Bulgaria’s Presidential Elections 2016: Testing Times Ahead with
a Referendum and Government Resignation
On November 13th, Bulgarians elected their fifth president since the 1990. Rumen Radev, a retired Airforce general, won nearly 60% of the vote compared to 36% of his opponent of the ruling party GERB. Radev run as an independent, but was in fact a candidate of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. Radev won the second round with votes across the political spectrum – primarily leftists and nationalists, joined by the main Turkish minority party, and many center-right voters who deemed him the better choice.
The international press noticed the elections mostly in the context of victories of perceived pro-Russian candidates, including in nearby Moldova. But in Bulgaria, the reality is more complicated and the presidential elections were accompanied by two major other events: a referendum that may change substantially the election system as well as resignation of the government with an ensuing political crisis.
George Soros Is Investing $500 Million in Refugees
George Soros, the chairman and founder of the Open Society Foundations, pledged to invest up to $500 million to help to meet the challenges posed by the global crisis of forced migration.
Mr. Soros announced the initiative on the morning of the Obama Administration’s "Call to Action", which has assembled U.S. business leaders at the United Nations in New York to make concrete commitments in response to the crisis.
"Our goal is to harness the private sector for public good," Mr. Soros said. "We will invest in startups, established companies, social impact initiatives, and businesses started by migrants and refugees themselves. These investments are intended to be successful. But our primary focus is to create products and services that truly benefit migrants and host communities. I hope my commitment will inspire other investors to pursue the same mission."
Bogdan Bogdanov, former chair and member of the Board of Trustees of Open Society Foundation - Sofia from 1990 until 1997, died on August 5, 2016. He was 75.
Hate Speech and the Role of Civil Society Conference
Hate speech in Bulgaria goes together with strong anti-European and anti-democratic attitudes. People who allow hate speech with impunity are twice as likely to vote for parties supporting Bulgaria’s leaving the EU. The same people are more likely to allow their rights to be limited on account of order and security. This means that hate speech creates imminent risk of disintegration of society.
These were the words of Georgi Stoycthev, Executive Director of Open Society Institute – Sofia, at the opening of the international conference Hate Speech and the Role of Civil Society – Reflections on Achieved Results and Communicating Lessons Learned. Mr. Stoytchev cited data from the last omnibus public opinion survey, including the proliferation of hate speech.
Public Attitudes towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria in 2016
Hate speech is a common and permanently established phenomenon in the Bulgarian public environment. In 2016 the prevalence of this phenomenon has been expanding compared to 2013 and 2014, while the willingness of society to resist it has been declining. In the last 4 years the share of respondents who reported that they had heard statements expressing disapproval, hatred or aggression towards members of minority groups has increased from 46% to 58%. The Roma are most often reported to be victims of hate speech. However, the share of respondents who have heard over the last year statements expressing disapproval, hatred or aggression against Muslims has also significantly increased from 11% in 2014 to 38% in 2016.
These are the findings of the nationally representative survey carried out by Open Society Institute – Sofia in the period 22 April – 13 May 2016 that were presented to the participants in the conference on “The Role of Civil Society to counteract Hate Speech: Reflections on Achieved Results and Communicating Lessons Learned” that took place as part of the annual meeting of the NGO Program in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the EEA.
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The Role of NGOs in Assisting Refugees and Migrants
"Nobody has ever managed to stop human migration. It is like a dam wall. A clever engineer should carefully reduce the pressure, otherwise the whole dam wall may fall. Therefore, the fences and barriers our country is building at the border will not stop the migration flow". This is what lawyer Iliana Savova, Director of the Refugee and Migrant Programme of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said at the opening of the workshop "The Role of NGOs in Assisting Refugees and Migrants".
Democracy and Civic Participation.
"If there are deficits in the political representation, we should look for the cause in society, because it is the citizens who have the final word. The stronger the voice of the citizens, the fairer and the more responsible the political representation". This is what the Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said at the opening of the conference Democracy and Civic Participation. The Role of the Non-governmental Organizations, organized within the Third Annual Meeting for Sharing Good Practice on Partnership Development of the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism.
Democracy and Civic Participation. Public Attitudes – May 2015
The majority of the Bulgarian citizens are convinced democracy is the best form of state government for Bulgaria, but are dissatisfied with the way the democratic institutions function and with the way the laws are written and enforced. Huge groups of the population remain isolated from social life; they neither participate in the decision-making processes, nor feel represented in the bodies of the local and central authorities.
These are the results from the new national representative survey carried out by Open Society Institute – Sofia in the period March-April 2015. The survey aims to establish the public attitudes in Bulgaria towards the main values of the European Union, such as democracy, the rule of law and basic civil rights, as well as the challenges of putting them into practice. The survey was presented at the conference "Democracy and Civil Participation. The Role of the Non-governmental Organizations" organized within the Third Annual Meeting for Sharing Good Practice on Partnership Development within the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism.
EU Membership and Bulgarian Public Opinion in 2015
In 2015, the vast majority of Bulgarians – 64,4% - continue to assess positively the EU membership of their country. About a fifth of respondents – 21,8% - assess the experience as negative. The trends have remained unchanged over the last three years with a very slight improvement in 2015 over 2014. But the situation is much better in comparisson to the attitudes in 2008 – one year after the 2007 accession, when approval and disapproval has less than 3% differently. Apparently, over the years the citizens of Bulgaria have come to recognize the benefits of EU membership.
Roma Fellowship Program in Bulgaria:
The United States Embassy in Sofia in conjunction with Open Society Institute Sofia is happy to announce three internship positions at the Embassy that will be available during the summer of 2015.
The Roma Fellowship Program is open to Roma Bulgarians who are either enrolled at a university or have recently graduated. Depending on their specific choice of career, academic interests, and skills, the fellows will be placed in one of three sections in the Embassy for a period of ten weeks, starting at the end of June.
What Mix of Skills is Needed to Have a Job in Bulgaria?
What skills – cognitive and socio-emotional – matter in the labor market in Bulgaria? This was the guiding question in the Bulgarian Longitudinal Inclusive Society Survey (BLISS) conducted by the World Bank in partnership with the Open Society Institute (OSI)-Sofia, and presented today at the Round Table Discussion on Labor Market Challenges in Bulgaria: The Role of Skills and Competencies.
Organized by the Bulgarian Industrial Association in partnership with OSI-Sofia and the World Bank, the Round Table assembled representatives from governmental institutions and bodies, executives of sectoral organizations, social partners, the academia, HR managers of leading companies, and head-hunting agencies.
Call for Applications.
Advisory Service Program to Assist Refugees in Continuing Their Graduate Education
Civil and political insecurity and dangerous conditions have worldwide forced university students and academics into internal displacement or refugee camps.
The Open Society Institute – Sofia (OSI – Sofia), with assistance from the Enrollment Management and Alumni Relations Office of Central European University (CEU), and the Open Society Foundations-Central European University Liaison Office (LiO) in implementing and developing the program, opens a call for applications to offer 10 refugees advisory assistance in commencing or continuing a postgraduate university education.
Public Attitudes towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria in 2014
Hate speech is a widespread phenomenon in Bulgaria. This year nearly half of the Bulgarian citizens have heard statements expressing disapproval of, hate for or aggression towards representatives of minority groups, and one in four Bulgarians has heard statements which could allegedly lead to the use of violence against such representatives. 2014 marked an increase in the number of social groups which are perceived as an object of hate speech and most likely to become victims of hate crimes. In 2013 these social groups were three – Roma, Turks and homosexuals. In 2014 the Roma remain the main group perceives as an object of hate speech, but there are already five, not three, minorities that stand out as most affected - Roma, Turks, homosexuals, foreigners and Muslims.
The European Catch-Up Index 2014
A decade after the fifth enlargement of the EU, new Member States are catching-up with regards to the economy, though they still lag behind in terms of democracy, governance and quality of life.
Central and Eastern Europe Member States are advancing in terms of their economies, with Estonia establishing itself as the new leader in the region. This is as according to the key findings of the fourth Edition of the Catch-Up Index which were discussed by a panel of experts during the policy debate “Is the Catching-Up of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Member States a Mirage”, co-organized by ECAS and OSI-Sofia on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the fifth enlargement of the EU.
The Third Open Call for Proposals under the NGO Programme in Bulgaria is over
More than 20 Active Bloggers Took Part in the Training against Hate Speech
On the 17th of November Open Society Institute – Sofia organized training for bloggers against hate speech online. The event involved more than 20 active bloggers from all over Bulgaria who write on various topics. The participants were given the opportunity to examine the issue closely and discuss it with experts from Bulgaria and representatives of the Council of Europe.
Third Open Call for Proposals under the NGO Programme in Bulgaria launched
Programme operator OSI – Sofia in partnership with Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation announces the Third Open Call for Proposals for the NGO Programme for Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism 2009–2014. Eligible applicants will have two months to develop and submit project proposals in the following thematic areas: "Democracy, human rights and good governance", "Social inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable groups", "Sustainable development and protection of the environment", "Capacity building for NGOs".
Schengen, Eurozone Membership and Public Opinion in Bulgaria
The Schengen agreement and the Eurozone are considered two cornerstones of the European integration project. Recently, the Eurozone is viewed as the building block for further EU integration, where the countries will be divided into the inner tier of Eurozone members and another tier of those outside it.
Bulgaria is still aspiring to enter both Schengen and the Eurozone. Until few years the country had these as top priorities and even came close to entry – by meeting the technical criteria for Schengen membership in 2011 (please, see EuPI Policy Brief No32/June 2011 for more information) and getting ready to enter ERM II as the necessary step for the Eurozone. However, the country did not make it and for different reasons the two goals were silently taken off the priority list of Bulgaria in hopes there would be better times and opportune moments.
South Stream and EU Sanctions against Russia:
A new EuPI policy brief highlights public attitudes in Bulgaria towards two topical issues in the country and the EU: the South Stream gas pipeline and the EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. In regard to South Stream the favored option for South Stream appears to be construction with the consent of the EU after conforming to EU’s rules with over 28,2% and is most favored among center-right supporters. The option of continuing with South Stream despite EU criticism and possible penalties is favored by 22% of respondents. In regard to EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, the largest share of respondents does not support any sanctions against any state with 40% and this view is identical among nearly all party groups (around 40% across the board).
EU Membership and the Public Opinion in Bulgaria in 2014
The majority of 62,4% Bulgarians assess positively EU membership. But there is a decrease of 6% in positive views compared to 2013 and the negative assessments rise to 23,2% according to a new EuPI policy brief on attitudes of Bulgarians toward EU membership, based on an opinion poll of OSI-Sofia. Similarly, support to EU membership remains high at 62,5%, but there is a decrease of nearly 7% in comparison to 2013; Those who would not support EU membership increase slightly to 20%.
Stop Targeting Hungarian NGOs!
Since its re-election, the Hungarian government launched a campaign attacking the credibility of Hungarian NGOs and are striving to gain controlling power over their funding distributed independently from the government.
We believe that a dynamic and independent civil society plays a fundamental role in a democratic society, as it is one of the key checks and balances to governing power.
We stand in solidarity with the Hungarian NGOs and call on the Hungarian and all other governments to refrain from harassing civil society!
The New European Catch-Up Index Report
The new edition of the European Catch-Up Index has been published for a third consecutive year with the report "It’s a Process: Findings of the European Catch-Up Index". The 2013 edition of the European Catch-Up Index offers again its alternative perspective of looking at Europe and presents information for further exploration and deliberation. And as there are three editions of the index, there is already enough comparable data to identify trends.
Roma Fellowship Program in Bulgaria: Bridging Roma and Career Opportunities
The United States Embassy in Sofia in conjunction with Open Society Institute - Sofia is happy to announce a round of applications for five internship positions in the Embassy in the summer of 2014.
The Roma Fellowship Program is open to Roma Bulgarians who are either enrolled at a university or have recently graduated. Depending on their specific choice of career, academic interests, and skills, the fellows will be placed in one of five sections (see below position descriptions) in the Embassy for a period of ten weeks, starting at the end of June.
Integration policies: Who benefits?
Open Society Institute - Sofia is a partner of the project "Integration policies: Who benefits? The development and use of indicators in integration debates" (MIPEX 2015) led by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), and the Migration Policy Group (MPG). The project aims to inform and engage key policy actors about how to use indicators to improve integration governance and policy effectiveness.
Second Open Call for Proposals under
the NGO Programme in Bulgaria launched
OSI – Sofia Continues the Implementation of
Open Society Institute – Sofia continues the implementation of "Medics of tomorrow" scholarship program in 2013 – 2014 academic year. The program provides support to Roma university students (at risk of drop out) in medical disciplines to maintain their studies and to contribute to the development of new generation of medical specialists willing to work for their own community.
Hate Speech Inspires a Feeling of Violence
"Hate speech is widespread in the Bulgarian society, at that in its most severe form – one that encourages violence and evokes a feeling of menace in the minorities". This is what Ivanka Ivanova, Legal Program Director of Open Society Institute - Sofia, said during the "Hate Speech and the Role of Society" Conference. According to data of a national representative study of the Institute, cited by Mrs. Ivanova, the main minorities object of speech hate are the Roma, ethnic Turks and sexual minorities.
Public Attitudes towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria
Hate speech is a widespread phenomenon in Bulgarian public life. In the last year nearly half of the Bulgarian citizens (45.6%) have witnessed statements expressing disapproval of, hatred or aggression against representatives of ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. These statements were predominantly aimed at Roma, Turks and homosexuals. This is what the data from a representative study, carried out by Open Society Institute – Sofia in July this year, reveal. The data were presented to the participants in the "Hate Speech and the Role of Civil Society" Conference, organized within the second annual meeting of NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism.
"Hate Speech and the Role of Civil Society" Conference
Hate speech is a widespread phenomenon in Bulgarian public life. In the last year nearly half of the Bulgarian citizens (45.6%) have witnessed statements expressing disapproval of, hatred or aggression against representatives of ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. Meanwhile one third of the citizens are not aware that hate speech is a crime. Hate speech is mainly spread by means of television, and its main speakers are politicians.
These data come from a representative study of Open Society Institute – Sofia and shall be presented within the conference "Hate Speech and the Role of Civil Society".
"Yes, I Do": Bulgarians Remain Most Faithful to the EU"
According to a recent survey of OSI-Sofia from July 2013, 68.4% of Bulgarians have positive attitudes towards membership in the European Union and over 81.1% would reaffirm their support to EU entry if the issue were put to the vote today. The analysis of data shows that:
Roma Fellowship Program in Bulgaria:
The United States Embassy in Sofia in conjunction with Open Society Institute - Sofia is happy to announce a round of applications for four internship positions in the Embassy in the summer of 2013.
The Roma Fellowship Program is open to Roma Bulgarians who are either enrolled at a university or have recently graduated. Depending on their specific choice of career, academic interests, and skills, the fellows will be placed in one of four sections in the Embassy for a period of ten weeks, starting at the end of June.
Combating Hate Speech Online
The EEA and Norway Grants have entered into a strategic partnership with the Council of Europe to promote tolerance and fundamental rights. Activities countering hatred are encouraged through the EEA NGO programmes.
During the last few years we have registered continued and renewed violations of fundamental rights, including physical and verbal attacks on minority groups, migrants, and on organisations defending human rights in Europe.
To address these concerns, the EEA and Norway Grants have joined forces with the Council of Europe and support the No Hate Speech Movement. This campaign against hate speech online starts on 22 March 2013 and will run through to 2014.
Is There a Threat of Bulgarian Migration Influx to the UK?
Bulgaria and Romania entered international news in the past month as British politicians and popular media started to worry about influx of Bulgarian migrants after 2014. After January 1, 2014 Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will have full access to the labor market in the UK after the last transition periods barring them would have expired.
However, the concerns, heated debates and alleged fear were rarely, if at all, backed up by numbers and data. In order to fill in the gap of informed debate, OSI-Sofia has compiled highlights from its several studies on Bulgaria’s migration trends conducted over the years.
First Open Call for Proposals under the NGO Programme in Bulgaria launched
Programme operator OSI – Sofia in partnership with Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation announces the First Open Call for Proposals for the NGO Programme for Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism 2009 – 2014.
Eligible applicants will have two months to develop and submit project proposals in the following thematic areas: "Democracy, human rights and good governance", "Social inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable groups", "Sustainable development and protection of the environment", "Capacity building for NGOs". The text of the call and the detailed Guidelines for Applicants are published on the website of the Programme.
Aftershocks: What Did the Crisis Do to Europe?
The crisis has set in motion fundamental changes in Europe and the markings are already visible as registered by the findings of the new European Catch-Up Index, exposing and deepening divergences in Europe but at the same time creating new patterns of convergence and models of a "multispeed Europe".
The report "Aftershocks: What Did the Crisis Do to Europe?" is based on the second edition of the Catch-Up Index, which measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries – the EU member states, the candidate and potential candidate countries across four categories: Economy, Quality of Life, Democracy and Governance, measured by 47 indicators, with scores from 100-0 (highest to lowest) and rankings from 1-35 (highest to lowest).
Bulgaria in the New European Catch-Up Index
Six years after its accession into the EU, Bulgaria continues to substantially lag behind in the process of catching-up with the more developed countries in Europe according to the new report on the findings of the new European Catch-Up Index. Bulgaria is at the bottom of the overall ranking among the EU member states as well as in the four categories of the index: Economy, Democracy, Quality of Life and Governance. In some indicators of Quality of Life, the country falls behind neighboring countries such as Serbia and Montenegro, which are still candidate countries.
The report "Aftershocks: What Did the Crisis Do to Europe", released in January 2013, is based on the second edition of the Catch-Up Index, which measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries.