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(DF) Bulgarians Abroad Must Use E-Services on Par with Bulgarians at Home – Democratic Bulgaria

January 5 (BTA) – The participants in a working meeting held at the National Assembly on Wednesday concurred that the most direct and fastest way of integrating expatriate Bulgarians is to give them the same access to electronic services as Bulgarians at home. E-Government Minister Bozhidar Bozhanov (pictured) and experts took part in the meeting, which was initiated by Antoaneta Tzoneva MP of Democratic Bulgaria, Chairperson of the National Assembly Committee on Policies for Bulgarians Abroad, Democratic Bulgaria said in a press release. “You often have to wait for six months to receive a consular service, and the consulates are too few and far apart in countries like Germany, where 200,000 Bulgarians live,” said open data activist Boyan Yurukov. He singled out the “insanely large number of documents that need to be certified” as a particularly burdensome issue for Bulgarian citizens abroad. “We should realize that in the contemporary worlds all Bulgarians will never live in their homeland all the time, but homecomings and contacts with the home country can become far more frequent if we facilitate them as much as possible,” Tzoneva argued. All participants in the meeting agreed that Foreign Ministry officials must be enlisted in an effort to review the consular services that are most commonly applied for so as to digitize them. “Any electronic services, including for expat Bulgarians, cannot be provided without electronic identification,” Bozhanov said. Since Bulgarians abroad cannot use a qualified electronic signature, both they and Bulgarians at home will initially e-identify via smartphone, he explained. Through electronic identification, people will be able to change their present address online which, in turn, will give a clearer idea about their whereabouts abroad and will make it possible to better plan the resources and the capacity that consulates need to service Bulgarian nationals. Nearly 745,000 Bulgarians declared a present address abroad between 1990 and September 2021, according to information provided by the Directorate General for Civil Registration and Administrative Services. This is far fewer than the number of Bulgarians who are actually resident outside the country. At this point, one’s address can only be changed through a paper process, say, when identity documents are issued or renewed. The need to take a structured approach to gathering information about the location of Bulgarians abroad was also discussed at the meeting. The lack of sufficiently reliable data on their whereabouts is precisely one of the worst obstacles to developing a meaningful policy in this area. LN/LG