The end of the series of Courses in Law and Democracy

Long-term investment in the future generation of the civil society

Over the past five years, the IRZ has organised a series of "Courses in Law and Democracy" for the senior years at German-language high schools in Bulgaria.

The IRZ had committed to providing courses in law and politics for young people at select Bulgarian schools until the end of 2017. The "Courses in Law and Democracy" project was initiated as part of a partnership with the former Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria (2012-2017), Margarita Popova. The first school was able to take part in spring 2013.

The objective of this series of events was to promote a strong and bold civil society, in which individuals have a political opinion and take responsibility for their actions in society and in the state.

The courses were held in the German language. The programme for the courses was based on legal studies at the Ministry of Justice for the North Rhine-Westfalia region and was adapted to suit the circumstances in Bulgaria.

Some important topics covered by the course were:

  • the basic structures of the law and its origins,
  • state organisation and opportunities for individuals to participate in decision-making,
  • the nature of democracy and its place in the constitution,
  • legislative procedures,
  • fundamental and human rights,
  • children's rights and youth protection,
  • the European Union and European law.

The state monopoly of power and the role of the courts were also discussed. Working in groups and with the help of role plays, the students devised their own laws and tried to convince others with their arguments.

Furthermore, the aim of the courses was to provide students with a basic understanding of how democracy works as a form of government and how it is possible to participate in democratic processes. In some places, the regional courts got involved by inviting the students during or after the course to a court hearing and discussions.

In total, thirteen one-week courses were held in twelve schools during the five-year project. The schools were foreign-language or German-language high schools in:

  • Lovech and Blagoevgrad (2013),
  • Sofia (2014),
  • Pazardzhik and Razgrad (2015),
  • Kardzhali, Burgas, Haskovo and Smolyan (2016) and
  • Ruse, Montana, Pernik and, once again, Blagoevgrad (2017).

A total of about a thousand students aged from sixteen to eighteen were able to attend the lessons.

The response was very positive during the entire course of the project. Following on from the first events, more and more schools applied to take part in the programme.

A key factor for its success was also without doubt the work of the speaker Ulrike Schultz, a former senior professor at the Open University of Hagen, who adapted the programme in each case to suit the knowledge and experience of the students, as well as the current developments in Bulgaria.

 

The ninth law and democracy course at German-language high schools in Bulgaria

Opening in Smolyan: Margarita Popova, Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria; Nadezhda Goranova, headmistress of the high school; speaker Ulrike Schultz; Kremena Ehrmann, IRZ advisor for the cooperation with Bulgaria (from right to left)

Opening in Smolyan: Margarita Popova, Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria; Nadezhda Goranova, headmistress of the high school; speaker Ulrike Schultz; Kremena Ehrmann, IRZ advisor for the cooperation with Bulgaria (from right to left)

On 10 October 2016 in the Bulgarian city of Smolyan, the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Margarita Popova, opened the ninth event in the “Democracy and Law” series, which is organised by the IRZ in partnership with the President’s office. Margarita Popova spoke to the participating students, teachers and guests about democracy as a way of life and stressed the importance of building bridges between countries and individuals. She was full of praise for the long-term commitment of the IRZ to this project and for its many years of work with institutions in Bulgaria.

The IRZ has been offering this course for senior years at German-language high schools since 2013. With some 70 students taking part in the event, the school in Smolyan is the ninth school to benefit, after high schools in Lovech, Blagoevgrad, Sofia, Pazardzhik, Razgrad, Kardzhali, Burgas and Haskovo. Participants were taught about the basic principles of democracy, state organisation and law. The objectives of the four-day course are to raise awareness of the rule of law and democracy amongst young people, thereby supporting a highly motivated civil society of the future.

The programme is based on legal studies at the Ministry of Justice for the North Rhine-Westfalia region and has been especially adapted to suit the circumstances in Bulgaria. The speaker, Ulrike Schultz, was until recently a senior professor at the department for German and European Constitutional and Administrative Law and International Law at the Open University of Hagen and plays a major role in the development of legal studies in the North Rhine-Westfalia region.

Schools all over Bulgaria have been registering their interest in the course with the President’s office. Two to three more schools will be selected to benefit from the project as it continues next year.

Law and democracy course in Haskovo

Project partners and guests at the opening of the democracy course in Haskovo: Dejan Janev, Headmaster of the local “Prof. Dr. Assen Zlatarov” high school; Ulrike Schultz, speaker; Kremena Ehrmann, IRZ (1st row, left to right); and Maria Angelova, Director of the regional court of Haskovo, and Ivan Panajotov, representing the Ministry of Education (2nd row on the right)Project partners and guests at the opening of the democracy course in Haskovo: Dejan Janev, Headmaster of the local “Prof. Dr. Assen Zlatarov” high school; Ulrike Schultz, speaker; Kremena Ehrmann, IRZ (1st row, left to right); and Maria Angelova, Director of the regional court of Haskovo, and Ivan Panajotov, representing the Ministry of Education (2nd row on the right)

On 4 October 2016, the eighth event in the “Democracy and Law” series began at the “Prof. Dr. Assen Zlatarov” foreign languages high school in the Bulgarian city of Haskovo. After a traditional dance put on by a group of students to open the event, head teacher Dejan Janev welcomed the speaker, Ulrike Schultz, the IRZ and representatives from various institutions in the region. Kremena Ehrmann, the IRZ adviser for the cooperation with the Republic of Bulgaria, introduced the project, its history and the main focus of the course to guests and the press. Welcome speeches were also made by the regional representative of the Ministry of Education, the city's education officers and the Director of the district court of Haskovo.

In partnership with the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Margarita Popova, the IRZ has been offering this course for sixth formers at German-language high schools since 2013. The school in Haskovo is the eighth high school to offer the course, after schools in Lovech, Blagoevgrad, Sofia, Pazardzhik, Razgrad, Kardzhali and Burgas. About 100 students in years 10, 11 and 12 are taught in three groups about the basic principles of democracy, state organisation and law. The objective of the four-day course is to raise awareness of law and democracy amongst young people, thereby supporting a highly motivated civil society of the future.

The programme is based on legal studies at the Ministry of Justice for the North Rhine-Westfalia region and was adapted especially to suit the circumstances in Bulgaria. The speaker, Ulrike Schultz, was until recently a senior professor at the department for German and European Constitutional and Administrative Law and International Law at the Open University of Hagen and plays a major role in the development of legal studies in the North Rhine-Westfalia region.

Bulgarian schools show a high level of interest in the course. The next course will take place immediately after this one, from 10 to 13 October in Smoljan.