Bulgarian Political Parties Cooperating to Restrict Religious Subsidies and Foreign Funding

Subsidies by the Bulgarian state only being for Orthodox Christians and Muslims is one of the proposed changes to the Religious Denominations Act. Another change will be that religious communities will not be allowed to receive funding from foreign countries. This proposal is unprecedented because it was filed by the chairs of the parliamentary groups of the three biggest parties - Tsvetan Tsvetanov of GERB, Korneliya Ninova - the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the leader of the Movement for Rights and Liberties (DPS) Mustafa Karadaya. This comes after a couple of months back, the Minister of Defense Krasimir Karakachanov announced that he had been preparing changes to the Act but no proposal was filed in the Parliament for discussion.

Subsidies are given to religious communities with which more than 1% of the population identifies. Currently, there are only two religions that meet this requirement - Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Catholics will not be receiving any funding because only 0.6% of Bulgarians belong to the community. The Holy Sinod and the Grand Mufti will receive BGN10 (€5) per person in their community but not more than BGN 15 million (€7.5 million) per religion. 

This way, should the changes pass, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church will receive the foreseen maximum while the Mufti will be given BGN 9.67 million. Currently, the subsidies for religions are part of the state's budget plan. For 2018 only BGN 5 million have been foreseen - all of that money will go for repairing churches and graveyards. 

In the motivation for their proposal, the three leaders explain that subsidies given by the state should always be regulated - this includes a certain maximum of the amount of money a religion can receive. The restriction on foreign subsidies aims to make Bulgarian religious communities sovereign. Naturally, Bulgarian national security is also a big point to be made - funds by third parties that may in some way work against Bulgaria's interests are not desireable. Other countries had expressed concerns over some mosques funded by Ridiyah being overly hardline.

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Vasil Manev

Vasil Manev is a student in Computer Science and an aspiring columnist, studying in Heidelberg, Germany.

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