Bulgarians Make Light of EU Presidency Campaign
While the Bulgarian government has gone full steam ahead with the promotion of its historic first Presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts in January, some citizens have taken to social media to voice humorous criticism of the campaign./balkaninsight
The Bulgarian Presidency’s Twitter campaign to promote interesting facts about the country under the hashtag #BulgariaIn30Facts has become a particular target of mockery.
Instead of sharing the official posts with fun facts about Bulgaria’s customs, culture and current affairs, social media users have chosen to create their own collages, which present the country in a less romantic and idealised way.
What especially triggered the wave of mockery on social media were official tweets that many found in bad taste, or to be old-fashioned or factually incorrect.
“Bulgarians are very hospitable and you don't need to bring presents all the time when visiting their homes, but leaving your shoes by the door makes hosts happier,” the Bulgarian presidency advised future foreign visitors, referring to an old custom, typical mostly of rural areas.
In another tweet, the presidency ascribed the supposed “longevity” of Bulgarians to eating traditional yoghurt, although in fact Bulgarian has the shortest life expectancy among all EU member states, according to the EU statistics agency Eurostat.
In response to the campaign, Facebook and Twitter users have created alternative messages, some of which quickly went viral.
Among them is the promotion of a pepper-baker, a traditional tool for baking peppers for the preparation of “zimnina”, winter bottled and jarred food, which Bulgarians have produced to survive the tough winters for centuries.
Another viral tweet has informed foreigners of the importance of knowing the Bulgarian word for “cheers” ["nazdrave"], when drinking “rakia” [a type of brandy typical to the Balkans] with the locals, as well as the tradition of stuffing animals and dressing them in national costumes as a part of the interior of rural pubs.
A satirical survival guide for foreigners includes a collage of criminal-looking thugs, which the authors describe as “a protected species” – which the government and judiciary allow to “roam in the country and do what they do”.
Foreigners have been advised to “bow respectfully” in case they meet such thugs, whom Bulgarians call “mutras” in slang.
Despite the online jokes, Bulgaria’s EU Presidency ministry has expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness to take over the Council of the Ministers for the next six months.
The minister, Lilyana Pavlova, and her colleague, culture minister Boil Banov, presented the renovated venue for the key events of the Presidency, the communist-era National Palace of Culture, on Monday.
The government has spent 45 million leva [around 22.5 million euros] on the renovation and restoration of the building, which will host hundreds of EU delegates for the next six months.
“There is no better place in Europe”, Banov told journalists during a tour of the Palace of Culture on Monday.
Bulgaria will host nearly 300 events in the country as a part of the program of its EU Presidency, 20 of which will be top-level meetings of EU-decision-makers, according to a calendar adopted by the Council of the Ministers on Wednesday.
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