Maxim Behar: Bulgaria Is Coming Back to Europe. But When, Really?
This article has been published at the "Unfiltered" column of the Bulgarian news agency BGNES.
For the past five years, we Bulgarians have been saying we are back to Europe. By that, we mean the European Union only, and nothing else.
Because Bulgaria has always been in Europe – throughout its entire history, even during those controversial five centuries of much suffering that we love to associate with our southern habits and spicy cuisine.
That's why, on that day in April when the Tsar (i.e. Bulgaria's Prime Minister in 2001-2005, ex Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg) was giving a fatherly tap on the shoulder to then Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, after the former had just singed Bulgaria's EU accession treaty, we actually received the glorious comeback we had been looking forward to ever since that minute in November when the subdued Todor Zhivkov (i.e. the leader of communist Bulgaria before 1989) was looking unfathomably at the comrades around him. And it was right back then that we styled that day the start of our comeback in Europe.
That is, formally.
But in fact this is when our suffering commenced with the eternal dilemma over whether we Bulgarians are in Europe, or not. Perhaps we had missed something – we are in the EU, but our salaries are the same, our relationships are nervous and emotional, neighbors keep throwing out their trash from the balcony in front of the entrance of the apartment building, or beating the dust out of their tablecloths on our heads, and the staircase gets swept only once a month. Are we in Europe?... Our cars - parked on the sidewalks, the prices - among the highest, the salaries - among the lowest, the people - nervous and gloomy, and, most importantly, the crisis overshadowed even our most fragile, fleeting memories from the nice years before it, from those few years when real estate prices were soaring, and the construction business was booming like never before...
It was exactly back then that we got our limitless but also delusional hopes that this will be our standard of living bestowed upon us by the hard-working Germans, the artistic Italians, the emotional Spanish, or the sophisticated French. Or, in other words, our friends from Europe made efforts in order to welcome us, and give us a treat, and they could have even thrown some billion our way as compensation since we suffered so much under communism...
That is the truth, the very truth itself.
And it's lacking just one single element that this text is actually about. We forgot the golden rule that Europe is what we ourselves make of it. Not anybody else. If the relations in an office are intelligent and creative, if the manager has a vision for the future, for development, if the team is united and motivated – then we are in Europe. If the neighbors in an apartment building respect and help one another, if there is a common understanding that it must be clean, peaceful, and safe – we too are in Europe. If... We all know – a countless number of "if"-s can be mentioned here. That is why, the European Bulgaria will be exactly what we make of it.
Actually, there is one more element that we need to have in mind – generation change. The f-Generation, or the Facebook Generation, is the best guarantee that there is no coming back, and that the desperation over the slow transition won't be gain the upper hand, and overshadow the desire that all of us have to live in a modern and a lot more civilized Bulgaria. Because – formally – one day, not so far into the future – everything will be where it belongs.
And one of the indications of whether we Bulgarians are indeed Europeans or not is certainly our attitude towards those who chose to live in another country, and not in Bulgaria. I am avoiding the word "foreign" on purpose because in fact the "foreign" countries – and thank God for that! – are becoming fewer and fewer. Do natives of the northeastern Bulgarian city of Shumen who settled in Madrid's suburb Getafe live in a foreign country? How can Spain be a foreign country if it is in the European Union?
Should the thousands of our Bulgarian compatriots who wash dishes, carry suitcases, and take care of elderly people see the Netherlands or England as foreign countries?... Within the EU, foreign countries are becoming fewer and fewer, and we must get used to the fact that more and more people around us will seek their happiness in countries where the Bulgarian language is exotic, more than anything else.
Because the fact of the matter is that a successful Bulgarian abroad is a lot more useful for their homeland that if they were to be successful in Bulgaria. In the countries where the Bulgarian language is exotic, competition is many times greater, and success is many times sweeter. And the sweetest and most successful thing would be to create a mini Europe around us every day – wherever we live, work, or just pass by. That's how seven million small Europes will make us Bulgarians feel a full-fledged part of one of the most beautiful and successful places on the plant. It is called... Europe. The place we will be coming back to for many more years to come. Every day.
Maxim Behar is a Bulgarian PR and media expert, founder and CEO of one of the leaders on the Bulgarian PR market, M3 Communications Group, Inc. As of January 2012, he is the Chairman of the Czech Republic Office of leading global corporation Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Behar is also the Treasurer and a Member of the Executive Board of the International Communication Consultancy Organization (ICCO), and a member of the Board of the global PR forum in Davos "Communication on Top".
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Animal is not alone in his experience. It's not unusual to work 12 hour days in the UK, depending on your job, though offices are generally 40 hours a week (but overtime is unpaid and unrecognised). He's right about everything he says, no matter what impression we've given you about our lifestyle.
Animal, maybe your personal experiences can't speak for the whole country? Lets assume you aren't a troll.