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Cablegate: Strategy for Engagement of Minorities

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSF #0030 0151243
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151243Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6599

UNCLAS SOFIA 000030

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/PGI, EUR/PPD

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL KPAO PHUM PREL SCUL SOCI BG

SUBJECT: STRATEGY FOR ENGAGEMENT OF MINORITIES

REF: 09 STATE 124579

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: While Bulgaria has long been one of the most
stable countries in the Balkans with regard to minorities, specific
minority outreach is still a sensitive subject. Bulgarians still
think in terms of "real" Bulgarians and "other" Bulgarians with
regard to citizens of Turkish, Roma, or Jewish ethnicity. We have
tailored a strategy that is sensitive to Bulgaria's unique
circumstances, while furthering our goals to assist Bulgaria's
evolution into a mature European democracy and a more capable
partner for the United States. To achieve this, we will focus our
efforts in the following areas: regional stability, promoting
democratic development, and respect for human rights and rule of
law. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND
----------

2. (SBU) Over the years many countries have had a cultural
influence on Bulgaria. While many Bulgarians have ancestral ties in
Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and other countries in
the region, no country has been as influential as Turkey. The
territory of modern Bulgaria was under the rule of the Ottoman
Empire (note: Bulgarians refer to it as "the Turkish yoke" end note)
for five centuries, from the end of the 14th century until
independence in 1878. About ten percent of the 7.5 million
Bulgarians are of Turkish origin. Many of these are Muslims, but
they self-identify more with their ethnicity than their religion.
Approximately four percent of the population (about 300,000) is of
Roma ethnicity and about one-third of them identify as Muslim.
Prior to World War II, there were about 48,000 Jews in Bulgaria, but
now there are only approximately 6,000, including 2,000 observant
Jews.

OUTREACH STRATEGY
-----------------

3. (SBU) Embassy Sofia has developed a minority outreach plan that
identifies the unique needs of the Bulgarian minorities. Post
ensures that both Roma and Turks (many of them Muslims) are
well-represented in the International Visitor Leadership and
Voluntary Visitor Programs. Post identifies and cultivates contacts
from these communities for such programs. The Embassy will continue
to maintain a presence in the minority communities by attending
events such as Iftar dinners, the gala for the 100th anniversary of
the Synagogue in Sofia, and offering speakers and lectures at the
Jewish High School in Sofia.

GRANTS
------
4. (U) PAS Sofia plans to set aside a portion of the FY10 budget for
grants to organizations working in ethnically diverse populations.
These grants cover things such as concerts, or other cultural
events, as well as seminars or relevant conferences.

EVENTS
------

5. (U) PAS has plans for several events this year which will
highlight our work with minority populations. PAS will work with
POLEC on visits and speaker programs with schools in Muslim and Roma
communities. PAS will also continue to provide embassy speakers to
the Jewish High School in Sofia. We plan to organize an embassy
event for
International Children's Day on June 1, 2010. The idea is to bring
together children from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities with
a diversity theme. PAS will continue to host cultural events in
areas of the country with ethnically diverse populations. One such
event is a reception and Ambassadorial visit to the town of
Kardzhali, which has a significant Muslim population, where the
Friends of the U.S.A. Society will celebrate its 20th anniversary
this year. PAS Sofia is supporting the creation of five American
shelves in libraries in areas with large Muslim populations, and
will seek to provide more grants for programming and books.

6. (SBU) Post has established an interagency working group to expand
engagement opportunities for marginalized groups in disadvantaged
areas. The interagency working group will also continue to develop
post strategy to improve job creation and entrepreneurship for
ethnic minorities. The group will increase travel to disadvantaged
areas in South Bulgaria, including visits by our incoming
Ambassador. Through these efforts, we hope to identify leaders in
these minority communities who can be developed into productive
partners for the future.

SUTTON

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