Bozhidar Dimitrov, minister without portfolio responsible for Bulgarians abroad, will suggest a new interpretation of article 16 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act that currently allows foreign nationals who have made a special contribution to Bulgaria’s social, economic, science, technology, culture or sports, to acquire Bulgarian citizenship, Bulgarian Focus news agency said on April 30 2010.
"Until now, only athletes of foreign nationality have taken advantage of this article," Dimirov told Focus. He was referring to the number of football, volleyball and basketball players who have taken Bulgarian passports so that they can play in Bulgaria without using quotas on foreign athletes.
Usually, these athletes are of Serbian, Brazilian or US nationality and some have even been capped by the Bulgarian national football squad. Thanks to the lobbying of their respective clubs, these foreign athletes manage to get Bulgarian passports without having gone through the entire procedure, which otherwise takes years.
"I intend to suggest that the article should be applicable in cases when people contribute to Bulgaria’s spiritual culture. This could be a donation to churches or monasteries under construction and other solid sponsorships to military and public monuments, schools, sport facilities, kindergartens," Dimitrov said.
"It is unacceptable that a 90-year-old Austrian national of Armenian origin who has built two kindergartens in the town of Sliven should wait for two years to get his Bulgarian passport," Dimitrov said.
"He does not need the passport to travel in Europe because he is already an EU national. He wants it as a recognition for his contribution," Dimitrov said.
There were a lot of US, UK, Irish and Russian nationals married to Bulgarian women who also wanted Bulgarian passports mainly because their wives wanted them to, Dimitrov said.
"These people are willing to make serious donations apart from the investments they bring to Bulgaria. What they currently get from the Foreigners Act, however, is a permanent residence permit and not a passport," he said.
"We would not ask for a new law but just a new take on article 16, as until now it has been used only by athletes," he said.
What Dimitrov did not say, however, is what size of donation would be considered serious enough in order the foreign nationals to take advantage of article 16.
For example, in February 2009 the previous cabinet decided that foreigners who invest more than 750 000 euro in Bulgaria can get a permanent residence permit, though not a passport. This was an increase from the previous requirement of $500 000.