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Plamen Chetelyazov

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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.

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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.

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    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 ;-)
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      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!
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      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.
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      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?
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      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.

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