We are deeply moved by the situation in our country. Bulgaria is an EU member state with the most people at risk of poverty, forced to assess with less than BGN 5 per day. Social inequalities between people in Bulgaria continue to increase. Some regions in the country become poorer. The state budget and social programs cannot contribute to decrease poverty and inequality. Neglecting us Roma prevents us from giving our full potential and contribution to Bulgaria. However, we work and contribute as much as we can, despite all the humiliation, fear and violence we face while working, while looking for work, while our children are learning in school. Often even our neighborhoods are attacked by radical groups, neo-Nazis and power excavators.
Why can’t we wait any longer? We are deeply concerned about the situation in our country. Bulgaria is EU member state with the most people who live in the risk of poverty, forced to survive on less than BGN 5 per day. Social inequalities between people in Bulgaria continue to increase. Some regions of our country are getting poorer. The state budget and social programs fail to contribute to reducing poverty and inequality. The solution to this situation is in the hands of the Bulgarian nation. However, Bulgaria is losing its people. There are too many people who die prematurely and the birth rate remains low. Too many people are leaving the country, and too few people are ready to stay and live in Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s aging population needs pensions, social and health care, but there is too few who can work to provide them. In such a situation, we have withdrawn, we are not voting, we are not raising our voices for the decisions that concern us. The Roma are part of the solution in Bulgaria. We are about 10%, the youngest and most vital part of society. Neglecting us Roma prevents us from giving our full potential and contribution to Bulgaria. However, we work and contribute as much as we can, despite all the humiliation, fear and violence we face while working, while looking for work, while our children are in school. Often even our neighborhoods are attacked by radical groups, neo-Nazis and power excavators.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that ignoring the situation of our community puts us at too high a risk of infection and death. We lost quality education and the little income we had. This is not only a loss for us, but also a loss for Bulgaria. Our situation is deteriorating because of those who attack us and take our rightful place. Many politicians receive power from Roma, but do not share power with the Roma because they are afraid of the attitudes of the majority. But they also deceive the majority, they continue to destroy our economy, our health care system and education. They rely on fear, not trust. This is not the democracy we want. Many politicians win elections but lose the trust of the citizens. They have power, but their legitimacy is in question. If we continue not to vote, those who have lied and disappointed us will continue to do so. Those who attack us will be stronger. Our disappointment must be replaced by our strength to participate, to raise our voices more, to demand more justice. They took our vote and we gave them our place in power. We must regain our vote and regain power!
What can we do to change this situation? Bulgarian democracy is in crisis. However, we know that democracy depends on what people do with it. We want to fulfill our share, take responsibility and make democracy and Bulgaria better. We are part of Bulgaria and Bulgaria is also our country. We do not want anything from the majority. We want to work with all people who want a better Bulgaria for all. We want a democracy based on trust, competence and accountability. This is a task for every Bulgarian citizen and for all of us together. This is a new Bulgaria that we want to build and no one can turn us against our friends, neighbors, sometimes even members of our family who are not Roma. We want and deserve a new democracy, a democracy in which politicians are statesmen. We want to have a policy in which the people we choose are ethical and competent. Politicians we can trust. We want a policy in which we vote not only in elections, but our voices are heard after the elections. We want politicians to come to our communities not only before but also after elections. We want to be ruled by those who want better for Bulgaria, better for the Bulgarian future and better for all people in Bulgaria.
We must build on the achievements and wisdom of our ancestors. They always found hope where everyone else did not see it. They have experienced much worse moments. Thanks to them we are here. Our collective strength to demand change in our lives and our future has worked in the past. We have been fighting for 120 years for freedom and democracy in Bulgaria. Today our hope is our unity. The differences in where we live, how old we are and what language we speak, how we pray, what gender we are, do not matter. We are all Roma and we are together in this. Only together are we stronger and only together do we have a greater chance of change. Roma standing conference is our place for unity, common voice and strength. We are the largest, but also the least politically represented minority in Bulgaria. We are 10% of the Bulgarian society, but we are not 10% in the Bulgarian political institutions. If 20-30 years ago we did not see this, now we see it. Now we know. This injustice happens because they recognize our power. We are aware that we are a force. We know that we are many and that our community is growing. Our number is growing and our educated children and young people are becoming more and more. Our strength is growing. The question is, however, when we will say enough! The decision is up to us and now is the time.
On behalf of Bulgaria, we invite all responsible political candidates who believe in this new Bulgarian policy to:
- To ensure that the measures for overcoming and recovering from COVID-19 are applied fairly and equally to all Bulgarian citizens, including the Roma community.
- To support the recovery of quality education for our children and our income.
- To support policies for finding a job and developing your own business.
- To provide fair conditions for ensuring civil registration and personal documents for every Bulgarian citizen, as well as conditions for legalizing our homes.
- To provide protection from hate speech and physical violence against Roma, as well as justice for victims.
You can support the Manifesto on the following link: https://bit.ly/3tv28Sr
The project Roma voice 2021 is part of the program Civic Europe, which is an incubator for locally rooted civic initiatives, organizations and individuals in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe realized by MitOst and Sofia Platform, funded by Stiftung Mercator.