The Parliament ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (Council of Europe) in 1999. Bulgaria has also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ot the United Nations.
At the national level, a National Strategy for Poverty Reduction and Encouraging of Social Inclusion 2020 has been adopted, which identifies equal access to culture and sport as an important factor for social inclusion.
For its part, the Ministry of Culture is also committed to the practical implementation of the principles for the protection of cultural diversity. This happens through its specialised units, local and regional cultural institutions and organisations. The district administrations and the local authorities have the task of assisting the Ministry in carrying out these tasks.
An important development was the creation of a National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues (NCEDI) which was transformed into the National Council for Interethnic Interaction in 2004 (see chapter 1.2.6).
In addition, a Short-term Strategy for the Implementation of the State Policy for Equal Integration of the Roma in the Bulgarian National Culture has been developed.
The issues of social and cultural inclusion are also addressed by the Roma Public Council on Cultural Affairs and the Council on Cultural Diversity. The second one assists the Ministry of Culture in the policy of cultural integration of minority groups in the country.
A concept for the functioning and operation of Roma cultural and information centres has been developed. Meanwhile, a process to create a Roma Music Theatre has started, as well as two Turkish Musical and Drama Theatres, based in the cities Razgrad and Kardzhali.
The Ministry of Culture’s priorities in the field of cultural and social inclusion are:
• the assessment of existing policy infrastructure for ethnic and religious communities;
• making municipalities and districts leading actors in cultural integration policy, and activating the joint activities of the Ministry of Culture, the regional and municipal administrations in implementing initiatives for the inclusion of minorities in the Bulgarian society; and
• protecting the cultural diversity, and encouraging the implementation of programmes and projects related to the preservation of traditional minority culture.
The Centre for Non-Formal Education and Cultural Activity Alos aims to create an appropriate cultural and social environment for a meaningful life in Bulgaria. It also uses art to overcome social exclusion and the exclusion of socially disadvantaged people from the society.
The Open Society Institute – Sofia actively contributes to the inclusion of the Roma community, which through various projects stimulates the Roma’s integration into Bulgaria’s socio-economic and cultural life. With the help of the organisation, the portals ethnos.bg and romunda.net were created, of which the second is currently active. The portal provides useful information about minorities – news, opportunities, documents, documentaries, and more. The platform was created with funds from the PAIRS project in 2017.
Within the Open Society Institute, the Active Citizens Fund operates in the framework of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism 2014-2021. The fund has a budget of EUR 15 500 000 to finance activities aimed at reducing economic and social disparities, and empowering vulnerable groups. A minimum of ten percent of the funds are earmarked for Roma inclusion.
In connection to the increased number of refugees in Bulgaria in the last few years, a programem for employment and training of refugees has been implemented in the country. It works with vulnerable groups in the labour market and aims to help refugees to adapt successfully and to enter into the labour market in the country. The trainings are in Bulgarian and give the trainees a professional qualification.
In 2005, the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and Caritas Bulgaria established the Bulgarian Refugee and Migrant Council. In 2019, the Council implemented the Refugee Integration Advocacy in Bulgaria project, funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Within the project the following activities have been accomplished:
• maintaining and updating the online platform www.refugee-integration.bg, which aims to provide access to information resources for municipalities and other concerned sides on refugee integration in Bulgaria;
• organising a national forum on Advocacy for Refugee Integration; and
• developing an e-book Good Practices for Integration of Refugees Through Culture and Sport.
Inclusion of the elderly in the cultural life of the country is one of the priorities in the National Strategy for Active Life of the Elderly in Bulgaria 2019-2030. Along with the many initiatives to involve elders, all institutions of culture and the arts (theatres, cinemas, concert halls, etc.) are subject to reductions in ticket prices for retirees.
Another important element concerns an amendment to the Media Act, which eliminates the danger of regionalisation of minority culture, i.e. the creation of ethnic regions by means of radio and TV broadcasts as a prelude to ethnic-based territorial differentiation.