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 S E C R E T  SOFIA 001681    SIPDIS      NOFORN    STATE FOR R, P, AND EUR/NCE    E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/30/2015  TAGS: PREL, PHUM, KDEM, KPAO, KMPI, EAID, BU  SUBJECT: COMBATING EXTREMISM IN BULGARIA    REF: A. STATE 159129       B. SOFIA 1504    Classified By: Ambassador John R. Beyrle, reason 1.4 (b) and (d).    1. (S) SUMMARY:  Bulgaria,s Muslim minority has been a  target for recruitment by foreign extremist groups since the  early 1990s, and local media have reported sensational  accounts of purported radical Islamic activity.  Despite  these reports, the vast majority of Bulgaria,s roughly 13  percent Muslim minority remains moderate or non-religious.  GoB officials treat the threat of extremism as a high  priority and closely cooperate with the USG on security  issues.  The U.S. Mission seeks to combat extremism through  programs that enhance the GoB's anti-terror capabilities  while addressing unemployment, education, and social  marginalization among Bulgaria,s minority communities.  Septel will provide an overview of the Islamic community in  Bulgaria, Islamic institutions, and Islamic extremism. END  SUMMARY    2. (C) In addition to Islamic extremism, Bulgaria has  recently witnessed the rise of a new extremist threat from  right-wing nationalists.  This year's parliamentary elections  saw a xenophobic, anti-U.S., anti-EU party known as "Ataka"  ("Attack") garner 8.75 percent of the vote.  While "Ataka"  members do not directly advocate violence, they have  contributed to an increase in ethnic tension that has  manifested itself in several violent incidents between ethnic  Bulgarians and Roma.  The USG maintains a "no contact" policy  with Ataka and continuously monitors political events and  incidents of hate speech.  Reftel B discusses "Ataka" and  Bulgaria's Roma community.  There have been no reports of  extremist activity linked to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church or  other communities in Bulgaria.    --------------------  Security Cooperation  --------------------    10. (S/NF) Bulgaria's National Security Service extensively  monitors suspected extremists within the country, with  particular attention paid to expatriate communities of Arabs,  Chechens, and Kurds.  In previous years, the GoB pursued an  aggressive policy of deporting suspected radicals; however,  that process has been halted following a 2001 judgment by the  European Court of Human Rights which held that Bulgaria had  violated the human rights of the deportees.  All sections of  Embassy Sofia report excellent anti-terrorism cooperation  from Bulgarian counterparts; however, corruption weakens the  overall effectiveness of Bulgarian efforts.  To date there  has been no evidence of links between extremists and  Bulgaria,s well-developed organized crime groups, but the  potential for ad hoc cooperation in, for example, procurement  of weapons or explosives remains a threat.    ----------------  Embassy Programs  ----------------    11. (C) Combating extremism is a mission-wide priority for  Embassy Sofia.  The Political/Economic section monitors  ethnic and religious politics and conducts outreach to the  Grand Mufti's office, leaders of the Movement for Rights and  Freedoms (the principal political party representing the  Turkish minority), and members of the NGO and academic  community who follow Muslim issues.  Recently, an Embassy  political/economic officer met with local imams and ethnic  affairs specialists in Turkish, Roma, and Pomak (ethnic  Bulgarian Muslim) areas to gain a firsthand understanding of  minority issues, including the threat of extremism.  The  section also monitors the GoB's progress in combating  terrorist finance and has nominated candidates for the  November DOJ/OSCE Conference on Combating Terrorist Financing  in Vienna.    12. (C) The Regional Security Office works closely with GoB  partners to build capacity and bolster the Bulgarian  services' capability to respond to the threat of extremism.  RSO facilitates anti-terror training for members of the  Bulgarian security services at the International Law  Enforcement Academy in Budapest.  Through the Export Control  and Border Security (EXBS) program, RSO also provides more  detailed training on issues such as weapons of mass  destruction to over 200 trainees per year from agencies such  as the Bulgarian Border Police, the Customs Service, the  Prosecutor's office, and the National Police.    13. (U) Significant anti-terror cooperation is also  coordinated through the Office of Defense Cooperation.  ODC  allocates over $200,000 annually to anti-terrorism training    for Bulgarian military and civilian specialists from a  variety of ministries.  This training takes place in-country  and at regional conferences, and also includes two fully  funded slots for long-term anti-terrorism training at the  National Defense University.  Funding to date has relied on  discretionary grants from DOD's European Command, but in FY  2006, ODC expects that a separate line item will guarantee  approximately $150,000 in funding for anti-terrorism  training.  Through its humanitarian assistance programs and  excess property donations, ODC provides roughly approximately  $500,000 in annual assistance to Bulgarian communities.  Roughly 15% of these funds are earmarked for minority  communities in an attempt to match the ethnic balance of the  country.    14. (U) The Public Affairs Section is active in reaching out  to the Muslim minority in Bulgaria:    -In February 2005, PAS sent a female Pomak candidate on a  "European Young Muslim Leaders" International Visitor  Leadership Program.  The candidate, a former youth leader in  the majority-Muslim Movement for Rights and Freedoms  political party, has returned to Bulgaria to work in the  National Association of Municipalities.    -In October 2005, PAS is organizing a two-week workshop that  will send six Bulgarian journalists covering ethnic and  religious minority issues to the U.S. to study how American  media report on ethnic issues and the use of hate speech by  political leaders.    -For FY 2006 Post has approved a Single Country International  Visitor Project that will provide tools for professional  development of civil rights advocates.  The participants,  nominated by local Peace Corps staff, include Muslims and  representatives of NGOs that work in majority minority areas.    -Embassy outreach to the Muslim community includes the  "Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation".  Through this  fund, PAS is assisting in the restoration of the 17th century  Kurshum Mosque, one of the most historically significant  Ottoman-era mosques in Bulgaria.    -PAS arranged for a SEED-funded U.S. speaker on the occasion  of the 30th anniversary of Sofia University's Department of  Middle Eastern and Oriental Studies.  Dale Eickelman, an  expert on Islam and Islamic politics at Dartmouth University,  also met individually with representatives of Bulgaria's  Muslim community and spoke at an NGO workshop on the subject  of "Islam and the Public Sphere".    15. (U) Through the SEED-funded Democracy Commission Small  Grants Program, PAS has coordinated several additional  programs aimed at improving opportunities for ethnic and  religious minorities, promoting tolerance, and attacking the  causes of extremism.    -"The Muslim Community in Bulgaria: Facing the Global  Challenges" seeks to explore the Muslim community's reaction  to world events since September 11th through focus groups,  press analysis, and programs to encourage public debate.    -The "Possible Dialogues on Belief" project, implemented  through the International Center for Minority Studies and  Intercultural Relations, will produce a documentary film  promoting dialogue between Muslim and Christian communities  in Bulgaria.    -Numerous projects focus on improving educational  opportunities in Muslim and Roma communities.  One Democracy  Commission project in the city of Veliko Turnovo works to  keep minority children in school by improving their Bulgarian  language skills.  Programs in Pleven and Silstra promote  ethnic desegregation of extracurricular activities and  education in tolerance, democracy, and civic values.    -In advance of Bulgaria's July, 2005 parliamentary elections,  Democracy Commission grants promoted political participation  and electoral outreach among marginalized urban Roma  populations in Sofia and Sliven.    16. (U) USAID works extensively to promote ethnic integration  and tolerance through its relationship with Partners Bulgaria  Foundation.  This project, currently in its fifth year,  incorporates a multi-faceted approach to ethnic integration.  Initiatives include promotion of employment opportunities,  community planning, and the establishment of leadership  institutes and conciliation commissions in towns throughout  Bulgaria.    17. (S) COMMENT: The U.S. Mission in Bulgaria continues to    seek out opportunities to combat extremism of all forms.  We  believe the limited extremism present in Bulgaria is largely  fed by the lack of economic opportunity.  Many in Bulgaria  are frustrated by the country's prolonged transitional phase.   Populist, nationalist, and xenophobic opportunists attempt  to play on this frustration.  We believe that programs  addressing Bulgaria's overall economic development are the  most effective tools in countering extremism stemming from  this phenomenon.  In addition, support of moderate religious  and ethnic leaders/institutions and continuous public  diplomacy emphasis on tolerance, diversity, and equal  opportunity are essential. END COMMENT  BEYRLE 

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