The interview of Emil Stoyanov with Diana Petrova for ’24 hours’ newspaper was published on 18th of June 2012.
Mr. Stoyanov, why are you organizing a conference dedicated to the problems, which Bulgarians are facing abroad?
The idea was born in the beginning of the year in a conversation between the Vice-President Margarita Popova and myself. The topic of the conversation were Bulgarian schools outside the country. Their future and the future of around one million Bulgarians that live abroad, gave us an insight that it is time to start a purposeful European policy for Bulgarians abroad. We considered the fact that by uniting the large number of opportunities and the authority of the Bulgarian President Institution with the capabilities of the European Parliament, there is no way that we cannot be successful. That is how the conference ‘Policies for Bulgarians living abroad’ was born, organized by the Vice-President Margarita Popova and myself, being a Member of the European Parliament.
Why is the conference going to be held in Brussels instead of Sofia?
We chose the European Parliament symbolically. Conducting the forum here will demonstrate the enormous road that Bulgaria has come in the last twenty years, from the Communist protectorate to a member state in the European Union. Also it shows that Brussels is being more of our own capital as well. Actually the idea is to organize the next conferences in Sofia and in Plovdiv.
What is the purpose of the forum?
The purpose of these series of conferences is to create a modern strategy, aimed at the attitude of the Bulgarian state towards Bulgarians, who live abroad. It is an urgent matter, because they account for 15% out of the whole population and they have to be a factor in Bulgarian politics, economy and culture, why not also in sports for example. This strategy should provide support for the Bulgarian parliament and help our institutions in creating relevant regulations.
What is the criteria for choosing participants and what if there is someone who is unhappy, because not being invited?
The administration of Ms. Popova has already started sending out a sample questionnaire to different Bulgarian organizations. My team is preparing to invite guests as well. It is important to know, that if someone wants to participate, he/she can make a query on my parliamentary email and if possible he/she will be invited. On the other hand, the hall I have reserved can accommodate around 330 people and it is highly exclusive, because it is located opposite the plenary in Brussels.
Which Bulgarian institutions are going to be present?
Of course, all of the Bulgarian MEP’s, who are interested on this topic, no matter from which political wing they come. Representatives from the government will also be invited, as well as non-government organizations. Our desire is that the meeting will be free of political talks, in order to integrate a large variety of participants for a longer time frame.
How is the conference going to proceed?
The conference will be held in the time frame of two days, on the 7th and 8th of November. The proposal is that the conference will consist of four or five major topics – education, opportunities to participate in elections and lobbying for Bulgaria and etc. The final decisions on the topics will be taken on Monday after the Council on Cultural Development, which will take place in the presence of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria.
What questions do you want to be asked in the core of the debate?
Personally I would like to hear opinions on two major questions:
– How Bulgarians, who live abroad can help their country?
– And how can Bulgaria ease the life of our compatriots that live abroad?
It will be extremely unproductive if the conference flows into a bragging against the Bulgarian state. It is clear that almost no one back home has experience with immigration policies and has yet to start developing a working modern model, which will meet the European norms and documents. Therefore, European and Bulgarian experts will be invited, which will explore possible practices.
Is the Bulgarian government going to take responsibilities on possible demands?
Bulgarian authorities are going to participate actively in the discussion, as I already mentioned. The possible measures and what they will be depends on time and will. No one should start imagining, that this policy will be endorsed immediately. Probably it will not come cheap for taxpayers. Therefore, it is normal that there is a consensus on the matter between Bulgarians and those of them that live abroad.
Why do you think there has not been an outright forum, that brings Bulgarians from all over the world together?
No there isn’t and most probably there would not be one. That is because Bulgarians around the world are not a homogeneous mass. Amongst them there are successful ones and as well those who failed themselves. Educated ones and those, who did not manage to receive a quality education. There are those, who are proud to be Bulgarians and others who are ashamed from it. The important side of it is that problems should be openly discussed and solutions worked for.