring of the local economy. These factors stimulate the political and cultural mobilization of the two Muslim minorities, change their economic status and create a new basis for their attitude towards the state and the Bulgarian national majority. The results of the fieldwork show that the members of the local elites tend to idealize the situation in the region.

Introduction 3

The impact of economic reforms and the transition from state to private ownership (privatization and restitution) on the socio-economic status of bordering minority regions. The fourth part of the report presents data on the current socio-economic situation in the minority regions, their perspective development and the cultural mobilization of the two Muslim groups. All of the above increases the importance of the results of the field work, which are summarized in the fifth part of the report.

Background of the case 5

Ethnic cleansing and assimilation were seen as a natural means of neutralizing the "Turkish threat". Two important changes in international relations had a direct impact on the position of minorities. This policy continued until the end of the 1980s, culminating in the "revival process".

European integration and the domestic-regional context of change 8

  • Changes in the political system and the political mobilization of
    • Minority participation in the central legislative and executive powers 8
    • Participation in the local authorities 13
  • Protection of Human Rights and Minority Rights in Bulgaria 14
  • Transition from centrally planned economy to market-based economy 16
    • Privatization of industrial enterprises and its social effect 16
    • Agrarian reform and its influence on regional development 17
  • EU integration and regional development 18
    • Legislative amendments and regional development planning 19
    • Implementation of the pre-accession funds in the SC Region 19

That decision marked the beginning of the successful Bulgarian ethnic model, based on peaceful ethnic coexistence3. Anagnostou states that the role of the Council of Europe in the legalization of MRF should not be underestimated. November's presidential elections brought BSP leader Georgi Parvanov to power.

Despite the criticism from the right, the NMSS–MRF government continued the UDF policy. The direct participation of MRF in the government of the country after the last elections is without precedent. Another surprising result of the last elections is the success of Ataka (Attack) as it is the first time since 1989 that a Bulgarian nationalist party has been represented in the Parliament (see Table 1).

This trend can be seen more clearly if the results of the local elections in the districts of Kardzhali and Smolyan are compared. The fundamental law of the state – the 1991 Constitution – emphasizes the protection of fundamental human rights. The interference of the state in the internal organization of the religious communities is declared inadmissible.

According to the 1992 census, the predominant part of the landless population had ethnic minority identity. In addition, the EU will continue to closely monitor Bulgaria's progress in implementing the reforms. Of the three pre-accession instruments financed by the EU, the Bulgarian administration has the most experience with the PHARE programme.

Table 1. Parliamentary elections results in Bulgaria after 1989
Table 1. Parliamentary elections results in Bulgaria after 1989

Changing opportunities and constraints for minorities 20

Social-economic characteristics of Smolyan and Kardzhali Districts of

Cultural mobilization of Turks and Muslim Bulgarians in Kardzhali and

  • Studying of Turkish language 25
  • Religious education of the Muslim Minorities 26
  • Educational level of the Muslim Minorities 28

Local actors’ responses and perceptions 29

Economic development of the region and the EU integration 29

The effect of pre-accession EU programs on local administration and

Some of the administrators have also undergone a special training, funded by PHARE, on how to prepare and write projects. The special attention paid to the education and training of people employed in the administration is a consequence of the fact that one of the main reasons for the small number of projects financed by the pre-accession programs was the lack of trained personnel (both in terms of quantity and and quality). Recently, however, there has been a noticeable effort to raise the level of education of ethnic minorities – a task listed as one of the MRF's priorities in the last parliament.

Another reason for the training of local administrators is that they must be prepared for the implementation of the Structural Funds and know the rules of strategic planning. These rules are used in practice to prepare the municipal plans for development in the period 2007-2013. One of the visible results of the structural changes in municipalities and in the district administration was the creation of special departments for Euro-integration.

Information from the government is also disseminated during so-called "information days" for district administration employees and through brochures. A serious weakness was also mentioned - a bad practice, typical at least of the time before the new law on civil servants came into force - with each change of minister, even during one term of the government, the teams trained for work. EU funds remained, but precious time was lost before the new staff became familiar with the work. Still others hint that some councilors and deputies from the region do not care about the general interest, but only the interests of "their people" (most likely, the questioner has in mind MRF deputies and councilors who mainly supported members of their own party). .

Municipalities also prepare, acquire and implement their own projects - mainly related to efforts to overcome ecological problems and unemployment problems in the areas of former mining and steel production ("Construction of the regional center for waste management in Karxhali"; " Partnership for a cleaner Arda river"; in Rudozem, a shoe factory was opened in a reconstructed building with modern equipment).

Influence of EU pre-accession programs on SME and agricultural

Local elites rely heavily on European funds, but Smolyan district seems to be slow to take advantage of the opportunities provided by SAPARD to improve the quality of agricultural products - most of the projects here are related to the development of rural tourism. As a result, local MRF activists took on the task of informing producers of the terms of the program (since the Minister of Agriculture is the MRF representative in the second successive government) and convincing them that in order to survive, producers must take at least the following initial steps: obtain land ownership documents, to organize into associations for combining separate lands and small livestock farms. This hands-on approach is likely to increase the influence of the MRF in areas inhabited by Muslim Bulgarians; how much the growth will be will be clear in the upcoming local elections.

Even domestic agricultural producers have difficulty securing initial capital, as program funding covers 50% of the investment only after project completion and outcome evaluation. Despite the difficulties, respondents note that participation in EU programs increases people's self-confidence and prestige. The effects of pre-accession assistance are assessed positively, but there seem to be much higher expectations for structural funds.

It is interesting that the contacts between the representatives of the Muslim elites on both sides of the The expected effect of Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2007 on the economic development of the region. The general opinion is that Bulgaria's membership in the EU will have a mostly positive effect on the economic development of the country and the region in particular.

Even the expected rise in the standard of living is seen as an unfavorable factor for small owners.

Relations between the Bulgarian majority and the Turkish and Muslim

This is mainly due to two factors: the introduction of "European norms" and the structural funds. On the other hand, there are serious concerns that accession will also lead to mass bankruptcy of small enterprises, which do not meet the EU criteria for quality of production and working conditions. The examples presented are small textile manufacturers, which are currently attractive to investors from neighboring Turkey and Greece mainly due to cheap labour.

The respondents note that the importance of traditional tobacco cultivation will gradually decrease and the farmers will have to switch to alternative agriculture and especially to organic production. In the words of one of the respondents, EU accession will offer additional guarantees for the effective realization of young people's potential "without direct or hidden forms of ethnic discrimination."

Identities and Europe 34

In the words of one of the respondents, accession to the EU will provide additional guarantees for the effective realization of young people's potential “without overt or hidden forms of ethnic discrimination.” . private sector), which – as mentioned above, not only for subjective reasons – have been left out of these processes, are more pessimistic. They are concerned that joining the EU will not only bring positive developments (particularly “European” rules and a better business environment), but also represents a danger: the higher quality and lower prices of products that the Bulgarian producers will not be able to compete with.

Concluding remarks: Relationship between ethnic-national identity and

As some of the respondents suggest in their interviews, the Muslim Bulgarians living in the Middle Rhodopes would not want to be criticized by the majority for being "Turkified" by the MRF. Therefore, since the beginning of the transition, the Bulgarian Muslims have supported the natural defender of their rights – the Union of Democratic Forces. Like the Turks of the Kardzhali district, the Bulgarian Muslims also exercise total control over their local authorities, regardless of the fact that their representatives belong to different parties.

In addition, they are convinced that there are supranational (European) power structures, which are not indifferent to the economic well-being of minority regions and which can guarantee that their rights will be respected in the future. At the same time, Turks, and especially Bulgarian Muslims, insist on religious education: religious education is considered extremely important for the spiritual development of young people - at least in religious families, and for Muslim Bulgarians it plays an important role. role to contribute to community cohesion and community identity formation. When asked how they imagine Europe and how they see their country in it, all the majority and minority respondents are unanimous on two issues: Bulgaria has always been part of the European historical and cultural space and its citizens are European. .

Finally, let us summarize the results of the research in terms of the expected four "ideal forms" of (re)configuration of minority-majority interests and identities in sub-national regions, which differ in relation to the central state and the way of looking at it. the connection between the cultural, political and territorial unit and the changing concepts of the EU, then the Bulgarian model will certainly not belong to the first two types (national-state and national-citizen forms). Members of local elites tend to portray the situation in the region in terms of the third type (regional-civilian form), which probably corresponds to their idea of ​​the "ideal" model they want to achieve. At the same time, especially in the Kardzhali district, where the Bulgarian national majority is actually a local minority and the MRF has strong positions in the local government, some characteristics of the fourth type (regional-ethnic form) can be detected: a dominant minority in a region or areas within a region that has established or wants to establish control over local administration and economic resources; the local government acts as a representative of the ethnic community and not of the local population.

Nitzova, P (1997): "Bulgarien: Minorities, Democratization and National Sentiments", Nationalities Papers, vol. 2000): "Social Profile of the Ethnic Groups in Bulgaria", Sofia: Center for Study of Democracy (www.csd.bg/news/Club2EthnicB-speech.htm).


Table 1. Parliamentary elections results in Bulgaria after 1989
Table 2: Parliamentary Elections in Kardzhali District and Smolyan District
Table 3. Results of the 1999 and 2003 Local Elections in Kardzhali District and Smolyan District
Table 4. Population of Kardzhali and Smolyan Districts in December, 2004, by Place of Residence



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