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.