What a Terrible Time for Europe to Show Bulgaria the Cold Shoulder
Plamen Goranov set himself alight in a country desperate to reform itself. Emigration is not at the forefront of Bulgarian minds.
For Bulgaria, 6 March is a day of national mourning, after Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old man, set himself alight in protest against corruption in his home city, Varna.
Three days earlier, inadvertently anticipating Plamen's demise by a mere 24 hours, the German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had told Spiegel magazine that should the need arise, his country would veto Bulgaria and Romania's entry into the EU's Schengen free movement zone. Membership had been keenly desired by government officials in both Sofia and Bucharest, which have long since fulfilled the technical criteria for admission. Many in Bulgaria find symbolic value in the near coincidence of the two events.
The German cold shoulder comes hot on the heels of a weeks-long controversy over whether Romanian and Bulgarian migrants will abuse British social security funds once the last restrictions on the free employment of nationals from the two countries are removed. The UK focus on an apparently imminent deluge of impoverished Balkanites poised to siphon money off generous and naive Britons was matched by similarly framed media storms in the Netherlands and France. Twenty-four years after the end of communism, there seems to be precious little left of the solidarity promised those who were unfortunate enough to be caught on the wrong side of the iron curtain and who had only recently emerged blinking into the daylight.
The Anglo-German snub, provisional and discordant as it is, could not have come at a worse time for Bulgarians. Their country went through two torturous decades of post-communist transition, was bankrupted twice and therefore many here saw EU membership, attained in 2007 after 18 years in the wilderness as just reward for their trials. What is more, spurred by a European Central Bank operating in crisis mode, Bulgaria's centre-right government imposed a strict regime of austerity that all but choked the economy, fed unemployment and caused people's disposable incomes to plummet. All the while Bulgarians were being told that it was a point of pride they had one of Europe's lowest debt-to-GDP ratios and that fiscal health was a pan-EU priority of the first order.
Now Bulgarians must suffer the double indignity of a catastrophic drop in living standards and being told that they do not really belong after all. Small wonder then that what began a fortnight ago as protests against the high prices of electricity quickly turned into an explosive mixture of demands – for direct rather than representative democracy, for a majoritarian electoral system over the current, party-favouring proportional one, for a new constitution, for the expulsion of monopolies controlling the utilities. Widespread poverty and the nagging sense of being second-class citizens resulted in the biggest anti-government rallies the country has seen since 1997, when inflation ran at 300% and people's savings evaporated overnight.
The government of populist PM Boiko Borisov promptly resigned, plunging Bulgaria into political as well as economic crisis. Borisov's indecently hasty departure caused some to suspect Moscow's involvement, Russia being a powerful player in the energy business regionally. Others point the finger at the US. There is a palpable sense of confusion on the streets as ordinary people and false messiahs clutch at ideological and conspiratorial straws.
The irony of all this is that political participation, chaotic as it is, has drowned out all talk of emigration. Bulgarians are out to reform their country and improve their lot and they can teach Europe a thing or two about the dangers of populism. Plamen Goranov's sacrifice may not resonate in the west as loudly as Jan Palach's did during the Prague spring 40-odd years earlier, but to Bulgarians it is just as cathartic. The big players in the EU might want to sit up and take notice. It may be worthwhile rediscovering the value of pan-European solidarity, for everyone's sake.
- » FT: Bulgaria Strives to Become Tech Capital of Balkans
- » WSJ: Bulgaria and Smugglers Escalate Their Migrant-Trafficking Battle
- » Seattle Times: Bulgaria Is 'Underappreciated and Ripe for a Visit'
- » Die Welt: Bulgarians Rescuing Schengen Area
- » Balkan Insight: Bulgaria's Impossible Balancing Act
- » DW Reveals How Migrants Are Smuggled out of Bulgaria
And Tania a few more words to guide you in your self educational journey.
When you accuse somebody of something, it is yours the burden of prove through actual facts that is, otherwise it has to be considered a rant from a person with discrediting agenda in mind. As an example of a well founded accusation I will suggest you read the open letter of Edwin Sugarev, which was sent a week ago to the chef Prosecutor of BG. In that letter the person Sergei Stanishev and the communist gang around him have been accused of COUNTLESS criminal doings in the period before the government of GERB. Getting acquainted with the contents of this letter might open your eyes for the real enemies of the country, if that matters at all to you.
"Tanya suffice to ready your writings to know pretty well where you stand. Haha crystal ball, a few sentences of yours and you ar e an open book."**************************************Sveto, at least my sentences make sense! Unlike your ranting and raving and contradictions.
Now this "burning spear" is a real example of the Alexey Petrov's barking dogs. Insinuation after insinuation. "Everybody in BG knows", no clear documents just words and insinuations. I stand by my words suffice to say your sister is a whore, than go proving you have no sister. Everything in just 3-4 sentences, that individual suggested we should "get rid of the parliament" as if anybody in the world has gotten rid of it. For good or bad this is de-facto the best humankind has come up with. Than he suggested to "get rid of the mafia", as if mafia has been defeated in any place in the world, if anything it is getting stronger and stronger as we go on a global scale. And than finally to top it up he suggested to make out of BG "an African country in the EU". I have nothing else to say, you draw the conclusions. Those are the "leaders" of the protests in Sofia. So what exactly are they wanting? And who are they directing the demands to? What happened to the electricity bills? What exactly does the change in the system mean? From democracy back to communism because you know back then everything was so cheap, or free. Right? Well guess what, there is no free meal out there, and never was. Another lesson to learn soon.
With alll sincere respect, Sveto: "...the big brother moved the tentacles in the name of BCP and elaborated this "revolution of the people" to destroy Bprosov's government"---Every thing under these
skies is possible, sure, still Your thesis....I doubt it, I doubt it very much. Think that the fundamental reasons of the current events in Bulgaria are much deeper.
Sveto - you must be either very naive, blinkered, very closed minded or one of BB's agents.
Anybody living in BG will tell you that BB is a very rich man, Just have a look at the BACB balance sheet. Silent partner in all the big transactions in the country. He will buy like Berlu the next election. You should read carefully what Tania OZ says...
I think its time for a BG style Beppe Grillo. Time to stand up and show the finger to the kleptocracy BG is. Let's start with those parliamentarians, the mafia next! An African country based in Europe!
No Sveto, I am not out of my mind; are you? Maybe you should read up alittle more yourself and stop believing your own propaganda. My sources of information/literature are wide and varied and I form my own opinions, because I can. This I believe is a forum for all to express personal opinion. How do you know what I am or am not qualified for? Do you have a crystal ball there in front of you? And by the way, I do understand the way the world rolls. I am not a naive idiot. The cancer runs deep in Bulgaria, irrespective of whichever political party is in power.
Tanya, are you out of your mind? To compare Berlusconi with BB. The italian is one of the most powerful mafia boys (it is a miracle they achieved any sort of a sentence, which by the way will never be served). That guy is so rich and strong that soon enough all will be forgotten and he will rule the country again. Because that's how things roll allover the world. Corruption and politics are those who pull the strings. The stronger the country, the bigger the corruption and the political manipulation. There is NO COUNTRY free of this disaster.
BB has never been involved in a murky businesses with the mafia. Those are yellow insinuations coming from a communist propaganda tools like bivol.bg The idea is to tell the public once your sister was a whore and than go explaining you have had no sister. The communist machinery is deep into the entire society and manipulates everything as it pleases. For the first time since the fall of the commies there was a government that tried to change things and the resistance was enormous. Yet the final straw was reached when the Russian nuclear plant was voted down by the referendum. That pissed the russians so much off, that the big brother moved the tentacles in the name of BCP and elaborated this "revolution of the people" to destroy Bprosov's government. That is the sad reality, and if you just look the history of the human kind you will understand that people as an entity have NEVER masterminded any revolution whosoever! People have always been manipulated into revolting. Look at the 'leaders" of the protests in Sofia. All of them are paid members of either BCP, or Alexey Petrov's party. I can write even more about Europe's double standards and the games of the powerful 3 countries, but I guess it is a subject to another thread. What I will suggest is that you read a little bit more from different sources, and listen a little bit less what is being said on the streets before you start expressing opinions. Because as it stands right now you don't seem to be overly qualified for that.