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Buzludzha Monument Auditorium
Photo: Stanislav Traykov (Wikimedia Commons); Licence: CC BY 3.0
 

The communist Buzludzha momunent, completed in 1981, has gone to rack and ruin since the revolution

 

In the next part of our series commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in many parts of Central and Southeastern Europe, we turn our attention to Bulgaria. Milen Iliev was only a young child when revolution came to his country, but vividly remembers the changes that took place in the 1990s.

The fall of communism came about in Bulgaria on 10 November 1989 with the resignation of long-serving leader Todor Zhivkov. I was just about to turn three at the time.  I was at that point of growing up, when I was getting ready to leave the confines of my home and join society for the first time in my life by going to nursery. Bulgaria was in a similar position – it was a newborn state, which was about to enter the world of democracy and capitalism and join a larger community of nations through the beginnings of globalisation.

Both Bulgaria and I had a lot of growing up to do. Perhaps the single most common leitmotif when you read about the process of growing up is the idea of the loss of innocence. In a nutshell, the argument is that once you start to realise what suffering and injustice are and how you can help or hinder their development in the world around you, you are not innocent anymore.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
discrimination
Photo: John Nakamura Remy;  Licence CC-BY 2.0 
 
Many Europeans are still fighting against discrimination

 

The concepts of "integration" and "otherness" have been interpreted variously in EU countries, with differing perspectives shaped by local cultural and political contexts. Policies against discrimination have been avidly pursued in an attempt to make immigrants feel home wherever they go in Europe. But social exclusion is always lurking. Ana Maria Ducuta, a Romanian student of Comparative Politics and contributor to the Centre for European Policy Evaluation, gives her personal experience of discrimination and reflects on immigration and related EU actions.

 

Even in our modern Europe, xenophobia is still a plague. Eastern Europeans such as Bulgarians or Romanians who go abroad are regular victims of xenophobic feelings. Eastern Europeans are regarded by some Western societies as barbarians and in some cases criminals too. On many occasions when I went abroad, after people got to know my Romanian friends and me, they have affirmed "we are good people despite the fact that we are Romanians" and that "we know more foreign languages than they ever will". You never get to understand the harmful nature of xenophobic stereotypes until you are faced with a real situation in which you are made to feel unwelcome before you have done or even said a thing.

Published in Contentious Europe

For some 20 days straight, tens of thousands of Bulgarians have taken to the streets, protesting against the newly-elected government, in office for only a month. Riots brought down the previous government in February – what has happened to make tensions mount once more?

Published in Contentious Europe
Friday, 25 January 2013 08:28

New Immigration Flows, Old Stereotypes

The final transitional immigration controls on Romania and Bulgaria are set to expire in January 2014, seven years after these new Eastern Europeans became citizens of the European Union. In the United Kingdom, parallels are already being drawn with the 2004 “wave” of immigration, when Poland and the other A8 countries gained the rights to travel and work throughout the EU. However, the main “pull” factors of immigration, which include employment opportunities, relative gross national interest per capita (GNI per capita) and comparative opportunities across the EU, all suggest that the immigration flow from Romania and Bulgaria will not only be significantly smaller than 2004 levels, but will also be more diffuse throughout EU member states.

2004 reappraised

A recently released study by Oxford University's Migration Observatory has drawn out the long-term impact of A8 immigration on the UK, placing the “tsunami” effect into a broader context. Estimations made in 2004 predicted 15,000 people per year would move from the new EU member states to the UK. The average annual Long-Term International Migration inflow of EU citizens was, in fact, increased to around 170,000 in the period 2004-2010, in comparison to the 67,000 over the previous six years. As a percentage of EU citizens, the A8 immigrants accounted for around 50 per cent of that movement, meaning that Eastern Europeans made up only one-third of the total migrant inflow into the UK. Nevertheless, the failure to anticipate the impact of lifting these restrictions left a deep mark in the political landscape of the UK.

The negative framing of Eastern European immigration has returned [as] an endless stream of "benefit tourists".

The negative framing of Eastern European immigration has returned in the form of an endless stream of unskilled and unemployed “benefit tourists”. It may be narrow politicking but the image has maintained its potency. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) now displays a countdown clock on their website for when, as The Telegraph has also warned, “Twenty million Bulgarians and Romanians will gain the right to live and work unrestricted in Britain.” Research by the Open Society in Sofia actually suggests that the inflow of Bulgarian immigrants would be “far less significant in volume and it is less likely.... [to] cause labour market disruption” than the A8 access.

Published in The Transnationalist
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