Bulgaria has achieved tangible progress since 2014 in fighting intolerance, introducing inclusive education, combating antisemitism, promoting integration of Roma and supporting refugees. However, hate and prejudice against LGBTI persons and Roma persist and should be addressed, and integration measures for refugees should be expanded. These are key findings of the new report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) that covers the period from June 2014 to end March 2022 (see the Bulgarian version of the report).
ECRI welcomes several positive developments observed since the previous monitoring cycle. However, despite the progress achieved, some issues give rise for concern. LGBTI persons, as well as Roma, are the main victims of public expressions of hatred and prejudice. Hate speech against these groups also came in recent years from high-level politicians. The positive steps taken to counter antisemitism have unfortunately not been applied to these types of hatred as well.
ECRI addresses several recommendations to the Bulgarian authorities. The authorities should set up an LGBTI working group, which should include relevant organisations from the LGBTI communities, to carry out research into discrimination against LGBTI persons to develop a national strategy and action plan in this area. ECRI also recommends that the authorities increase the number and scale up the successful work of Roma mediators in the areas of health, education and employment. It will follow up on these recommendations in two years.
ECRI also recommends that the authorities build on the positive actions in preventing and combating antisemitism to take similar measures with regard to other groups vulnerable to hate speech.
As far as Roma are concerned, ECRI strongly recommends that the authorities take all necessary measures to prevent threats and violence against Roma by local residents and to ensure that no de facto segregation of Roma children takes place in kindergartens and schools. The Council of Europe’s body also recommends that the authorities protect Roma housing from demolitions that are not in line with relevant internationally accepted safeguards (such as a sufficient notice period, the possibility of legal remedies, and the provision of alternative accommodation).
Besides, ECRI recommends that the authorities scale up and expand the integration measures for refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection (especially Bulgarian-language training for adults as well as skills-building and employment support) to reach out to more beneficiaries, either through the re-establishment of national integration programmes or the adequate funding and comprehensive roll-out of local-level activities.
Bulgaria: progress on addressing inequalities, but more needed to protect LGBTI and Roma from discrimination and hate speech, help refugees