ArmInfo. Interview of Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy of Bulgaria Zornitsa Rusinova
Ms. Rusinova, tell us a little about the purposes of your visit to Yerevan?
The main purpose of my visit to Armenia is the participation in the conference "For the sake of preserving the unity of the family", organized by UNICEF with the assistance of the Bulgarian Embassy in Armenia. We will share the experience that Bulgaria has in the issue of closing special institutions for children.
In 2010 Bulgaria undertook to close all institutions in the country where children are kept. This process will be implemented in two stages, the first of which we have completed not so long ago, the second is in the process of implementation, and we hope that we will be able to complete the project completely by 2025.
This reform, aimed at closing special institutions for children, is important for us, as it provides an opportunity for children to get a decent education and find employment in the future. In addition, this project allows to create a system for more effective control of the process of organizing childcare. Thanks to the assistance of the Bulgarian government, international organizations and civil society, we were able to develop a program according to which all specialized institutions where children are kept are closed in the country. This mainly applies to institutions located in hard-to-reach areas of the country and remote villages. We believe that children should be kept not in such institutions, but in families, or at least in conditions close to family, where they can feel family warmth and coziness. We have already managed to transfer about 90% of the children kept in similar specialized institutions in conditions close to family ones, 70% of the above-mentioned institutions in Bulgaria have already been closed, about 30% are planned to be closed by 2025.
In Bulgaria, the specialized institutions were located in remote villages, far from medical institutions, which isolated children from society and limited their possibilities. This is especially accentuated with respect to children with disabilities, who have serious health problems. Their stay in such institutions makes it difficult to care for them. I think it's positive that we managed to close the overwhelming majority of such institutions. Today, already about 1500 children live in families living near cities, which allows them to attend schools, medical institutions.
I believe that the cooperation between Bulgaria and Armenia in this sphere will be very useful, as our countries strive to provide the children with better conditions and future. I believe that the experience that Bulgaria has acquired, including on its own mistakes, will be useful for our Armenian colleagues.
Being a person directly involved in this process and knowing firsthand about the problems in this sphere, how do you assess the situation in Armenia?
I believe that Armenia has a good start. But, you have to carry out three key actions: first, you need to develop a very good plan of action in this area that will be stable regardless of whether the former government remains or not. Secondly, establish good relations with public organizations that will be able to provide financial assistance in caring for children. And the last thing is to get good relations with the media in order to get public assistance. We have been working in this direction for 8 years, the program is planned until 2025 and we hope that Armenia will also follow this path and get a success.
What is the probability of successful implementation of the project you mentioned in Armenia against the backdrop of domestic political changes and is the Bulgarian side ready to help along this path?
This is the purpose of my visit. We, together with UNICEF, will assist Armenia in this matter. But, of course, government support is also needed. Already developed programs are very important and they are called upon to provide communication with the public.
During your visit to Armenia, were there meetings with high-ranking Armenian officials, and if so, what are the results?
One of the purposes of the visit is the meeting with the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia, with whom a number of important issues are to be discussed. We consider it important to discuss the issue related to labor mobility. In Bulgaria, many jobs, especially in the tourism sector, where Armenians can find employment. I also consider it important to develop the economic direction. We intend to take steps in this direction.
In what other areas can the staff from Armenia be on demand?
The unemployment rate in Bulgaria decreased and reached 5% of the threshold, therefore, today in our country there are enough jobs that can be borrowed. Of course, in the first place is the sphere of tourism, we are popular with both summer and winter tourism. In addition, Bulgaria needs highly qualified specialists in the IT sphere, since we have an active construction today, there is also a need for high-quality engineers and technologists. It is important to ensure labor mobility between Armenia and Bulgaria.
Tourism encourages the availability of direct flights. Annually, in the summer between two countries charter flights are carried out. But, as you know, Armenia and Bulgaria have been negotiating for several years to open a direct regular flight from Sofia to Yerevan, is there any progress in this matter?
Of course, there were discussions on this issue. It would be very good if the flight is still open, as this will contribute to the activation of labor mobility, the development of tourism, and the stimulation of contacts between people.
Tell us a little about your impressions of the trip to Armenia, did you try our kitchen, and what did you like most?
Just started to get familiar with your kitchen, I did not have time to try. But, since Armenia and Bulgaria have common historical roots, I believe that we will have taste communities. I am almost sure that I will become a friend of Armenia. This is my first visit to Armenia, but I think that it is clearly not the last one. Also, I've heard a lot about Armenian sweets, I'll definitely try.