TED Conversations

Plamen Chetelyazov

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Is Western Europe indifferent to Bulgarian agony?

Bulgaria is officially the EU`s poorest member. The salaries rarely exceed 250e. The country is one of the most corrupted in the EU according to the Transparency International Index. The census data confirmed that over the twenty-year period, emigration represented a 6% loss in the total population. High emigration levels were accompanied by low fertility rates, which contributed a further 12% loss. Moreover – the country has unenviable Press Freedom Index. Reporters without borders rank Bulgaria 87 which is a great retreat because back in 2003 Bulgaria ranked 34.
On 24 February more than 300 000 Bulgarians went out into the streets to express their indignation against the political monopoly and its derivatives – the monopoly of the market, the corruption, the poverty, the unemployment, the criminality... The people shout „We want future” and want radical change of the political system because the elections push in alleged new parties made of worn out politics in disrepute. Some of the demands are: no immunity for the members of the Bulgarian Parliament, limit of their mandates, recall of all former deputies, majoritarian voting system.
So far there is no adequate response from the political elite only a cosmetic change of the government and ugly but successful attempts to mount the protest.
The spokeswoman of the European Commission Pia Hansen said: “There is a democracy in Bulgaria and we respect that” but It must be a lie because few days ago Europe blocked Schengen membership for Bulgaria due to the functionality of the judicial system.
At the same time there is a wave of desperate people who literally set themselves on fire. 4 people already died for a month and one is still fighting for his life. The most famous case is the death of Plamen Goranov and now his name stands for this dreadful and shocking epidemic. The 36 years old photographer and mountain climber set himself on fire in front of the municipality building in his hometown of Varna on Feb. 20.

+4
Share:

Closing Statement from Plamen Chetelyazov

Capitalism does not confer the same status as democracy! In this system the money is at the same time the capital potential, the ultimate goal and the greatest might. This basis contributes to the spreading of corruption, exploitation, manipulation, emotional degradation e.t.c. One of the ugliest defects is that people are learned to consider those who are poorer also less cultured, intelligent and capable.The real alternative to capitalism is a working democracy aiming at the progress of creative education and true freedom.

progress indicator
  • Mar 30 2013: Well, at least people in Bulgaria have the will to protest. I'm from Romania and we are always at the bottom lists of corruption and economy, along Bulgaria. Except that romanians whine, while bulgarians set themselves on fire. It's the effect of being a former communist countries where the current politicians in power are the same who were in the former regimes.
    • thumb
      Mar 31 2013: Yes Simion and that is why the Bulgarian protest insisted on changing the political system (recall of all former deputies, no immunity for the members of the Bulgarian Parliament, limit of their mandates, majoritarian voting system e.t.c.). But what has been achieved?
      It had been a vigorous and continued protest but it faded unsatisfied. The politicians succeeded in getting on the wave of people's dissatisfaction and directing it on the political breakwater guarding the status quo.
      Not only that there was not a single gesture of support from the west but also there are ridiculous British insults. I am talking about the English politicians who scare their electorate with the upcoming Bulgarian emigration. There are many things that can be said about this infamy and maybe it needs a different debate but the most important thing is that the Bulgarians who wanted to emigrate to England are already there.
      I fear that the deaden tension in Bulgaria and the European neglect open widely the doors of our parliament for radical nationalism in the upcoming elections.
      So - what about the people who set themselves on fire? As I said - It is a fearsome obsession, a final and dispirited appeal. These are real human beings who prefer to end their life in terrible pain instead of continue their struggle with this wicked reality. And even this extreme call for help grew silent. What about their relatives ha?
      Each person must show permanent intellectual and emotional resistance! Each one of us must take the individual responsibility in his own life and fight the defects of capitalism! I know that it sounds discouraging but I can not see another option instead of the life of a hermit.
  • Mar 29 2013: All countries are indifferent to others agony,s.
  • thumb
    Mar 29 2013: I know this is neither comforting nor helpful, but I'm afraid that the answer to your question is affirmative. The world is overloaded with news of crises from desperate peoples, and the world's general response seems to be "I'm glad it's happening somewhere else." It sounds callous, but perhaps people must become callous in order to retain their sanity. They can't bear the problems of the world which until a few decades ago were kept local, but now overwhelm everyone on their pads, phones and screens every day. They tune out the horrors of Syria, Congo, Mali, Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other places where people are dying by the hundreds and thousands every day. I'm afraid Bulgaria's internal problems, bad as they are, must be solved in Bulgaria. Probably a leader must arise who can mobilize and motivate the people to long-lasting mass action.
    Sorry that I don't have anything more encouraging, but I wish you and your countrymen all the best. You will get through this period, we just don't know how yet.
    • thumb
      Mar 29 2013: You are right Paul and I share your thoughts. But I think that converting mass communications into a scarecrow is just a defect and it is one out of many reasons for this nonchalance … They are all defects of capitalism. As I said - capitalism does not confer the same status as democracy! In this system the money are the ultimate goal and the greatest might. So the people are learned to consider those who are poorer also less cultured, intelligent and capable. That is why West-Europeans and Americans consider us primitive just like Bulgarians consider the inhabitants of Syria, Congo, Mali, Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan et cetera. And it is a weak-minded and shameful characterization of the Western Culture.
      • thumb
        Mar 29 2013: Yes, I'd say these statements are all true as far as they go. But I don't think we're blaming mass communications - it's just that the mass of information that overloads people does arrive through those media. And the various flaws you mention are indeed defects of capitalism and western culture. But they're equally much defects of socialism and communism and feudalism and all other economic systems we've tried, and they're just as prevalent in Chinese culture or Russian or Angolan culture as they are in western culture. They seem to be features (call them flaws if you like) of human nature, derived from instincts of self-preservation: the natural tendency to seek advantage for oneself and one's group. Selfishness, in other words.

        I don't think we've arrived at the ideal economic system yet. What we've learned from our current systems and those in the past will, I trust, some day result in a system that rewards people not only as competitors but also as cooperators, yet does not stifle individuals under excessive governmental regulation. I've written a short piece on that at my web site, Blue Ridge Journal: http://www.blueridgejournal.com/brj-neweconomics.htm
        • thumb
          Mar 30 2013: I find your conclusions Indisputably right and I will definitely visit your web! It is great to find people ripe for these ideas and it somehow gives me a breath of optimism!
        • thumb
          Apr 17 2013: Mr. Chetelyazov basically it seems you would like people of other countries to influence their Governments to force the rulers of Bulgaria to grow up and play nice. This has been attempted by several countries in recent decades (not by the will of the citizens so much) most extravagantly by the U.S. my country. The results have varied a bit but not many would call these any of these attempts an unalloyed success. You may have noticed that possessing a lot of resources (oil) or harboring perceived threats like Al Qaeda or a nuclear weapons program (Iran, N. Korea) seems to get the attention of our Government or the corporations that use it as a front (Halliburton). Most American citizens have had about enough of nation building efforts that have nearly bankrupted us and cost the lives of more soldiers than anyone predicted. Obama has attempted nation building lite in Libya (which had both Oil and a unruly Dictator) but is playing hard to get with Syria. This may all seem very cynical but it just corresponds to observable facts as far as I can see. Most decent people around the world, once informed, would probably like to help your country. But the reality is that even in moderately functional semi Democracies like the U.S. the people have not that much more influence than you do in yours. Our Politicians like to keep us at loggerheads about silly things like gun or birth control and distracted from what they are really doing. Corruption here is more central and embedded in the system so that the voters don't notice it on the local level as much. Yes people young and old are not suffering as much as in your country but it is mostly a matter of degree. I know plenty of Americans with university degrees who also can not find appropriate work. Even here it is too often who you know and not what you know that can help you in your career. I wish you well but can offer no proven solution other than continue to try and arouse more Bulgarians to action like the Tunisians
        • thumb
          Apr 17 2013: Mr. Manderscheid,

          Bulgaria is a European Union (EU) member country. The EU institutions have the means and even the obligation to force the rulers of Bulgaria to grow up and play nice but they miss the willingness. Bulgarians do not know why Western Europe misses the willingness especially after the last fierce protest and its strangulation and vitiation. Bulgarian people clearly show that they don’t believe that “there is a democracy in Bulgaria” unlike the hypocritically statement of the spokeswoman of the European Commission. At the same time Bulgarian authorities clearly show that they don’t want democracy in Bulgaria and have the means to maintain the depraved status quo. Bulgarian people don’t need foreign money or foreign army but clear foreign messages of compassion.

          I have lived and worked in the US. Trust me – our labor markets have nothing in common. Not a thing! But otherwise you are right about many things.

          I can not even imagine what it is like in the world`s poorest countries. Or the nations engaged in war... What happened in Boston… They say one of the victims is just a 8 years old kid. Just a kid! Real human beings are dying of hunger and explosives, dying because of a primitive malice all over the earth. There is so much suffering in this world. And capitalism clearly shows that it is not only unable to inspire but actually is suppressing the emotional evolution of our civilization because in this system the money is at the same time the capital potential, the ultimate goal and the greatest might.

          Basically I would like people of all countries to influence their Governments to realize that the emotional recession is the real threat and that the emotional evolution is far more important than the technological progress.
  • Apr 3 2013: Precisely! Check out this video: http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud.html

    It is a great talk and shows exactly what you are saying - poor people are perceived to be less educated, but what is worse - less intelligent and this is scary as hell, because to judge someone's capacity as a human based on the money he/she has is downright the bottom of our so called "progress".
  • Apr 3 2013: Man...as plain as it is, Western Europe, and any country for that matter is interested in their/her/his own well-being. Not a single deal/contract/union is made/done out of pure good will. The thing called "good will" no longer exists - we live in a world of interests and I am affraid this world and we as beings put the monetary/property/prosperity (as defined by Western civilizations) first. And as long as this is the case, everyone will be out for themselves.
    • thumb
      Apr 3 2013: Absolutely! As I underlined: Capitalism does not confer the same status as democracy! In this system the money is at the same time the capital potential, the ultimate goal and the greatest might. This basis contributes to the spreading of corruption, exploitation, manipulation, emotional degradation e.t.c. One of the ugliest defects is that people are learned to consider those who are poorer also less cultured, intelligent and capable. I am a bachelor of economics and when I say that capitalism is something completely different from democracy I know what I'm talking about. The real alternative to capitalism is a working democracy aiming at the progress of creative education and true freedom.
    • Apr 4 2013: You're wrong! Capitalism in a society does not care for social issues, but that does not mean "a country" never cares. History is full of examples in which it was social issues that set a nations course. For example Afghanistan: when Clinton started his first term in office, the US was in support of the Taliban as they saw them the most probable to bring enough stability to the country to enable trade and the building of pipelines (thats your economic motivation right there). It was american feminist activists that started to put pressure on Clinton and lobbied strongly against the US American support for the patriarcial Taliban Government. They managed to put enough public pressure (with public I mean American people, who make the nation) that the "Country" changed its stance against its economic interests in favour of what its public thought was morally right.
      And history is filled with shining examples of enough people caring and deciding for a course of action that might not be the best economical choice. For Petes sake, we are discussing this on a TED forum... if nobody cared, there wouldn't be this website we are writing on right now!
      That said, mainstream Europe does currently not care a lot for Bulgaria. But that doesn't mean that with the right advocates, it can't change.
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2013: I really want to share your belief that social issues can actually set a nations course, I really do...
        TED is a great phenomenon indeed. Some of the talks are so inspiring! You are right - even if the authorities are careless there are still people who care and I was unfair.
  • thumb
    Mar 31 2013: The end of rampant corruption and Mafia style crime are only brought about by the will of the people. I'm glad to hear that Bulgarians are starting to find their voice and protest openly - they need to protest more. They can only protest passionately when they PAY THEIR OWN TAXES. If everyone avoids taxes you invite corruption and crime to take root. It really is the ONLY way to achieve change, and YES people may well die before things start to improve. Look at the Polish Solidarity Movement or Gandhi's struggle in India for inspiration.

    Britain from the 18th to mid 20th centuries was in a similar state. The industrial revolution was devastating to the social structure. Rural poverty moved people to urban work in unsafe factories for little pay. They lived in overcrowded, unheated, insanitary conditions. Cholera, dysentery, diphtheria & TB were common. Child & maternal mortality was high. People worked 16 hours/ day 6 1/2 days a week (church being the only rest-bite). Children worked from 5 years - exploited for their nimble size or good eye sight. The environment was highly polluted - rivers were open sewers and the air was so bad, Birmingham became known as the Black Country. Poisonous smog killed hundreds each year. Crime syndicates ruled each community - Oliver Twist was a social commentary not a work of fiction. Life was short, hard and brutal.

    I have no respect for many of the eastern European beggars who are now a common sight in the larger towns and cities of the UK. Their only other occupations appear to be theft and prostitution of their own trafficked women! If eastern Europeans aren't angry, why should anyone else care? You need fire in your bellies not in your hair! If it means social protest against crime, exploitation and corrupt politicians / judges - so be it. Make a stand. Yes, the struggle will be difficult - but isn't the prize worth it?
    • thumb
      Mar 31 2013: No remarks except your thoughts on the beggars. I bet that the Bulgarian beggars in England are representatives of our Gypsy minority. But guess what - they are the usual perpetrators of the same mischiefs in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria there are other minorities like Turks, Armenians, Jews, Greeks e.t.c. and they are all ordinary citizens. Everyone but the Gypsies. There is only one way to integrate the Gypsies – the authorities must force them to obey the law! But if it happens in Bulgaria then Europe will call it discrimination. Actually Europeans are constantly criticizing Bulgaria about oppressing the rights of this particular minority but it is a true hypocrisy. Do you know how Europe manages similar situations? France for example - first the French authorities kicked some Bulgarian and Romanian Gypsies out without any debates and after the blast of the scandal they actually offered bribe to the remaining Gypsies in order to leave. On the other hand the Bulgarian political elite doesn’t bother this minority because it is good for them to have several hundred thousand poor and illiterate electors whose votes literally cost a beer with two grilled rissoles and a loaf. Trust me – the Bulgarian Bulgarians are very different from the Bulgarian Gypsies and when we emigrate we obey the rules and work hard. It is about time for the West Europeans to realize the difference and understand that it is a unique situation which needs international efforts and specific solution - another great problem in Bulgaria and Romania that the EU ignores. And I am afraid that it is another positive for the radical nationalism in the upcoming elections and it is scary alternative on global scale.
      • thumb
        Apr 1 2013: This is very interesting. I had no idea that I have probably never met a representative eastern European. The only one's I have seen are persistent beggars who're abusive and aggressive.

        Public opinion is strongly against these people. The problem is, there are so many of them, and they are so visible (they congregate in large groups), that we assume they are representative of these countries. Please understand that eastern European countries are exporting an image of their countries that are becoming a stereotype across western Europe.

        The issue of Bulgarians, Hungarians and Romanians swamping the UK to claim benefits is a live political issue. Laws are currently being passed to restrict benefits and housing being given to these groups. I would like the UK government to go further and deport any EU citizen back to their country of origin if they are convicted of a crime.

        What are your feelings about reading this? Are you shocked or angry at my views? Am I expressing intolerant right wing opinions? Or am I only expressing what any sane, law abiding citizen of Europe is thinking? How would you like these people to be dealt with across Europe as a whole? You seem to suggest that the EU is too soft on them and lacks the understanding of the difficulties caused by having them live amongst law-abiding, tax paying citizens. How should things be allowed to change so as to benefit the majority of citizens, without persecution?
        • thumb
          Apr 1 2013: I am not shocked nor angry at your views because you’re expressing what any sane, law abiding citizen of Europe is thinking. And most of the ethnic Bulgarians are ashamed because the inaction of the Bulgarian authorities is exporting a disgusting image of all Bulgarians that has become a stereotype across Western Europe.

          No, I am not suggesting that the EU is too soft on the Gypsies. I am saying that the EU is not familiar with the specificity of the ethnic characterization of Roma and the Gipsy lifestyle and that is why they are too hard on Bulgaria with the accusations of discrimination. Here is an example – one out of many. The Council of Europe body ECRI stated in its June 2003 third report on Bulgaria that Roma encounter "serious difficulties in many spheres of life", elaborating that: „The main problems stem from the fact that the Roma districts are turning into ghettos.” ECRI missed the fact that the Gypsies purposefully separate themselves into ghettos because there they can build illegal houses and can avoid paying rates and taxes. That is why the advisor on Roma and Sinti issues at the OSCE, N. Gheorghe remarked during a meeting: “…many of the Roma confuse public services with rights to which they are entitled and which are guaranteed by the welfare state” ... Concerning the issue of the electricity supply it should be noted that dwellers of such neighbourhoods sometimes refuse to pay their electricity bills. This attitude could at least in part be explained by the fact that “…Romani mahala-dwellers believe they have rights as citizens to electricity and other services, and that the state has an obligation to provide and to a large extent to subsidize them”. Here is the detailed article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roma_in_Bulgaria . Pay attention to the „Problems of exclusion and discrimination”.
        • thumb
          Apr 1 2013: As for your question „How would you like these people to be dealt with across Europe as a whole?” I think that the change must start in Bulgaria. I am not a racist and I deeply believe that every ethnos has equal potential and rights but I also believe that every ethnos has equal duties! As I said: There is only one way to integrate the Gypsies – the authorities must force them to obey the law as they force us all – nothing less, nothing more. In Bulgaria we do have laws that charge us with certain duties. Here is an example – again – one out of many. The primary education has compulsory character as well as secondary education. A monitoring report by the Open Society Institute found that Roma children and teenagers are less likely to enroll in both primary and secondary schools than the majority population, and less likely to complete their education if they do. Between 60-77% of Roma children enroll in primary education (age 6-15), compared to 90-94% of ethnic Bulgarians. Only 6-12% of Roma teenagers enroll in secondary education (age 16-19). The drop-out rate is significant, but hard to measure, as many are formally enrolled but rarely attend classes.
          The problems are very deep and are slipping out of control. Many Bulgarians believe that the Bulgarian political elite prefer the current status of the Gypsies because they have several hundred thousand poor and illiterate electors whose votes literally cost a beer with two grilled rissoles and a loaf. Moreover – there are large amounts of EU money earmarked for this problem and I have already talked about our corruption index. I can see the solution in an international team of specialist who are familiar with the Gypsies and the Bulgarian reality in order to create long-term plan with short-term urgent actions aiming at lawfulness. But it will be difficult because Gypsies have already excluded themselves from the society and even if they find the will to change their lifestyle they will again miss the capabiliti.
        • thumb
          Apr 1 2013: And Heather - just have in mind that this problem is just a nuance of the varied pallette of the Bulgarian crisis.
  • Mar 27 2013: Have never lived there, but I lived in Hungary for a while. It seemed to me that yes a lot of Western Europeans are not aware of how bad things have become in so e of parts of the East. Civil liberties eroded, widespread corruption etc.
  • thumb
    Mar 20 2013: Most probably the governing body of the EU isn't simply indifferent to what has been happening in Bulgaria over the past few years. After all, nobody wants a dying tree in his own garden. Unfortunatelly, there are still just few mechanisms which could influence a member country's legislative and judicial system and simply get it working right. See the situation in Hungary which was just frowned upon in Brussels. Cutting fund fincancing is one of instruments and obviously embarking such a measure did a little good in Bulgaria and just helped another party win the 2009 elections and seize the absolute power in the coutry. The problems lie deep below the surface, everybody including the EU commission understands this and still almost nothing could be done. A radical change must be made and people themselves are responsible for that. Leaders are missing and this is the greatest issue... The majority is still somehow afraid or unwilling to actually engage something that can influence the situation. Hopefully the recent events which you mentioned are finally a good beginning of the most desired change!
    • thumb
      Mar 21 2013: You are right. Except that you can not refer to this burning outbreak as a “good beginning”. It is a fearsome obsession, a final and dispirited appeal. And these are real human beings who prefer to end their life in terrible pain instead of continue their struggle with this wicked Bulgarian reality. What an extreme despair…

      By the way when I say “Is Western Europe indifferent to Bulgarian agony” I do not allude only to the governing body of the EU but to the European citizens as well. So far only you and I comment on the topic and we are both from Bulgaria… I am not surprised. After all in a capitalist system (and capitalism does not confer the same status as democracy) the money is the ultimate goal and the greatest might. So the people are learned to consider those who are poorer also less cultured, intelligent and capable. That is why the West-Europeans consider us primitive and just do not care.
      • thumb
        Mar 21 2013: Yes, sorry, I actually meant the protests and not what Plamen Goranov and those after him did...
  • thumb
    Apr 17 2013: How do you think about problems in Angola or Laos?
    Do you care about your friends more than people you don't know?

    The same goes for any problem: the further away (percieved distance), the more ignorant I feel about it.
    On moments when it's drawn into my field of attention, suddenly my care spikes and I can't stay indifferent (at least as long as it's in my attention-field). When it comes to enacting upon it: that's another treshold.

    So as for Bulgaria within Europe: it's currently not in the field of attention of the majority of members of parliament (they have other problems I suppose)

    I think that any problem or agony is bad.
    The thing is: who is going to solve it? I can always look at other people or groups or nations to solve my or my shared problems...
    I cannot expect them to feel obliged to respond though.
    If I am ardent enough to strive for a given problem, then I will enact upon it.

    Don't be angry if the rest of the world doesn't see your problem. That's just the way it is. The real question is: what can you do to make the most progres in solving the problem.

    Self-organise, become politically active, and propose sollutions to influential people (or become influential yourself).
    • thumb
      Apr 17 2013: I can not even imagine what it is like in the world`s poorest countries. Or the nations engaged in war... Every day I try to learn about the conflicts and try to imagine what it is like to lose someone close to you because of a bullet, explosive, hunger… It literally strangulates my brain. As I said to Chad - real human beings are dying because of a primitive malice all over the earth and there is so much suffering! Trust me – I feel horrible about it, I am definitely not indifferent and I try to outline it in my writing and through the conversations with colleagues and friends.

      It is very difficult for Bulgaria to exercise influence on the life in Angola or Laos. But it is not so difficult for the European Union to exercise influence on the life in Bulgaria because our country is actual part of the union. That is why I asked “Is Western Europe indifferent” instead of “Is Western Civilization indifferent”. And you are wrong – in our case EU is obliged to respond and has the means. Not by sending money or army but by sending clear message of compassion and anxiety.

      I believe that it is impossible to become politically active in Bulgaria unless you are part of or dependent on the corrupt political status quo. It is not only me - that was one of the main reasons for the protest! Some of the demands were: no immunity for the members of the Bulgarian Parliament, limit of their mandates, recall of all former deputies, different voting system. The people here want radical change of the political system because the elections push in alleged new parties made of worn out politics in disrepute and we do not have real choice – the same faces under different colors and platforms over and over again.

      You say: “The same goes for any problem: the further away, the more ignorant I feel about it.” Do you feel that this is right? I don’t. I know it is true but I don’t feel it is right! And I must be much more active no matter that I am poor. And I will try. Everyone must!
  • thumb
    Apr 16 2013: Prosecutor's investigation just finds out that the Bulgarian Police was wire-tapping illegally politicians, businessmen, active citizens and leaders of the protests. It seems that the data was destroyed in a hurry by high-standing police officers. Commentators speak about blackmailing and frightening.
  • thumb
    Apr 14 2013: LIVING AND DYING IN BULGARIA / EURONEWS:

    "One in five Bulgarians live in poverty earning less than the equivalent of 120 euros per month. One in three young Bulgarians can not find work while private companies have accumulated alarmingly high debts preventing growth. Electricity bills have soared. There have been street protests across the country demonstrating against low incomes and corruption forcing the government to resign. In the last three months six people have died after setting themselves on fire in public..."

    Watch the reportage here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XKZ5zOlDBsA#!
  • Apr 5 2013: I had noticed your post a week ago, but I didn't think that I had anything to offer, so I just watched the discussion postings from time to time. Now I have read more, enough to form a comment. I maybe the first to say that your cry for help is quite justified. My suggestion is to the Administration of EU to consider the timely and cost-efficient aid to Bulgaria before it's too late (until a bloody unrest occurred). I kept my self informed about the rescue of Ireland, Greece Spain and Cyprus of the Euro Dollar Zone members. In my opinion, they should start the rescue way early before the debt problems could be solved in no longer than 5 years maximum, or kick some of them out of the Euro system completely. Since Bulgaria is not an EURO member but an EU member, a timely economic aid plan should suffice. I hope that some one in the EU Commission will read this for the sake of your fellow Bulgarians The following is my suggestion:
    The EU Central Bank should urge and guarantee capital loss for the oil companies like British Petroleum , Royal Dutch Shell, TOTAL or StatOil to invest and explore the Bulgaria Black Sea region for oil/gas. Believe me, we in the U.S. are drilling using fracking right in our backyard, and the contamination problem can be solved with reasonable cost. And the EU Administration can easily set up an agency bank in Bulgaria with a loan from the EU Central Bank to make SMALL LOANS DIRECTLY TO BULGARIAN INDIVIDUAL SMALL BUSINESSES, like that in India, without going through the government there.
    I am a business and economic major in my undergraduate study. Believe me that capitalism is not a dirty word, at least it is better than government sponsored economic model. I don't have to use examples. Look for yourself. Furthermore, the conditions like you described there, really do not have that much more "wealth" to be 'explored" by the capitalists anyway. Remember, almost all the "rich countries", even China, started thru the route of capitalism.
    • thumb
      Apr 5 2013: Bulgarian governments tyrannize Bulgarians with inadequate and ridiculous Social policy that does not meet basic human needs. This however contributes to our strict Fiscal policy and so far we do not experience debt problems. We do not need financial aid - we need to uproot corruption in order to make real use of EU funds and attract foreign investors that will actually invest instead of plunder. We desperately need educated, honest and hard working politicians who will reform every single important area of social policy - welfare state, social security, unemployment insurance, environmental policy, pensions, health care, social housing, social care, child protection, social exclusion, education policy, crime and criminal justice. That is what the spokeswoman of the European Commission had to admit.

      I like your suggestion that the EU Administration can easily set up an agency bank in Bulgaria with a loan from the EU Central Bank to make small loans directly to Bulgarian individual small businesses without going through the government. The development of this idea will definitely help.

      I am not a specialist but I do not believe that fracking is safe. Our sole wealth is what’s left of our nature and tourism is the only allegedly successful branch here. And I say “what is left of our nature” because by means of corruption large areas of the cost and the forests were built-up without any adequate ecological evaluation.

      You say that “almost all the "rich countries" started thru the route of capitalism” but we do not have the time to evolve – we are small nation with only 6000000 people and as I said the census data confirmed that over the twenty-year period, emigration represented a 6% loss in the total population. High emigration levels were accompanied by low fertility rates, which contributed a further 12% loss.

      What we really need is an urgent and applicable surviving plan aiming at the important areas of social policy.
      • Apr 5 2013: I have one response to your post above. I have already realized that even though you and I both studied economics, but the basic theories were probably quite different because of the difference in each economics courses we took. Without going in details, I would guess that in your studies of economics, capitalism causes an inferior or unfair treatment to the labor force (the exploitation of labor by the capitalists), while I was taught that economic development is based on 3 elements; capital, labor and management. But, this is not the purpose of our discussion. We should concentrate on what works in modern era.
        If you are interested, I recommend for you to read one of the current (or just expired recently) TED Discussion under the title of "...Is capitalism sustainable ....". In the discussion, there is a major current of ideas saying that although capitalism is far from perfect, there re still no systems which are clearly better than it at current time or in the past.
        Let me also refer you to search the economic development of Poland, which is one of your fellow EU member countries and also one of Bulgaria's fellow countries formerly under the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. By the way, I just read in today's news report that Hungary is also developing the idea of small loans to the small and medium businesses in their new policy. That's all I want to say. Wish you the best of luck.
        • thumb
          Apr 7 2013: Capitalism doesn't cause an inferior and unfair treatment to the labor force in my my studies. It causes it in my life. Maybe there is no system better than capitalism but there definitely is a better form of government and it is called democracy. If you are interested, I recommend you to watch one of the current TED talks under the title of "We the people and the republic we must reclaim". Wishing you all the best!
  • Apr 4 2013: I don't know much a Bulgaria. Has there been any natural gas exploration I'm hearing there are success stories with that. I've heard really alarming things about rural Romania. It's a global recession and eastern Europe is a relatively susceptible region. As for the political corruption the only people I know who can help you is Anonymous since it looks like Julian Assange is permanently holed up in an embassy.
    • thumb
      Apr 4 2013: There is a success story (so far) - last year the people of Bulgaria succeeded in their protest against the exploration by means of fracking technology. We are poor in oil and gas though. As far as I know we have some natural gas pockets near Black Sea but they are still unused and we buy from Russia.
      Otherwise I don't trust anonymity. I prefer to criticize the defects of the system with my true name and face. As I said: each person must show permanent intellectual and emotional resistance! Each one of us must take the individual responsibility in his own life and fight the defects of capitalism!
  • thumb
    Apr 1 2013: Hi Plamen, Thanks for a fascinating debate.

    I'm interested to learn that primary eduction spans 6 - 15. Is secondary education also compulsory? What is the percentage enrolment of ethnic Bulgarians in secondary education? What does completing secondary education entitle kids to do? Gain a place at university? If so, your secondary schools are equivalent to our Tertiary Colleges.

    UK Education
    Primary ages 5 - 11 6 years
    Secondary ages 11 - 16 5 years - National exam syllabus starts age 14, exams taken at age 16
    Tertiary College ages 16 - 18 2 years - Advanced university selection qualifications taken at age 18
    University ages 18 - 21 3 or 4 years

    This problem of low Roma educational participation is surely linked to their distinct and separate social identity coupled with their bizarre feelings of entitlement. Wow! What a combination! Roma kids would perhaps benefit from extra motivational input in their early education to help overcome the influence of their families. Are Roma families settled, or do they still travel? How old do the girls traditionally get married?

    It seems Bulgaria needs to foster national solidarity. Does it have a compulsory National Service (either military or civil)?

    If Roma feel entitled, I guess they don't pay taxes. How does the government deal with this issue? Greece and other southern EU countries have a problem with this too. So perhaps it's timely to have a EU wide discussion about Tax. Perhaps paying taxes should be linked to social rewards like benefit / pension / health care entitlement or to qualify for a passport. I can't help feeling that EU citizens need to take pride in paying taxes - rather than feeling foolish for doing so. Perhaps if it was the sole responsibility of the man of a household to pay, and it became linked to manhood - men would fall over themselves to say how BIG their tax bill was ;-)
    • thumb
      Apr 1 2013: Thank you for your interest in our destiny but before answering your questions I must underline that I don’t want to focus the subject on the Gypsies. I do not undervalue the problem but there are almost 6000000 people in Bulgaria and less than 10 per cent of them are Gypsies. The Roma situation is just a derivative you know. There are so many educated, well-mannered and hard-working young Bulgarians without future. There are so many starving pensioners. There is a wave of desperate people who literally set themselves on fire for God’s sake! And you call it “fascinating debate” as if it is an exotic fairy-tale from the Orient. Well it is not, it is our life, it is real and it is time for Europe to wake up!
    • thumb
      Apr 1 2013: Otherwise the education here is primary (7-11), main (11-15), secondary (15-19) and secondary professional (15-20). The primary and main educations are compulsory. There is no age limit for the universities as long as the candidates stand the specific examinations depending on the desired subject. Than there are 4 university levels: professional bachelor (3 years of study), bachelor (4 years of study), master (5 years of study) and doctor (5 years of study and 3 years of research). The percentage enrolment of ethnic Bulgarians in secondary education is above 90%. Nevertheless our educational system creates parrots instead of thinkers, it is not coordinated with the labour market and the schools and universities rarely expel students in order to save their grants thus teacher’s and lecturer's jobs.

      Roma kids would definitely benefit from extra motivational input in their early education but many of them must earn their daily bread. There are several big Gypsy ghettos in Bulgaria but Roma families still travel a lot. I do not know the exact statistics (I am not sure if there is one) but when the gypsy girls are 15 years old traditionally they are already married with a child. Recently there was a journalist investigation on the subject because it is illegal to have sexual intercourse with a minor (under 18) but the authorities only shrug their shoulders.

      We do not have a compulsory National Service.

      The authorities don’t force the Gypsies to pay taxes and that is a key reason why our social system is on the verge of collapse. All governments ignore the problem and shift it upon their inheritors.
    • thumb
      Apr 2 2013: As a whole I agree that paying taxes should be linked to social rewards like benefit / pension / health care entitlement or to qualify for a passport. But you must understand that in Bulgaria there are so many active, hard working and educated ethnic Bulgarians who cover their taxes along with providing food with great difficulty. As I said: the monthly salaries rarely exceed 250e. Mine for example is 200e and I am a curator of a cultural heritage institution with M.A. degree. Because of the social and health insurance I receive only 170e net income. My other bills cost (roughly): electricity 70e, water 10e, phone 10e, overhead expenses for the mansion 10e, Internet 10e. To go to work I use urban transport and it costs another 20e per month. What about the mortgage? What about food and clothes? Can you even try to imagine?
    • thumb
      Apr 2 2013: There is a suitable analogy for our situation by the way. Heather - you are from Britain right? There is a great film written and directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie called "Snatch". In an episode Jason Statham said: "You show me how to control a wild ... gypsy and I’ll show you how to control an unhinged, pig-feeding gangster." The regular Bulgarians are in the exact same situation, trying to survive.
  • Mar 26 2013: I cannot speak for the European continent at large but I can for a large population of the UK. It is not that we are indifferent, we are simply ignorant. I knew that Bulgaria was a country marked with a corruption tag but I didn’t realise the extent to which it’s populous suffered, when i have discussed Bulgaria in the past it was usually regarding the potential of a holiday. Ironically do you know who opened my eyes to this problem? It was Slavi Binev speaking at a UKIP conference (UKIP are anti EU).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY64fJugfCQ

    The EU dictates what happens in its countries through regulation and I find it ridiculous, extraordinary and truly saddening that they have not stepped up and helped Bulgaria establish some democracy. Even if I was not against the EU I would and hope people are shaking their heads in anger and disgust. How can they spend millions on going to elections around the globe but not eradicate corruption in one of its own member states? A simple answer would be that they are more bothered about the money and keeping their social project funded. You have my best wishes but unfortunately usually the only way for change is through social disorder and I truly hope that you do not need to resort to this.
    • thumb
      Mar 30 2013: I think that populism and nationalism are a huge mistake and great degradation. Unfortunately the politicians in Bulgaria hold on this tactics because they don't have the potential to understand anything else. The behaviour of Mr. Binev is a perfect example. Otherwise I agree with you on many things but don't share the idea that "the only way for change is through social disorder". The recent events in Europe and Bulgaria in particular prove that each person must show permanent intellectual and emotional resistance. The individual responsibility is much more constructive than the anonymous and elemental letting steam off.
  • thumb
    Mar 20 2013: Another man set himself on fire today (20.03.2013). In the ambulance he said: " I am sick of it, there is no bread, I can't stand it any longer" according to the journalists. The initially information claims that the 41 years old is unemployed and has a wife and a kid...