Issuing Bulgarian Passports to Macedonians Failed to Achieve its Political Goals

A debate on the mass and non-selective issuing of Bulgarian passports to foreigners has revealed ulterior motives in the attitude toward the requests submitted by Macedonians, Deutsche Welle reports.

"I feel like a Bulgarian" - This simple phrase, reiterated as a first grader's song, and completely freed from any obligation of supporting it with whatsoever documents, has been used for years by Macedonian citizens as a magical formula that would make them residents of the EU. The Bulgarian passport has become the "exit option" for the biggest part of these applicants, which allows them to live and work in the EU.

The huge influx of applications for Bulgarian citizenship and the corrosive filter they are processed through, have set off alarm bells in Sofia. Bulgarian media have reported that the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad refused to hand over to the Justice Ministry the records of 2,000 foreigners who have acquired documents to prove their Bulgarian origin and swiftly obtained citizenship, with the pretext that those were "sensitive personal data".

After flaws in the work of the Agency have been registered, a change in management staff took place, some legal changes and certain restrictions in the process for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship were also introduced  - this came as a result from pressure via Brussels.
The exact number of Macedonian citizens - holders of Bulgarian passports is unknown in Macedonia. According to the Interior Ministry's spokesman, Ivo Kotevski, the police has no records because the individuals with dual citizenship are not obliged to report the second citizenship in the interior ministry's services. The speculations vary from 30,000 to 60,000 or more?
Macedonians were obtaining Bulgarian passports as if they were cheap movie tickets, so the numbers could be higher.
Even though Bulgaria's Public Prosecution announced it will review the issued citizenships, and the ongoing applications, the media reported that the new restrictions will not apply to Macedonians, but only to those from Kosovo and other candidates who "arrive with burqas, and claim their Bulgarian roots, and don't understand a word of Bulgarian." The leader of Bulgarian party VMRO-BND, ultranationalist Krasimir Karakacanov, talked with the representatives of the Bulgarian government and got an oral confirmation that the new terms will not be applied to the Macedonian citizens.
Spas Tasev, former director of the Agency for Bulgarians abroad in an interview with daily "Trud" says the passport issuance to people who feel 'Bulgarians' has been a fiasco from the begining. Macedonians were showing up with notirized statements that they "felt" Bulgarian and were getting passports.

"An event that took place in 2012 unveils a lot about this phenomenon which I witnessed as an observer with the Council on Citizenships. A Macedonian citizen filled out a similar statement and obtained a Bulgarian citizenship. However, this Macedonian had obtained a citizenship from Slovenia too, so he sent an insulting letter to the Justice Ministry demanding to be acquitted from the Bulgarian citizenship because he never felt Bulgarian," Tasev says.

Tasev reveals the original goal of Sofia to turn Macedonia 'Bulgarian' and have control of Macedonia's political and social processes has not been achieved at all.

"I believe that the current Bulgarian policy on issuing Bulgarian citizenships unconditionally is in a later stage, after it turned into an objective per se and has not led to the expected more serious results: nor Macedonia has become more Bulgarian recently, nor we influence the social processes there, nor we have solved the demographic crisis. The mere fact that we are preoccupied for a decade with the presence of middle men in the process of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship and that in all those years not one middle man has been arrested, shows that something is very wrong with the current mechanism. It is clear we need to change not only the practice, but the philosophy of the process itself, in order to make progress and solve the issues," Tasev concludes.

In the end, the Bulgarian media quoting Government sources says Bulgarian passports will always be available to Macedonians without much ado as is the norm. 

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