A total of 5773 people have been granted Bulgarian citizenship since the start of 2010, Bozhidar Dimitrov, Minister without portfolio responsible for Bulgarians abroad, told Bulgarian news agency Focus on April 23 2010.
Of the 5773 Bulgarian passports, 4200 have gone to Macedonian nationals and the rest have gone to applicants from Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine and Israel, Dimitrov said.
The number of newly-issued passports means that for the first four months of 2010 Bulgaria has issued almost the same number of Bulgarian passports as the whole of 2008, when about 6000 people got one.
In 2009 the number was 9040, Dimitrov said. This means that if the rate for 2010 remains the same, close to 20 000 people would get Bulgarian passports in 2010.
Overall, 75 000 people have been granted Bulgarian citizenship over the last 20 years, of whom 50 000 have been Macedonian nationals.
According to Dimitrov, the trend of Macedonian nationals applying for Bulgarian passports was still strong, contrary to comments by Macedonian politicians. "It will probably go down when Macedonia becomes a EU member and I certainly would like this to happen soon," he said.
The trend meant that the holders of Bulgarian passports in Macedonia now formed the second largest minority group after Albanians.
"This is a well-known fact by the Macedonian authorities and I don't see why they are concerned by it. Bulgarians in Macedonia are loyal Macedonian citizens. The criminal rate with Bulgarians is lower than in other minority groups.
"Macedonia can only feel proud that EU nationals live there and that their number grows by 500 a week. There is nothing frightening in the this fact and I don't understand their concerns," he told Focus.
According to Dimitrov, Moldovans have started catching up lately because Moldovan legislation now allowed dual citizenship. The Bulgarian community in Moldova numbered close to 90 000 people, he said, of which 15 000 already had Bulgarian passports.
This meant that every sixth Moldovan national of Bulgarian origin had a Bulgarian passport, he said.
Still, more than 40 000 applications for Bulgarian citizenship, filed since 2006, remained to be processed by Bulgarian authorities. According to Dimtirov, when he took office in August 2009 at the time that the current Government was formed, this number was about 60 000.
The trend for thousands of newly-filed applications was continuing, he said, noting that most of the applications had come from Macedonia and Moldova.
"Recently we have been experiencing an increased interest in Bulgarian citizenship from nationals of Israel, Armenia, the US and the UK," Dimitrov said.
The most exotic application had come from Guinea. "In most cases this is about nationals of European, African and Asian states who have purchased properties in Bulgaria and have moved here and need the passport to come and go," Dimitrov said.
"Usually they say it's because their wives want them to," Dimitrov said and noted that five US nationals recently had been granted Bulgarian citizenship. "There are about 7000 UK nationals settled in Bulgaria some of whom also got citizenship," he said.