The official English translation of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria – some thoughts…
We have repeatedly written about the contradictions between the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (CRB) and the Bulgarian Citizenship Law (BCL). The most crucial flaw in our view is the fundamental provision of Art. 25, para 1 of the CRB with the norms of the BCL as to who is Bulgarian citizen. Broadly speaking, in our view the CRB indicates that anyone of whom at least one parent is a Bulgarian citizen is also (automatically) a Bulgarian citizen. However, the provisions of the BCL provide that such persons, if their parent was not a Bulgarian citizen at the time of their birth, should undergo a naturalization process to obtain Bulgarian citizenship.
The text of the Constitution on the website of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria
The CRB is written in Bulgarian and only this text is authoritative. There are numerous translations of course, but the “most official” English translation should be the one published on the National Assembly website. Let us compare, however, how the highest legislative body has understood the Bulgarian text and translated it into English.
Български гражданин е всеки, на когото поне единият родител е български гражданин или който е роден на територията на Република България, ако не придобива друго гражданство по произход. Българско гражданство може да се придобие и по натурализация.Art. 25, para. 1 of the CRB, as published on the website of the National Assembly (ORIGINAL TEXT IN BULGARIAN) – https://www.parliament.bg/bg/const
A Bulgarian citizen shall be anyone born of at least one parent holding a Bulgarian citizenship, or born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, should he not be entitled to any other citizenship by virtue of origin. Bulgarian citizenship shall further be acquirable through naturalization.Art. 25, para. 1 of the CRB, as published on the website of the National Assembly in ENGLISH (TRANSLATED from Bulgarian) – https://www.parliament.bg/en/const
In this paper we will only comment on the first part of the provision (the bold text).
Grammatical analysis and controversies
For specialists who deal with the concept of Bulgarian citizenship and have knowledge of Bulgarian and English, these two texts are not identical. The Bulgarian text defines a Bulgarian citizen as anyone of whom at least one parent is a Bulgarian citizen, without any additional conditions. The original Bulgarian text is short and clear:
A Bulgarian citizen is anyone of whom at least one parent is a Bulgarian citizen
That is, the grammatical interpretation is that a Bulgarian citizen is also anyone whose parent acquired Bulgarian citizenship at a later stage in life. For example, two French citizens have a child in 1990 who is a French citizen by descent. Subsequently, in 2001, the French father is naturalized in Bulgaria and acquires Bulgarian citizenship. According to the grammatical interpretation of the CRB, at that point in 2001 his child also automatically becomes a Bulgarian citizen by virtue of Article 25, para. 1 of the CRB.
In the English translation, however, things are different. Here the meaning of the text is that the child must have been born with at least one parent – a Bulgarian citizen (at the time of birth). That is, in the above hypothesis of the French family, the child would not be considered a Bulgarian citizen as of 2001, after his father became a Bulgarian citizen. This is because his father was not a Bulgarian citizen at the time of the child’s birth.
Unfortunately, Bulgarian legal practice adopts the approach of the English translation, seemingly forgetting the original Bulgarian text. That is, Art. 25, para 1 of the CRB is interpreted as per the English text. Strange? Illegal? Unconstitutional? We leave it to the reader to decide.
Lost in the translation?
But it may be that we do not translate the texts correctly. Let’s see how the Bulgarian text will be translated into English by two of the main online translation services – Google Translate and DeepL:
A Bulgarian citizen is anyone whose at least one parent is a Bulgarian citizen or who was born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, if he did not acquire another citizenship by origin. Bulgarian citizenship can also be acquired by naturalization.Translated with Google Translate online
A Bulgarian citizen is anyone at least one of whose parents is a Bulgarian citizen or who was born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, if he/she does not acquire another citizenship by descent. Bulgarian citizenship may also be acquired by naturalisation.Translated with DeepL desktop version
As we can see, the translation of the original text leads us to the conclusion that the English version published on the website of the National Assembly does not correspond to the Bulgarian original. It is strange why the English text of the Bulgarian Constitution introduces restrictions that do not exist in the original text of the basic law. And it is even stranger why the procedures for acquiring and establishing Bulgarian citizenship adopt precisely the meaning imposed by the English translation…