The Bulgarian Parliament has voted to amend citizenship laws, making proficiency in the Bulgarian language a prerequisite for obtaining citizenship. The amendment, proposed by the Council of Ministers, received overwhelming support with 154 votes in favor and 22 abstentions during the first reading.

Under the new legislation, individuals applying for Bulgarian citizenship based on Bulgarian origin or through a parent who acquired citizenship will be required to demonstrate fluency in the Bulgarian language. However, this requirement will not apply to those gaining citizenship through adoption by a Bulgarian citizen.

Additionally, the amendment introduces provisions for the revocation of citizenship in cases of deliberate harm to Bulgaria’s prestige, institutions, or national interests through hate speech or acts against the state or its citizens. The Citizenship Board will be responsible for hearing cases of potential citizenship revocation to ensure fair and non-arbitrary decisions.

The bill also mandates that citizenship certificates be awarded in a formal ceremony, either at the Ministry of Justice or at Bulgarian diplomatic missions abroad.

While the majority of parliamentary groups welcomed the changes, concerns were raised about the backlog of citizenship applications, which numbered 23 thousand last year. Deputy Petar Petrov criticized the Ministry of Justice for delays in processing applications, highlighting the need for judicial oversight.

“We Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria” emphasized the importance of supporting Bulgarian language education abroad alongside the citizenship requirement. However, concerns were also voiced about potential loopholes in the law that could facilitate foreign influence in Bulgaria.

In response to allegations of citizenship fraud and foreign interference, the parliament established a temporary commission to investigate the activities of Gleb Mishin, a Russian citizen allegedly involved in schemes to infiltrate Europe.

The passage of the citizenship amendment marks a significant shift in Bulgaria’s naturalization process, aiming to uphold linguistic and cultural integrity while addressing concerns of external influence.