2. Current cultural affairs
Last update: March, 2020
Bulgaria's national cultural policy priorities include:
• preserving the cultural memory and historical heritage;
• creating conditions for the development and enrichment of all spheres of culture as factors for sustainable development;
• designing and adopting an effective mechanism of financing cultural institutions and finding alternative funding forms and sources;
• improving the statutory framework in the sphere of culture; and
• preservation of cultural heritage and digitalisation of cultural content.
As an EU member, Bulgaria's cultural policy must strengthen the place of Bulgarian culture in Europe by preserving its national identity and values. Cultural policy aims to support the creation, protection and dissemination of cultural values, as well as to create an environment which promotes and protects cultural diversity, freedom and creativity.
The Ministry of Culture co-operates with other government institutions in the sphere of – among others – education, environment, tourism and sports, as well as with numerous NGOs and community associations to achieve these cultural policy objectives. Balancing the interests of national art centres, local government, NGOs and the different professional cultural associations has been the guiding principle of recent policy.
The Ministry of Culture's current concept of cultural policy formulation and implementation puts special emphasis on the subsidiarity principle, which presupposes shared obligations and responsibilities for the common good among institutions and citizens – not solely in their capacity as taxpayers, but through a voluntary contribution of part of their time, energy and creativity. The idea of subsidiarity helps to create a new type of community rather than chaos, as the state eventually relinquishes its leading role.
Last update: March, 2020
The cultural rights as well as the freedom of expression, participation and access to culture are guaranteed in the Bulgarian Constitution (see chapter 4.1.1).
Art. 2 of the Law on the Protection and Development of Culture (1999) states that among the basic principles of national cultural policy are the democracy of cultural policy, the freedom of artistic creativity and non-censorship (1), and the preservation and enrichment of cultural and historical heritage (4).
In Art. 10 Ch. 1 (1) and (2) of the Law on Radio and Television (1999),the media service providers in Bulgaria are guided by the principles of:
- Guaranteeing the freedom of expression;
- Guaranteeing the right of information.
According to the same law, the public media (Bulgarian National Television and Bulgarian National Radio) are obliged to promote access to media services for all citizens, and to reflect different societal ideas and beliefs (Article 6, Chapter 3, (1) and (6)).
In Art. 8 Ch. 2 and Ch. 3, television- and radio broadcasters are encouraged to provide services accessible to citizens with disability in their vision and their hearing.
Since 1992, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has been in force in Bulgaria, of which Art. 10 states that everyone has freedom of expression.
In terms of regulation on the protection of human, social and cultural rights, there are several bodies:
1. The Ombudsman advocates, by the means and instruments provided for in the Ombudsman Act, when the rights and freedoms of citizens are violated by state and municipal authorities and their administrations, by persons entrusted with the provision of public services, as well as by private legal entities.
2. The Electronic Media Council has been the national regulator of the media environment since 2001, following the closure of the National Radio and Television Council.
3. The National Council for Journalistic Ethics Foundation, founded in 2005, aims to establish and maintain a self-regulatory system for print and electronic media in Bulgaria on the basis of the Bulgarian Media Code of Ethics, adopted in 2005.
4. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) is an independent non-governmental organisation for the protection of human rights: political, civil, cultural and social rights. The goals of the BHC are to promote respect and protection of human rights, to lobby for legal changes, to foster a public debate on human rights issues and to promote the idea of human rights to the general public.
Last update: March, 2020
The freedom of speech and expression in the country is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. This general law guarantees the freedom of both artists and cultural professionals. According to Art. 23 of the Constitution, the state creates the conditions for the free development of science, education and the arts and supports them. Art. 25 states that the freedom of artistic creativity is recognized and guaranteed by law.
At the time being, there is no law to promote the freedom of artists, and there have been no public debates regarding this issue. However, it has been discussed in relation to employment and wages in public and private cultural institutions.
The Bulgarian Association of Employers in the Field of Culture (BAEFC) operates in the sector. Its main objectives are to represent and protect the rights and interests of employers in the field of culture. It represents its members at regional, national, European and international levels. Eight branch committees have been set up at BAEFC in the fields of music and dance, theatre, audiovisual, design, libraries and book publishing, cultural animation, museums, galleries and fine arts, and the multicultural industry. They help in specifying the contractual terms, consultations and communication on branch issues. In addition, they are occupied with proposals for collective agreements and other activities.
In June 2018, a two-year Branch Collective Labour Contract for the Music-Performing Arts was signed by the Ministry of Culture, BAEFC and the unions. With this document, employers are again committed to take into account the specificity of work in the sector. There are also opportunities to receive additional remuneration for the results achieved by applying a system of criteria and indicators, benefits upon termination of the employment contract upon retirement, as well as greater annual leave according to the specifics of the work.
In November 2018, the Branch Collective Labour Contract was signed for employment at libraries. It regulates the employment and the social and social relations of employees at the National Library St. Cyril and Methodius and the regional libraries throughout Bulgaria. The contract was signed by the representatives of the trade unions and the National Library.
In July 2019, a renewed two-year Branch Collective Labour Contract was signed for museums and art galleries. It stipulates that the minimum starting wage in the industry will come into force from 1 January 2020, if there is a financial possibility within the approved budget. Employers are committed to providing higher pay to PhD professionals.
In 2016, an agreement was reached between the Union of Actors in Bulgaria (UAB) and the Bulgarian Association of Employers in the Field of Culture for the growth of both the number of performances and audience, and the performer’s income. The decision followed after it was found that the average wage in the sector is far below Bulgaria’s average wage in general. As a result of the analysis, employers and the UAB decided, first, to prevent redundancies in the sector and, second, to increase their basic wages by at least 12 percent. Apart from this, there are minimum protective thresholds for the actors' fees for participation in: film productions, including Bulgarian and foreign films, and commercials. These thresholds are consistent with wage increases in the industry, as well as with changes in Bulgaria’s socio-economic conditions.
Artists and cultural professionals in Bulgaria have complete freedom to travel around the world, to participate in joint cultural initiatives (co-productions) abroad and in our country. The Mobility Programme (see chapter 1.4.1) is also provided for this purpose.
There is no official monitoring of artists' freedom in the country.
Last update: March, 2020
Bulgaria is following the process of digisation that is taking place across Europe and around the world. In this sense, the cultural sector is also undergoing a digital revolution. The way of creating, distributing, promoting and consuming cultural content is changing. To a large extent, digisation affects the media, the gaming sector, the publishing industry and the music industry.
For a decade, the digitalisation of cultural archives in Bulgaria was carried out without a single strategy, working "piece by piece". However, in 2018, changes were made to the Cultural Heritage Act, according to which the Minister of Culture or a designated official of the Ministry coordinates, organises and controls the digitisation of cultural heritage.
Within the framework of the Operational Programme "Good Governance", the project "Digitisation of the archive of real cultural property of global and national importance, construction of a specialised information system, an electronic register and a public portal" is being implemented. The project is worth BGN 2 million (EUR 1.02 mln.). The share of national funding is BGN 300 000 (EUR 153 000) and the remaining BGN 1.7 million (EUR 868 679) are from the European Social Fund. The implementation of the project is managed by the Ministry of Culture in partnership with the National Institute of Real Cultural Heritage.
On the other hand, the issue of digitalisation at the Bulgarian Film Fund stays uncertain and there are no measures or strategies applied on saving or digitising the old Bulgarian film footage; the state has not yet initiated a project related to film heritage. However, in 2018, Minister of Culture Boil Banov expressed hope that such a project would be launched in 2019 with funding from the Norwegian Fund. This becomes more urgent, as the existence of the film archives of the country is threatened by the lack of preservation and storage.
In the context of the digital revolution in Bulgaria, the National Academic Library Information System Foundation (NALIS) was established in 2009, which is actively engaged in the digitisation of the funds of libraries, archives and museums. One of the main tasks of the organisation is to help increase the level of library-information communication between scientific institutions, higher education institutions and large library repositories. The aim is to respond to the growing digital content needs of Bulgarian society and to assist in the implementation of new information service models that meet world standards. Last but not least, the aim is to promote international cooperation in the field. As a result of its activities, NALIS has so far built a comprehensive catalog with free of charge internet access, which allows to find titles from over 3.6 million bibliographic data from the electronic catalogs of 45 Bulgarian libraries with one search, including scientific and public ones. The activities of NALIS are funded by a programme of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and with donations from domestic and foreign various organisations.
There are also regional initiatives to digitise cultural heritage. The State Archives Agency started work on the project "Positive Memories of Old Negatives" under the programme Cultural Heritage, module Preservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage. It aims the promotion of historical events and facts from Pleven (a town in North Bulgaria) and the region by visualising old negatives. The project is funded by the National Culture Fund and its total value is BGN 9 638 (EUR 4 925). It is implemented in the period July 1st, 2019 until April 30th, 2020.
There are also tools that aim to fund cultural digitisation activities in Bulgaria:
• This year, the Culture Programme of the Municipality of Sofia has set as its priority the “Cultural Heritage of a Changing City”, financing the activities of digitisation of culture – digital culture, communication through technology and the protection of cultural heritage through technology. The budget of the Culture 2020 Programme is nearly BGN 1.5 million (EUR 766 269).
• In order to preserve, develop and promote intangible cultural heritage, the National Culture Fund also prioritises digital forms. The Cultural Heritage Programme, module Preservation and Promoting Cultural Heritage, focuses on improving access to cultural heritage through digital technologies. The total budget of the programme is 180 000 BGN (EUR 91 952). Digital arts and new media forms are also treated within the Debuts programme, which funds debut projects by amateurs or new talents. The total budget of the programme is BGN 300 000 (EUR 153 253).
Last update: March, 2020
The authorities responsible for realising intercultural dialogue activities are: the Ministry of Culture, the NCCEDI and non-governmental organisations.
Intercultural dialogue is the topic of the Draft Strategy for the Development of Bulgarian Culture 2019-2029. Dialogue between external and internal communities is the focus of priorities in the fields of cultural heritage, visual and performing arts, intercultural cooperation and others. The document emphasises that cultural differences are a factor for sustainable development and an example of cultural maturity. In this regard, it is a priority to stimulate communication with EU countries but also with other European countries, with an emphasis on cooperation in the SEE region, in particular the Western Balkans. The aim is to continue contacts with China, Japan, Russia, the United States and others. Last but not least, cooperation between cultural and artistic professionals is supported in the draft strategy.
In Bulgaria, the National Council for Co-operation on Ethnic and Demographic Issues (NCCEDI), under the aegis of the Council of Ministers, is the main national level institution which is responsible for coordinating policies related to intercultural dialogue. It facilitates cooperation between state bodies and NGOs of different minority groups and considers policy proposals submitted by other Ministry departments. Following approval by the Council of Ministers, the NCCEDI monitors, analyses and coordinates measures aimed to:
• guarantee human rights;
• preserve and strengthen tolerance and understanding; and
• create conditions that ethnic minorities in Bulgaria need to sustain and develop their culture, as well as to preserve the most important elements of their identity: religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage.
Regional Councils on ethnic and demographic issues are being created within the administrative structures of district governments. They are responsible for implementing nationally approved measures in their relevant district/region, as well as for developing relevant regional strategies and programmes.
The NCCEDI receives annual funding, from the Council of Minister's budget, to support organisations of ethnic minority groups and their activities. The following types of projects are eligible for funding:
• cultural events such as arts festivals, exhibitions (fine arts, applied arts and crafts);
• artistic groups and their activities such as theatres, choirs, dance performances, art schools, etc.;
• celebrations of historical and traditional holidays;
• organisation of seminars and conferences;
• educational projects;
• extra-curricular education programmes for children and students;
• printing and distribution of poetry, collections of folk tales, songs, proverbs; and
• audio and video productions.
In addition, the Centre for Educational Integration of Children and Pupils from Ethnic Minorities (CEIDUEM) was established in Bulgaria by Decree 4 of the Council of Ministers on 11 January 2005. There is also a Strategy for the Educational Integration of Children and Pupils from Ethnic Minorities (2015-2020) (see chapter 2.5.2 for more information).
The operational goals of the National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria for Roma Integration (2012-2020) include the coverage and retention of Roma children and pupils in the educational system, the provision of quality education in a multicultural educational environment. In addition, the objectives include:
• preserving and promoting the traditional Roma culture;
• the development of amateur art among the Roma as premisie for professional development and realisation; and
• the stimulation of the Roma community for active participation in public cultural life.
Hanns Seidel Foundation is engaged in promoting cross-border cooperation in the Balkan countries and strengthening cultural relations with the German-speaking area with academies and seminars.
In general, young people are a priority for organisations engaged in intercultural dialogue in the country.
One of the NGOs in this sector is the Centre for International Youth Activity in Bulgaria (IYAC Bulgaria). It engages young people in local, national and international initiatives in the fields of culture, sport, volunteering and non-formal education, promoting youth exchange.
The National Youth Forum is the largest youth platform in Bulgaria, bringing together fifty youth organisations from all over the country. It is committed to the active participation of young people in intercultural dialogue, both at national and European level.
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN Bulgaria) represents non-profit student associations whose main goal is to provide support to exchange students in different universities in Bulgaria. The organisation strongly encourages intercultural dialogue.
Last update: March, 2020
The idea of diversity education is predominantly present at the national level and is reflected in some of the laws of Bulgaria. The main objectives of diversity education programs are primarily focused on equality and the promotion of tolerance.
According to Art. 22, Ch. 2, (8) of the Pre-school and School Education Act, state education standards are for civil, health, environmental and intercultural education. In Art. 76, (5) states that in the process of school education subjects in the field of intercultural education may be taught.
According to Art. 6 of Ordinance 13 on Civil, Health, Environmental and Intercultural Education, adopted in 2016, the intercultural education is part of the class, interest activities and general support activities for personal development. According to Art. 7, the intercultural education is provided by integration and through a separate school subject called Civil Education.
The Inclusive Education Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Science is engaged in supporting the state policy for the development of forms of educational integration of children and students with special educational needs and with chronic diseases in the system of pre-school and school education.
The Ministry of Education and Science also has a directorate responsible for working with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. The Agency is funded by the Ministries of Education from the member states and the EC, with the support of the EP.
The Draft National Strategy for the Child 2019-2030 is in line with the objectives and fundamental principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the strategy, every child in the country should live and develop its potential in an integrated healthy, safe and encouraging environment for self-development. The planned measures are divided into five key areas, including quality education for all children.
The Centre for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities (CEIDUEM) was established in Bulgaria by Decree 4 of the Council of Ministers of January 11, 2005. A Strategy for the Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities was adopted for the period 2015-2020. This document focuses on the realisation of educational integration in Bulgarian kindergartens and schools with the following: intercultural education, preservation and development of the cultural identity of minority groups through education and teaching in the mother tongue about history and culture. Article 2 of the Strategy focuses on interculturality, which is interpreted as an opportunity for mutual enrichment through interaction between children and students, expression of their own cultural identity and an issue when it comes to national self-isolation or self-isolational identity. A major problem pointed out in the strategy is that "the study of the traditional culture of the respective ethnic community is not widely involved in the educational process". The strategy is forced to find a solution the following problems in relation to intercultural education: to make the intercultural approach fundamental in the planning of activities and in the organisation of training; more educational content on the history and culture of ethnic minorities; stimulating and recruiting pedagogical specialists who have the competence to impart knowledge and skills to children on the perception of ethno-cultural differences; and overcoming negative stereotypes and cultural distances.
The Public Council on Cultural Diversity, within the Ministry of Culture, has been operating since 2002. International student exchanges are being organised in art schools, which are under the management of the Ministry of Culture.
The Ministry of Education and Science organises training courses for academic personnel covering information about Roma history and culture, problem solving and management of the class.
Efforts to set up intercultural education programmes in the system of secondary schools are the prerogative of each individual educational institution.
Regional Councils on Ethnic and Integration issues are functioning under the regional administrations (28 in total) and are working on programmes approved by these authorities. The Councils involve experts from the regional administrations, mayors of municipalities, representatives of the territorial units of the central executives, and public minorities' organisations working in the respective regions. Such experts are nominated in almost half of the 263 Bulgarian municipalities.
Beyond the traditional education system, NGOs play an important role in promoting social inclusion and tolerance by developing different educational projects. Since 2016, the Red House Centre for Culture and Debate and the Gulliver Clearing House Foundation have been working with local and immigrant communities in one of Sofia's neighbourhoods. They bring children and young people who are living on the street and their families to the education workshops – reading and writing; art workshops - theatre, psychodrama, dance, drawing; and a social storytelling studio. In 2018, the project received support from the Sofia Municipality's Europe 2018 Program.
Last update: March, 2020
Bulgaria has state- and private-owned radio stations and television networks providing national coverage, as well as numerous private radio and television stations providing local news coverage. Cultural events and issues of international, national and local relevance are covered extensively in their programmes. Both the state-owned and private electronic media have numerous, mainly weekly, programmes for minority cultural groups. For example, the daily Turkish news programme broadcast by the Bulgarian National Television.
According to the regulations of Article 71 of the Radio and Television Act, Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) and Bulgarian National Television (BNT) should provide assistance to the creation and dissemination of national audio and audiovisual productions:
• BNR allocates at least 5 percent of the subsidy received from the state budget and Radio and Television Fund for the creation and performance of Bulgarian musical and radio dramatic productions; and
• BNT allocates at least 10 percent from the subsidy received from the state budget and Radio and Television Fund for Bulgarian film and television productions.
The Radio and Television Fund was created by Article 98 of the Radio and Television Act. The fund’s budget consists of:
• monthly reception fees for radio and television programmes;
• initial and yearly licensing and registration fees for radio and television; and
• interest rate resources already in the fund.
Resources collected via the fund are to be used for the financing of:
• BNR and BNT (for preparation, creation and dissemination of national programmes);
• council for Electronic Media;
• projects of national importance, related to the introduction and usage of new technologies in radio and television;
• significant cultural and educational projects; and
• projects designed to extend the dissemination of radio and television programmes over population and/or territory.
There is a lack of transparency of media ownership and capital in the commercial broadcasting sector, with no public register of ownership. The provisions on media ownership in the Law on Radio and Television (1998) – and also the Telecommunications Law (2003) and the Law for the Protection of Competition (1998) – aim to prevent broadcasters from monopolising or even dominating the market. In practice, however, there are no effective anti-monopoly regulatory mechanisms.
There is an Article in the Law on Radio and Television (1999) that refers to the monopoly prevention:
Article 108. Upon submission of documents for the granting of licenses under Article 111, the applicants shall declare that they do not hold any interests, shares or rights of any other kind to participation in radio and television operators, in excess of the permissible limit, according to the anti-trust legislation of the Republic of Bulgaria. (The Competition Protection Act (2008) defines the concentration of economic activity, and the Commercial Law (1991) regulates the procedures for transformation of companies).
In the 2016 Media Pluralism Monitor Report, high risks for media pluralism in Bulgaria were detected primarily in the areas of market plurality and political independence. Three of the market plurality indicators point toward a particularly high risk: media ownership concentration (horizontal) (96%), commercial and owners influence over editorial content (92%) and cross media concentration of ownership and competition enforcement (89%). Two indicators in the political independence domain point to high risk: state regulation of resources and support for media sector (97%) and political control over the media outlets (79%).
Up to now (2019), no measures have been taken to combat concentration in the media sector, even if the issue is being actively discussed between the media experts. An example of this is the conference (R) Evolution in Journalism. Media Innovation in Central and Eastern Europe, organised by the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria. It discussed the topics of media freedom and independence in the country, the decline of the media environment and the need to take actions to address these issues.
The circumstances in Bulgaria led to the development of a mainly vertical system of concentration – the telecommunication operator, in the majority of cases, is an owner both of a television and of a radio channel, of the studio complex, of the broadcasting equipment, of the transmitting cable network – i.e. the entire chain for media broadcasting.
The problem is also clearly reflected in the 2019 Reporters Without Borders World Freedom of Speech Index, according to which Bulgaria ranks 111th out of 180 countries. This is the worst result among all EU’s member states. The index shows that journalists in the country do not feel free and independent.
Currently, the Bulgarian public media are in crisis; the radio is fighting a scandal over freedom of expression, and television is having a huge debt.
Although both the Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria and the Electronic Media Act (2007) guarantee freedom of expression and journalistic expression in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian National Radio (the oldest electronic medium in the country) fell into an unprecedented crisis in September 2019. A BNR journalist covering the legal issues was taken off air, which happened during the election of a new general prosecutor. Meanwhile, the broadcast of the Horizon programme was suspended for five hours. At a subsequent hearing of Horizon's editorial board, shocking facts were presented to the Council of Electronic Media for exerting pressure on the general radio director – for restricting journalists, imposing censorship and interfering with editorial independence.
At the same time, Bulgarian National Television is over-indebted. The public television’s reports at the end of 2018 indicate that its liabilities exceed BGN 18 million (EUR 9 202 483). However, the BNT unions issued a joint statement stating that the budget deficit is over BGN 35 million (EUR 17 893 716). It is estimated that by the end of 2019 the amount will reach BGN 44 million. Bankruptcy on public television is happening, even though its budget subsidy and its own revenue are relatively constant. However, the funds raised are outweighed by higher costs for outside productions, buying more sports rights, increasing staff salaries and purchasing large film packages and programmes.
The press is entirely privately owned.
There are no available statistical data on the correlation between imported and locally produced programmes in Bulgaria. The Law on Radio and Television (1999) sets the programming quotas: at least 50 percent of the total annual programme time must be for European and Bulgarian programming, excluding newscasts, sports shows, game shows on radio and TV, commercials and the radio and TV market, when that is applicable.
There are no specialised TV channels for arts and culture in Bulgaria, but there are culture-dedicated TV shows – Culture.Bg (BNT) and Multimedia (Bulgaria On Air). They cover the cultural sector in general, including current news and interviews with Bulgarian and foreign cultural representatives. BNT also broadcasts the literary program The Library.
Bulgarian journalists have opportunities to participate in various programmes related to culturally sensitive issues. Regular information on such programmes and initiatives is published on the AEJ website.
Last update: March, 2020
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the official language is Bulgarian. The issue of "mother tongues" (the term "minority language" is not used in the Bulgarian Constitution, which regards "mother tongue" as the more relevant term) is addressed in two specific laws. The first concerns radio and television broadcasting, regulated by the Radio and Television Act [Article 12 (2)], which lists the cases in which programmes may be broadcast in a language other than the official one: 1) when they are aired for educational purposes and 2) when they are designed for Bulgarian citizens whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian.
The second law addresses the status of "mother tongue" as a subject in Bulgarian schools, regulated by the National Education Act [Article 8 (2)] and the Syllabus and Minimum Comprehensive Education Act [Article 15 (3)]. According to the provisions of the first Act, students whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian are entitled to mother tongue tutoring in municipal schools, with the state providing protection and exercising control; the second Act defines "mother tongue" as a "compulsory optional subject", which means that if students want to study their mother tongue, the municipality or the state is obliged to provide them with this opportunity.
Public debate was mainly focused on the previous Act and was related to the possibilities of municipalities to provide the necessary resources and qualified trainers. Separately, nationalistic oriented citizens and media were disputing the necessity of news broadcasting in Turkish on BNT, but these voices did not get wide public support.
Last update: March, 2020
Gender equality and culture is mainly on the agenda of NGOs. For example, the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation is an independent NGO promoting social justice, gender equality and human rights through research, education, legislative changes and advocacy.
Some NGOs deal specifically with the equal integration of women from the minority cultural communities – especially Roma women – into the mainstream life of Bulgarian society.
The Bulgarian Women's Fund is an organisation that supports local non-governmental organisations working for women's rights to achieve equality in all spheres of public life and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including in the cultural sector. The Fund seeks to promote women's artistic participation through various initiatives. In 2019, for example, the Bulgarian Fund for Women announced a competition for artistic projects for women with a prize pool of BGN 30 000. The competition aims to provoke debate about the role of women in art and society today.
The NGO Gender Project for Bulgaria, founded in 1994, is working on raising the public awareness of equal opportunities of men and women and women's rights as human rights. It lobbies the national and local authorities to implement the gender equality policy of UN and EU.
At this stage, there are no official data on the number of women in key and management positions in the cultural sector.
Last update: March, 2020
Art. 51, Ch. 2 of the Employment Promotion Act states that for every job created in which an unemployed person with a permanent disability can be employed, a subsidy is given to the employer for the time of this person’s employment, but for a period of minimal three months and a maximum of twelve months.
In 2016, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy created a National Disability Strategy 2016-2020, as well as an action plan for its implementation. Its purpose is to provide people with disabilities access to cultural life.
There are no specific strategies to support people with disabilities as professionals in the cultural labour market. However, there are organisations that seek to promote the participation of people with disabilities in cultural life, to find them employment in the cultural sector and to not marginalise them with regards to cultural access:
• Since 2017, the Sofia International Film Festival has a Cinema for the Blind programme that promotes the cultural consumption of people with visual problems.
• In 2017, the JAMBA online platform was created, which offers consulting services to provide a pre-service environment (training and educational courses) for people with disabilities, as well as follow-up recruitment for disabled people in Bulgaria. This includes the cultural sector.
Bulgaria ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012. The purpose of this Convention is to promote, protect and guarantee all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities. In 2015, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy constructed an Action Plan of the Republic of Bulgaria on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015-2020).
Last update: March, 2020
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.
Last update: March, 2020
In Bulgaria, social cohesion is a priority, in which cultural components have multiple inputs at central and local levels, through various actions and projects implemented by institutions, local authorities and NGOs.
There is no consolidated information about the development and implementation of public policies to promote social cohesion at national and regional levels, although multiple actions are taking place.
In general, the non-governmental sector is most committed to using cultural practices to create an environment for social change in Bulgaria.
The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate, for example, has its own social program, focused at the most vulnerable groups in Bulgarian society: children who are deprived of parental care, the homeless, the elderly in institutions, the mentally ill, the marginalised by origin, ethnicity or lack of official status. One of the successful endeavours in this direction is the Pavilion 19 project, which is working with local and migrant communities at the Women's Market in Sofia, a place where the representatives of these communities are concentrated. The activities are related to art, culture and psycho-social support –theatre, cinema, drawing, music, psychodrama and psycho-social support.
The theme of creativity among children is also presented within the framework of the scientific and practical forum Creative Education – Pedagogical Practices Inspired by the Ideas of Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Maria Montessori, organised by the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski in 2018. The main topics of the forum included supporting early childhood and school creativity and creating a supportive environment through creativity.
At a local level, the Sunny Paths Foundation implements the project The Art of Tolerance – A Shield Against Aggression and Hate Speech in Adolescents, which is financially supported by the Sofia Municipality and the Programme “Europe” 2019. Within the project’s framework, cultural events are taking place that aim to avoid aggression, extremism and xenophobia through creativity and talent.
Since 2012, the GLAS Foundation has been organising Sofia Pride Arts – a festival for contemporary LGBTI art within Sofia Pride. Its main goal is to show the diversity and achievements of the LGBTI community, both globally and locally.
Theatre is used as a tool for the socialisation of minority groups. An example is the activity of the Tzvete Theatre, which has realised different projects for:
• the development of personality potential and value building in the adolescent value system;
• creating conditions for successful introduction into the social life of young people from these communities; and
• breaking public stereotypes towards “others”.
Since 1994, the Tzvete Theatre has completed fifteen projects in this field.
Fine Acts is a global social engagement platform exploring the intersection between human rights, the arts and technology. Its idea is to raise awareness for issues such as domestic violence through arts, and also contribute to concrete solutions. Within the Fine Acts Labs Sofia format, the organisation connects artists from different disciplines with other human rights professionals and activists. For a period of time, and using each one of their skills, they have to come up with a solution together and to create an artistic product. As a result, artworks that undermine stereotypes and change the status quo have been created.
Last update: March, 2020
Although it has been an issue of debate for several years in Bulgaria, little progress has been made with regard to cultural sustainability and sector specific strategies.
A Draft Strategy for the Development of Bulgarian Culture 2019 - 2029 was presented in 2019. The project includes a chapter on Performance and Financial Instruments, but it does not provide an accurate analysis of how many projects, including those financial instruments, have been developed so far. Furthermore, the participation of private entities and the civil sector is not described, while the Law on Development and Protection of Culture (1999) states that private entities and NGOs are equal to the state and municipal entities. the implementation of which is not foreseen in the Draft Strategy for the Development of Bulgarian Culture 2019 - 2029.
According to the Strategy, funding from the state and municipal budget, alternative funding for (unspecified) projects and programmes, as well as funding from donations and sponsorships are envisaged. The Law on Patronage and the pledge of creating an art lottery is mentioned, but there is no commitment for the deadlines needed to realise it. This tool has been discussed for years, but its actual creation has been suspended.
According to an analysis by the Cultural Economics Observatory, value added at factor costs of the sector is 4.5%. However, the cost of culture in Bulgaria is decreasing.
There is a difference between the commitments of the Strategy and the three-year budget forecast. The share of cultural funds will shrink from 0.5% in 2019 to 0.4% in 2020.
In addition, strategies for their development are required for the development of individual cultural trends. So far, Bulgaria has only a draft national strategy for the entire industry, but lacks in-depth analysis, ideas and recommendations in the various segments, including their financial provision.
Although the Strategy is project by the Ministry of Culture, the National Cultural Strategy does not show that it is related to other institutions in the country, as well as to the overall economic development of the country. However, the fact that Draft Strategy is not legally adopted yet doesn’t speak to cultural sustainability in Bulgaria.
There aren’t any programs aimed at facilitating cultural sustainability by the authorities.
In the first half of 2019, Plovdiv was the European Capital of Culture, becoming the first Bulgarian city to be chosen as such. The program included over 300 projects and nearly 500 events spread across the entire Central South Region. Many of the traditions of the ancient city came to life with renewed power and scale. An unknown cultural content has emerged that will remain a legacy for the future. Examples of projects that reflect the past and pave the way for the future are “Smoke. Tobacco Stories”, “Odysseus”, “Cyrillization Programme”, “Puldin Ethno – Festival of Еthnic Culture”, etc. Such events give the opportunity for stable economic growth in the region through cultural activities.
Last update: March, 2020
The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate – together with various partners – organises debates and discussions on different cultural policy issues on a regular basis (regarding for example the national strategy for culture, culture in Bulgarian foreign policy, public financing of culture and Bulgarian culture in the EU).
In 2019, within the context of the Festival of Ideas and just a month before the European Parliament elections, a debate was organised on the subject of freedom of expression and its potential regulation. The purpose of the initiative was to provoke in-depth and free discussion on topics that are key to the EU's future, but also relate to Bulgaria's cultural policy. Under the umbrella of the same event, a debate was organised on the Future of the Media in Europe, focusing on issues of misinformation, pressure on the media, social networks and their impact on civil society and democracy. The topic is extremely relevant given the 111th place of Bulgaria in the ranking of Reporters without Borders for Freedom of Speech.
Part of the problems of cultural policy in Bulgaria was also outlined within the framework of the Second Critical Forum on Cultural Policies in Bulgaria with the topic "Review of the legislation in the field of culture and media". The highlights include the need to create a Performing Arts Act in the country, to preserve and to socialise cultural heritage, as well as the role of managers in cultural institutes.
In 2015-2016, there was an intense debate in Bulgaria about communist monuments and the removal of the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria. Such debates are limited to particular cases and there is no single strategy or policy to preserve the monuments from this controversial historical period.
In 2016, was held a discussion on “Sculpture and the City”, which touches on the topic of the place and quality of monumental arts in the urban environment. The debate has been provoked in the background of conflicting regulatory rules that once again raise questions about who and how decisions are made in the public space.
In 2017, the debate "How should (not) cultural policy be made?" was held at the Red House Centre for Culture and Debate. The theme of cultural heritage has traditionally provoked controversy over emotional and historical burdens. The purpose of the debate was to discuss how cultural heritage policies are conducted and how we decide what we keep and what we eliminate.
In 2019, the "Professors' Box: The European City" debate was organised by the Culture Portal. It raised questions about how the public space in the European city is conceived as a successor to the Roman city – in the context of the historical heritage and the future development of the urban environment.