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News 05 Aug 14

More Macedonians Apply for Bulgarian Citizenship

Macedonians top the list of foreigners applying for Bulgarian citizenship, which grants them easier access to EU countries, said Sofia’s embassy in Skopje.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Skopje | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The largest proportion of applicants for Bulgarian citizenship this year and in 2013 came from neighbouring Macedonia, the Bulgarian embassy told Balkan Insight.

“In comparison to last year we can say that it seems like the number of requests [from Macedonia] has slightly subsided, but Macedonia still makes the bulk of requests [for citizenship] annually,” an embassy source said on condition of anonymity.

Out of some 7,800 applicants who filed requests for citizenship this year, 3,900 were from Macedonia.

According to the data issued by the Bulgarian Justice Ministry, over 17,000 people were granted Bulgarian citizenship in 2012. In 2013, the figure was lower, with only 7,954 getting citizenship. Applicants from Macedonia made up over 40 per cent in both years.

Although the total number of Macedonians who have gained Bulgarian citizenship has not been revealed, unofficial estimates put it somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 since 2001.

According to Bulgarian statistics, the peak in applications for citizenship from Macedonians, around 40,000, came in 2004.

The figures from the EU statistics body Eurostat show that Moldovans, Ukrainians and Serbs have also shown interest in getting Bulgarian papers. Over 900 people from Moldova, 750 from Ukraine and some 400 from Serbia have filed requests so far this year.

There were expectations that the Bulgarian citizenship would become increasingly popular among its neighbours after at the beginning of this year when nine EU countries lifted labour restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians.

When Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, some temporary obstacles were imposed on their citizens by the nine member states, including France, Britain and Germany, which feared an influx of workers from the poorest EU member.

During their first seven years of EU membership, Bulgarians faced restrictions on their right to work and on receiving social and medical benefits in those countries, which have now been lifted.

Unlike Bulgaria, citizens of EU candidate country Macedonia have free tourist access to most of EU countries, but no right to work there.

Bulgaria’s former Deputy Justice Minister Ilia Angelov alleged last week that it was a well-known fact that some people in the Bulgarian embassy in Skopje have been earning money by issuing Bulgarian passports for cash.

“Bulgarian citizenships are not for sale,” he said, adding that people who apply for Bulgarian citizenship often want to use it to gain access to other EU countries and then renounce it again.

Bulgarian newspaper Sega has claimed that the price for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship through middlemen ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 euro.

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