Human Rights Project*

Press Release

Bulgaria: Roma Children are not Children of Bulgaria, Decide the Parliament

Sofia, October, 10 - On October 07, 2004 the Parliament of Bulgaria rejected at first reading the Draft Law for Creation of Fund for Minority Children Educational Integration. The Draft has been introduced in the National Assembly by the Council of Ministers. The ruling majority that is composed of the National Movement Simeon the Second (NMSS) and of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), that is the political party of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, could not reach the necessary number of 112 MPs for approving of the Draft. 106 MPs voted forthe Governments draft. 66 were againstand 50 MPs abstained from voting. Thus the opposition (1) that in this case got a support by one of the fractions of the ruling party NMSS could stop the adoption of the Draft. By its voting the Parliament practically eliminated the possibility such a law to be approved by the end of the term of the current National Assembly because of some special features of the Rules of the Parliament.

The proposed Draft provides for a special fund for a desegregation of the Roma children to be established. This fund should collect money designed especially for a desegregation of the so-called Roma schools. It has been provided for that the main part of the money should be got from international donors such as World Bank, Open Society Institute etc. By the establishment of that fund the Bulgarian State should create a legal framework for accumulation of international money. The financial participation of the state was provided for to be minimal.

As it is well known at present in Bulgaria there are 106 schools and pre-school facilities in which the student body is 100% Roma. Beside this around 70 % of the Romany children are currently educated in the Romany ghetto schools. In addition to that there are over 300 schools in which the share of Romany children is 50%-100% (2). The segregated Romany schools are a heritage from the totalitarian regime. It is well known that the segregated ghettoschools provide the students with an education of an extremely inferior quality. As a result of the long-term existence of these schools now the share of Roma aged 15 or above, who are without any education is 13, 3%. The part of these who have only primary education is 76, 4%; 10% have secondary education and only just 0,2% have university education (3). It too well known that the general educational state of the ethnic Bulgarians and Turks is much more well.

Since 2000 in seven Bulgarian cities have worked special projects of local Roma NGOs for desegregation of the Roma schools. They have been financially supported by Open Society Institute Budapest. The total amount of Roma children who take part in these projects and thus study in normal Bulgarian non-segregated schools is about 2000. The total number of the Romany children at school age is around 106 000 and as it was noted above 70% of them study in segregated ghetto schools. It is absolutely clear that the financial and organizational possibilities of the non-governmental organizations do not allow them to enlarge the scope of the desegregation projects. Only the state can take charge of the enlargement of the process of desegregation.

The desegregation of the Roma schools is one of the most important steps that state has to do if it wants to fulfil its obligations according to the Framework Program for Equal Integration of Roma in the Bulgarian Society. This Program was approved by the Government on April 22, 1999 and the present ruling coalition has confirmed its engagement to execute it.

Unfortunately the Draft was refused without any reasonable argumentation. In contrary a part of the reasons against the Draft were openly nationalistic ones. This Draft establishes preferences for the minority children and puts the majority students at disadvantageous situationsaid some MPs of the left opposition.

On September 14 three NGOs the Interethnic Initiative for Human Rights, Human Rights Project and Equal Access Foundation held a special round table devoted to the problems of the education of the Roma children. They wrote a special Open Letter to the National Assembly and called on it to pass the Draft as soon as possible. The document was backed by over than 100 Romany and non-Romany organizations. On September 30, 2004 the Open Letter was handed in to the National Assembly.

On October 8, 2004 six (5) NGOs held a special press conference at which they expressed their protest against the decision of the Parliament. Unfortunately we are forced to generalize that the attempts for solving of the problems of the education of the Roma children meet a serious resistance on the part of the political class. Obviously the Bulgarian politics prefer Roma people to remain illiterate and poor. They prefer so in order to continue to manipulate the Roma before every elections, is written in the document of this press conference. The title of it is Roma children are not children of Bulgaria, decided the Parliament.

Human Rights Project will continue its efforts for adoption of legislation in favor of the state engagement to the desegregation of the Roma schools. We call on all human rights and Roma organizations to make a pressure upon the Bulgarian National Assembly for an adoption of the refused Draft as soon as possible.


(1) There are two main opposition fractions in the Bulgarian parliament: the first one is of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the second is of the right parties United Democratic Forces and Democrats for Strong Bulgaria.

(2) See Stigmata Segregated schooling of Roma in Central and Eastern Europe , a research, published by the ERRC, Budapest, May 2004, p.p. 10, 22

(3) Ibid.

(4) For more details see Kanev, K. The First Steps: an Evaluation of the Non-governmental Desegregation Projects in Six Bulgarian Cities. An External Evaluation Report to the Open Society Institute. Open Society Institute, 2003

(5) Consultative Council on the Education of the Minority Children, Equal Access Foundation, Human Rights Project, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Interethnic Initiative for Human Rights, International Center on the Minority Problems

*Human Rights Project was established in the summer of 1992 as anon-profit organization focusing on monitoring the human rightssituation of the Roma in Bulgaria, and on legal defense in cases of serious human rights abuses. The HRP monitors the human rights situation of the Roma community in Bulgaria and reports on the cases which it had investigated; works with Roma volunteers from all over the country who report on the human rights observation in their region; conduct independent extrajudicial investigation into allegations of human rights violations against Roma; hire lawyers to take up selected cases and monitors the process of legal defense; advocates legislative and policy changes in favor of Roma.