Velizar Enchev, Founder of 'Bulgarian Spring' Movement: It Is Time for Radical Break with Neoliberal Policies
Velizar Enchev has a degree in journalism from the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski.” He was a correspondent of the Bulgarian National Television in former Yugoslavia in the period 1987 – 1993. He was Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Croatia in the period 1997 – 2002. After that Enchev was TV host of a broadcast of SKAT TV. He entered the 43rd National Assembly as MP from the Patriotic Front. After a scandal with one of the leaders of the coalition, Valeri Simeonov, Enchev left the parliamentary group of the Patriotic Front and founded a new political movement, the Movement for Radical Change “Bulgarian Spring.”
- What made you think it was time to establish a new political movement? What niche is the Movement for Radical Change “Bulgarian Spring” targeting?
After the return to power of the GERB party (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and the establishment of yet another corrupt coalition with the participation of the Reformist Bloc, the Patriotic Front and the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival, which was an act which subverted the vote of Bulgarians, it emerged that it was necessary to restore moral standards in politics. This is why me and a group of friends decided to propose a radical alternative to the political status-quo, with the new formation seeking to unite broad layers of society demanding social justice and a new social contract.
The parties of the so-called transition period are pass? in political terms and have fallen into moral disrepute due to the catastrophic economic situation which made Bulgaria the poorest EU country.
Young people in Bulgaria lack life chances and are forced to idle their life away unemployed or to emigrate. At the same time, elderly people live on the brink of physical survival with their meager pensions, despite the fact that it was them who created material assets worth tens of billions of leva which were privatized through criminal transactions organized by a parasitic bourgeoisie born after November 10, 1989.
The deepening social inequality and the widespread poverty stoke public anger with an elite group of people who have seized hold of the entire economy and the financial institutions. As they have a hold on the government and the media, Bulgarian oligarchs are now reaching for EU subsidies worth billions.
To cover up the plundering done so far and the bankruptcy of one of the largest banks, the four-way coalition government forced new debt of BGN 16 B upon the state. This huge debt will be repaid over the next decades by the Bulgarian citizens who were turned into the biggest debtors of Europe. This is our social niche - the hundreds of thousands of distressed Bulgarians who have fallen victim to savage capitalism.
- You describe the new movement as left-wing. How do you estimate the performance of the existing left-wing parties in Bulgaria? What flaws do you see in the activities of your future rivals?
Bulgaria lacks authentic left-wing formations just as much as it lacks authentic right-wing formations. Speaking about left, right after November 10, 1989 the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) privatized the left-wing sector. However, just as the mass privatization ended with a massive fraud for millions of owners of voucher books, the privatization of the left-wing segment by BSP became a full-blown fiasco. BSP is Janus-faced – when it is an opposition party, it advocates left-wing policies, but when it is a ruling party it applies right-wing economic measures. FYI: see which party is responsible for the introduction of the flat tax.
- Could you cite concrete policies inspired by Greece’s Syriza which would be applicable in Bulgaria or concrete measures through which you plan to oppose the neoliberal course?
In the first place I propose a radical break with the neoliberal ideology in economy. This ideology is to blame for worshipping at the altar of the all-powerful market mechanisms. The state needs to restore its role as investor and regulator.
It is time to take steps to create state-owned enterprises to break up monopoly power and reduce prices.
Radical as it may sound, we will fight for restoring or maintaining state control over strategic sectors such as energy, the arms industry, and telecommunications.
Following the example of Syriza, we shall declare war on widespread poverty. We demand state intervention and legislative measures in support of small and medium-sized enterprises. It is time to implement a new regional policy that pays special attention to the regions whose development is lagging behind and which are plagued by mass unemployment and escalating emigration.
Following the Greek model from the 90s, we propose the creation of a state-administered program for the resettlement of ethnic Bulgarians living abroad in the depopulated areas. Without the slightest hesitation we shall propose incentives for the debtors from the SME segment which have defaulted on their obligations to the state.
We also call for revocation of the auctions organized by banks for the first and only homes of borrowers who are unable to pay monthly installments.
If we make it into the government, we shall guarantee that people will not be thrown out of their homes by bankers or a bailiff.
We shall set up an intermediate public institution with responsibilities in the sphere of managing debts of private entities and ensuring the fair treatment of all borrowers.
Most importantly, unilateral changes in the terms of contracts must be banned, including interest rates, so that Bulgarian citizens are no longer injured by this practice and are no more made slaves to banks.
As part of the program for supporting the youth, we plan tax and bank amnesty for people who are experiencing financial hardship, especially young families. We also propose a program envisaging the provision of accommodation for the homeless in exchange for participation in labor cooperatives.
- Will you seek changes to the tax system?
The revocation of the flat tax is not even a topic of discussion. A progressive income tax would be fair. Why not follow the Scandinavian model of imposing high tax rates on the rich? This is actually solidarity tax.
- Which parties do you recognize as allies and which ones do you oppose?
A union with GERB or the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) is absolutely out of the question. This also applies to far-right entities included in the Reformist Bloc. Cooperation with BSP and Ataka is possible under certain conditions. However, both BSP and Ataka have accumulated a number of sins on their records over the past few years, including BSP’s support for the war in Iraq and for the establishment of US military bases in Bulgaria and Ataka’s backing for the GERB government and the Oresharski government.
- Will you preserve some of the lines pursued by the Patriotic Front?
The National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) has one program, VMRO has a slightly different program, and the Patriotic Front has a program that is a combination of the two. After entering Parliament, NFSB betrayed its program and is now fulfilling the agenda of GERB. This means that the NFSB program is up for grabs and we embrace it without remorse. If we want to build a socially cohesive society in line with the highest EU standards it is time to overcome fear and oppose wild capitalism just as the Greek did.
- An article of 24 Hours daily cites a proposal of yours to close the National Security Service on the grounds that it is inefficient and instead create “volunteer self-defense groups against Gypsy crime.” Provided that the quote is correct, how would you comment on this measure?
I think that it makes sense to close the National Security Service and turn it into a directorate at the Interior Ministry without granting it the rights of a primary budgetary resources authorizing officer. Bulgaria currently spends around BGN 40 M on an entity which is in charge of the security of some ten people. Taking into account the widespread poverty in the country, this is outrageous.
- What is your goal for the local elections in the autumn?
We shall nominate mayoral candidates and candidates for municipal councilors in all regional centers and in the smaller settlements. We shall seek to include honest people in local authorities so as to curb the influence of GERB and DPS, as well as that of the coalition partners the Reformist Bloc, the Patriotic Front, and the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival. We shall seek influential people, intellectuals, teachers, doctors, etc. These are the people who must make it into local authorities so that social justice can be restored and EU funds fraud and public procurement fraud and corruption are abolished. It is time for the people to take power into their hands, first on a local level and then on a national level. Bulgaria will otherwise continue to be not only the poorest country in the EU but also the most humiliated one.
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