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News from Bulgaria: Roma Occupy Movement
Submitted by Roma Network on 10 December 2013
The arrogant behavior of the Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria Ms. Zinaida Zlatanova today provoked 35 Roma activists to literary occupy the entrance of the central building of the Bulgarian Government for about 3 hours.
Ms. Zlatanova is former Head of the Representation of the EU Commission in Bulgaria. She is Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, Coordinator of the Decade of Roma Inclusion and Chair of the National Council on Ethnic and Integration Issues. Ms. Zlatanova has been stubbornly rejecting requests by Roma NGOs to meet them for 7 months.
Although Ms. Zlatanova was invited to talk at a National Conference on the Monitoring of the National Strategy for Integration of Roma that took place today in Sofia, she refused to come personally, and sent there a desk officer who was not able to answer the questions of the Roma. The angry Roma activists, including one protestant pastor decided to walk from the Princess hotel to the building of the Council of Ministers (about 1 hour) in order to insist on an urgent meeting with Ms. Zlatanova in her office.
When the Roma got the answer that such meeting is impossible, they decided to stay inside the building until the Bulgarian Minister responsible for Roma accepts them. About 1 hour later the Roma were told that Ms. Zlatanova has agreed on a meeting but only with 5 people. The Roma replied that they have traveled all the way to Sofia from different towns of Bulgaria therefore the Deputy Minister must meet them all. Finally, after 3 hours of negotiations Ms. Zlatanova agreed on meeting all the Roma who have occupied the reception-hall of the building.
During the meeting Ms. Zlatanova was told by the former National Coordinator of the Decade of Roma Inclusion in Bulgaria, Mr. Milen Milanov that the Roma organizations demand on having a separate Ministry on Minority Issues or Ethnic Issues that will be responsible for the implementation of the National Strategy on Roma. Ms Zinaida Zlatanova:
1. Repeatedly was using the derogatory term "socially vulnerable" with regards to Roma, thus denying the very existence of national minorities in Bulgaria and the right of self-identification of Roma guaranteed by the International Law.
2. Told the Roma that she refuses further communication unless Roma NGOs return to the National Council on Ethnic and Integration Issues.
3. Told the Roma that she refuses to put the question of a new Ministry on Minorities to the next session of the Council of Ministers.
4. Told the Roma that there will always be other Roma NGOs who will collaborate with the Government.
During the meeting a person with a photo-camera was taking pictures of all people in the meeting hall. After the end of the meeting the Press-Center of Bulgarian Government sent an urgent press-release to all Bulgarian media informing them that the Deputy Prime Minister Zinaida Zlatanova has met Roma NGOs in order to improve the dialogue with them. The press-release did not mention even a single word on the circumstances around the meeting thus trying to neglect the first ever "Occupy" action of Roma NGOs in Bulgaria that has reached its goal - meeting with a Deputy Prime Minister who has been hiding herself from Roma for months.
How exactly Bulgarian Government will prove that the National Strategy for Integration of Roma has been implemented is not clear yet, but one thing is sure - there is no dialogue between the State Officials and the Roma NGOs, but a monologue. What will the next steps of the Occupiers be depends on their maturity and ability to take political decisions.