In February 2001, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov met leaders of Romani organisations in the country for the first time since he went into office in 1997. In March 2001, a Romani woman was appointed to a senior position in the governmental National Council for the Ethnic and Demographic Issues—the only body within the state apparatus which specifically addresses Romani issues. She is the first Roma to be appointed in this body four years after its establishment and the first Rom to hold a senior position in the public administration.
Both events took place at the very end of the current government's term of office, shortly before the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria scheduled for 17 June 2001. Regardless of their telling proximity to the elections, these two acts might have been manifestations of genuine concern for the Romani problems if they had not been discredited by the long record of neglect for the Romani issues on part of Bulgarian authorities.
Ten years after the democratic changes in Bulgaria, election campaigns remain the only point of interaction between Roma and the authorities. As regards policies towards Roma, no government has made any significant move beyond the hollow rhetoric. For a short moment of time in 1999, it seemed that the chronic deficit of political will to solve the problems of Roma is over.
Program but no action
The Bulgarian Government adopted the Framework Program for Equal Integration of Roma—a comprehensive policy document which envisages legislative measures and positive action policy to eliminate discrimination against Roma. The campaign for the adoption of the Framework Program also left the impression that the government has finally embraced the policy of establishing dialogue with the Romani community and treating its members as equally entitled to participate in public affairs.
In the beginning of 2001, two years following the adoption of the Framework Program, it is evident that the chief beneficiary of this document is not the Romani community but the government itself. Without any follow-up action for its implementation, the mere act of adoption of the Framework Program serves to conceal the failure of the government to undertake any meaningful action on the Romani issue.
The government not only failed to implement the program it had adopted, but also turned a blind eye to the attempts of the Romani organisations at resuming the dialogue and getting involved in the decision-making process.
The sizable Romani community in Bulgaria—between eight and ten per cent of the country's population—is a serious factor from electoral point of view and has always been a target of political courtship. In the past ten years, the political parties of the majority have successfully exploited the instruments of vague promises and commitment to temporary measures which lead to no