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Over recent years, there has been a global rise in antisemitism, prompting countries to take the issue more seriously. In response, the Bulgarian government has stood out for its holistic approach to combating antisemitism. In 2017, Bulgaria adopted the IHRA Working Definition of antisemitism and appointed a national coordinator for combating antisemitism, who held considerable authority within the government. Subsequently, the country signed agreements with major Jewish organizations and universities to collaborate on preventing and countering antisemitism. This proactive approach has led to widespread education on the Holocaust and Jewish studies, as well as the establishment of annual events like the March of Tolerance. Overall, these efforts have made a significant impact in Bulgaria.

Recognizing the need for further action, in October 2023, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers approved a five-year National Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism. This plan was developed based on a comprehensive opinion poll and involves amending legislation to address hate speech and discrimination. Inter-ministerial working groups are actively revising the penal code to meet international human rights standards and combat modern manifestations of antisemitism. Collaborations with Jewish organizations are also crucial in the implementation of this plan, demonstrating a comprehensive and coordinated approach to combat hate and prejudice in Bulgarian society.

The Bulgarian government’s efforts extend beyond policy initiatives to practical measures on the streets. For example, the annual Lukov March, a neo-Nazi procession, was blocked by police this year with the support of the mayor and government. This decisive action sends a strong message that the rights of hate groups do not supersede the safety and well-being of those affected by their ideologies. By taking a firm stance against hate marches and demonstrations, Bulgaria is setting an example for other countries in Europe and North America to prioritize the protection of vulnerable communities over the freedom of speech of extremist groups.

In light of the escalating global antisemitism, there is much to be learned from Bulgaria’s proactive and resolute approach to combating hate and prejudice. The government’s continuous efforts to address evolving threats against the Jewish community demonstrate a commitment to creating a safer and more inclusive society. While commendable progress has been made, there is still room for improvement and further action. By taking a non-nonsense approach to antisemitism, Bulgaria serves as a model for other nations seeking effective strategies to combat hate and discrimination. The authors of the article, Robert Singer and Prof Rumyana Marinova-Christidi, highlight the importance of learning from Bulgaria’s initiatives and adapting similar measures to address the rising challenges of antisemitism around the world.

In conclusion, Bulgaria’s proactive approach to combating antisemitism sets a noteworthy example for other countries grappling with the resurgence of hate and discrimination. By adopting the IHRA Working Definition of antisemitism, appointing a national coordinator, and implementing a comprehensive National Action Plan, Bulgaria has demonstrated a commitment to safeguarding its Jewish community and promoting tolerance and inclusion. The government’s decisive actions to block hate marches and ensure the security of vulnerable groups further highlight its dedication to combating prejudice and extremism. As the global fight against antisemitism intensifies, Bulgaria’s model of addressing hate at both legislative and grassroots levels offers valuable insights and strategies for creating a more just and harmonious society.

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