Bulgaria: Chair of the Council on Ethnic Minority Integration is now right-wing extremist Valeri Simeonov
Agence France-Presse reports that the chair of the ultra-right "National Party for the Salvation of Bulgaria", Valeri Simeonov, was appointed head of the country's Council on Ethnic MInority Integration on 26 May, which is in charge of relations with the Romani and Turkish minorities there. The party is a member of an alliance of nationalist parties called "United Patriots" which, together with the "Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria" party (GERB), which won the elections in March there, is forming a new governing coalition.
This is the first time that nationalists have been seated in the Bulgarian Government; their alliance agitated against migration and took a quite sharp stance against Turkey during the campaign. Experts and representatives of parties representing minorities called Simeonov's appointment a "scandal" and a "textbook example of cynicism".
In 2014, Simeonov made a hateful speech against Romani people in the Bulgarian Parliament in which he called them "insolent humanoids who demand money without working for it... and want welfare for their children who play with pigs and for their women who have the instincts of street dogs". Prior to the elections, along with other nationalists, he led a demonstration at the Bulgarian-Turkish border in which he accused Turkey of attempting to influence the Bulgarian elections.
In recent months, Simeonov has spoke of the need to educate Romani people with the aim of including them more in the labor market, during which he said that "it is necessary to restrict their social welfare, which predetermines them to parasitism". He is also an advocate of banning Turkey from financing Islamic centers and mosques in Bulgaria.
There are approximately 700 000 Romani people living in Bulgaria, which has a population of 7.2 million. There are also approximately 800 000 members of the Turkish minority, whose history extends back to the time of the Ottoman Empire's dominance over that part of Europe.
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