Friday, October 19, 2007

Vote for Martin Zaimov

On Oct. 28, we are having local elections. It is high time for me to reflect this event. I am doing this on my brand new blog in Bulgarian. I don't see much sense to translate that post here, because the local elections are of interest to Bulgarians only. Indeed, since we are a EU member state, citizens of EU countries currently in Bulgaria also have the right to vote. But I don't think they read my blog. If I am wrong and you are a European currently in Sofia and wondering for whom to vote, just take my word: for Martin Zaimov. OK?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bulgarian government - unit measure for arrogance

If there is a world-wide contest for worst government, Stanishev's cabinet currently ruling Bulgaria would be a strong candidate. It is not only incompetent and corrupt, but also arrogant beyond description.
Bulgaria's first year in EU is marked by double-digit inflation and frozen incomes of ordinary people. As a commenter wrote here, if this situation had happened in Japan, the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet would do a ritual suicide on video. But our ministers are proud, as if they are doing a great job.
Teachers have been for a month on national strike demanding a substantial rise of their EUR 150 monthly salaries and the government says that there is no money for pay rise and teachers don't deserve it anyway because they don't want education reform (here, "reform" should be translated as "lay-off"). A week ago, BTV channel aired a scandalous video shot during the negotiations between government and teachers' union. Unaware that they were in the scope of microphones and cameras, finance minister Oresharski and education minister Valchev cynically talked to each other how to protract the negotiations, called by Oresharski "village party" (sedyanka). I cannot translate the entire conversation, but if you speak Bulgarian and haven't read it already, you can find it e.g. at Netinfo.
However, the special prize for arrogance perhaps should go to social minister Maslarova. BBC4 channel recently aired a documentary titled Bulgaria's Abandoned Children, showing how disabled children in a care home in the village of Mogilino are neglected and starved (I've blogged about it here). Minister Maslarova was interviewed by Bulgarian National Radio channel. Parts of what she said can be found e.g. here and I am translating them below.
"I know all institutions for children and adults in the country. I visit them regularly and know the situation in every single one of them. This is the job of the social minister," Maslarova said. "The conditions in our institutions in many cases don't match the conditions in e.g. the Netherlands. About the care home in Mogilino - unfortunately, there is a decision of the Municipality Council not to close this institution. So the municipality does not let the children leave the care home... What I know from my colleagues (the employees - M.M.) at the care home is that the BBC people have visited and filmed the institution over more than nine months and told the employees that the worse things are filmed and shown, the more foreign aid the home would receive..."
In other words, Maslarova said that the BBC documentary was so shocking because it was manipulated and deliberately showed only the most pathetic moments of the care home reality. As if in other moments the emaciated, starved children had normal weight!
However, I want also to add that our government's arrogance is encouraged by the friendly EU environment. Currently EU is pressing Bulgaria to - guess what! To close or at least improve institutions for disabled children? No, to begin writing the European currency in Cyrillic as "еуро" (Euro) and not "евро" (evro) as Bulgarian language requires. I wish to have the problems of Eurobureaucrats! I'll repeat what I wrote before: Europe, where are you when people need you?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Browsing the Black List

Today, Oct. 15, is Blog Action Day for environment and I find it an excellent occasion to write this post that has lingered for some time in my head.
It is strange how knowledge alters the way we look at things. At, you will find the English version of a document titled Black list of companies, organizations and individuals destroying Bulgarian nature. It is anonymous, for good reason. It contains no links, but I have cross-checked some of its statements with other sources and found them to be true.
The first entry in the Black List is as follows:
"Aleksander (Alexander) Kravarov - Mayor of the town of Bansko who advised the residents to poach openly if Pirin National Park is included in Natura 2000; together with Ulen Company created the Bansko Ski Zone inside Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site."
The town of Bansko is featured below. It is the first entry in the section "Resorts with irreversibly devastated natural environment":
"Bansko: formerly an architecture reserve town, now a city illegally spreading to the town of Razlog and inside Pirin National Park."
One of my very first blog posts, Bansko and the modernization of Bulgaria, was about a short vacation in this town. My impression of it was quite good, despite some nostalgia for the old days of modest development. Indeed, I am not a fan of ski racing and didn't leave the town, so I couldn't know first-hand about its effect on the mountain of Pirin. So I advised the British (and other) tourists to come to Bansko. Now I would advise them to stay away, so that not to benefit Ulen company. To cap it all, I am sure that Bansko residents will not benefit for long from the development of the ski zone, because global warming will have the final word.
Let's see another person from the Black List:
"Dimitar Zorov - owner of Parshevitsa dairy. His company is the main culprit to blame for the destruction of Vratsa Balkan Nature Park. It pollutes the rivers of the park with sewage waters from the dairy, damaged the road to Parshevitsa hut, constructed illegally farm buildings and hotels and interferes with the normal pedestrian tourism in the area."
I used to buy Parshevitsa dairy products, but I don't intend to do it anymore and advise my readers to boycott Zorov's company as well. There are many other good dairy producers in Bulgaria.
The Black List contains also entries about seaside hotels and whole resorts (too numerous to list). I advise all tourists planning a sea vacation in Bulgaria to check the Black List before choosing their exact destination. Below, I am translating parts of Krastyo Krastev's essay I am a patriot - I am vacationing in Greece, published in the Sept. 14 issue of the saritical paper Starshel:
"Perhaps you wonder what this insolent title intends to say. I'll explain. Officials from the National Tourism Agency complained that last year 1 million Bulgarians prefered to have their summer vacations in Greece and Turkey and spent EUR 600 million in the foreign resorts. Eh well, in the present year these Bulgarians are likely to be even more numerous and I am one of them. I have just reterned from the beaches under Mount Olympus and I'll tell you that one must be crazy to pay 124 leva per day for all inclusive at Zlatni Pyasatsi when he can spend 7 days at Chalkidiki, Greece, for 365 leva... Seven days without chalga (popular awful Bulgarian music - M.M.) and mutri (thugs - M.M.) in Greece, how nice! You haven't to pay in order to enter the beach, bull-like young men with triangular heads don't force you to rent a sunshade or a chaise-longue and the sidewalkes are the best I've seen for years... The Greeks know that order and peace bring money. So do the nice hotels with no more than 4 storeys, the flowers, the greenery, the cleen sand without watermelon peels and cigarette ends, the quiet nights without noise from discos... No insolent prostitutes pulling your sleeve, no women thieves in the buses, no Hammer Jeeps at the beach. Therefore I think that every Bulgarian who vacations abroad is a patriot! If there are more such people, the concrete jungles from Shabla to Sinemorets will become deserted and their greedy owners will finally have to keep diet!"
(Shabla and Sinemorets are resorts at the north and south end of Bulgarian Black Sea coast, respectively.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Three cheers for Romanian teachers

As I briefly mentioned in my Sept. 25 post, Bulgarian teachers are now striking with demands for 100% pay increase. Their current wages are appallingly low. The government claims that the average teacher's monthly salary is about 400 leva (EUR 200). Teachers claim it is about 300 leva (EUR 150). I am more interested in the minimum salary fixed by law. I cannot find the actual current value of this minimum, because although Bulgarian laws are published in the Web, the access to them isn't free (don't you think that forcing people to pay if they want to read the laws they are obliged to keep says much about Bulgarian government?). However, at you can see (in Bulgarian) what was valid in 2005. This act fixes the minimum teacher's monthly salary at 247 to 286 leva, depending on his qualification. (To obtain the salary in EUR, divide the value in leva by 2). There has been no significant increase in pay since 2005. (Update: The actualized document valid for 2006 is available here, the minimum teacher's salary is 272 to 315 leva.) Most prices in Bulgaria are comparable to those in Europe. Do you find it normal that teachers with university education are forced to survive on EUR 130 per month? Is it a great wonder that Bulgarian schools are plagued by carelessness, incompetence and corruption, and should teachers be blamed for this?
However, teachers receive outrageously little support by Bulgarian society. A legion of people, including university graduates, suddenly began to care about the aborted reforms in Bulgarian education, saying that there are many teachers who should be fired, that bad teachers shouldn't receive the same pay increase as good ones (though nobody finds it wrong that good teachers now receive the same fixed low wages as bad ones), that teachers are guilty for the absence of reforms, that those teachers who think they are underpaid should leave rather than protest and if they don't leave, it is because they cannot find other jobs, which proves that they are incompetent and don't deserve even their current wages! I prefer not to honour these opinions with links. The Bulgarian reader can easily find dozens of them by two or three clicks of the mouse.
European public and institutions are also silent. As my earlier post shows, I have been an Euroskeptic for quite a long time, but even I didn't think that things would be so bad nearly a year after we joined EU. For comparison, Europeans find it so important to secure wages for Palestinian teachers and other government employees that they subsidize the Palestinian Authority, knowing very well that a part of the funds will be diverted to terror (and even if they really go to the teachers, we all know what they "teach" at Palestinian schools). I tried to find in the Web how much a Palestinian teacher is paid. This site reports that back in 1997, a year that Bulgarian teachers began with monthly salaries of less than $ 10, Palestinian teachers were paid $ 250 - 450 and were striking to increase these "meager" wages. I would ask supporters of the European Union, especially those who deny the reality of Eurabia, to explain why EU doesn't issue even verbal concern when teachers in a member state receive EUR 150 per month and at the same time subsidizes a terror "state" on the reason to secure twice higher salaries for teachers indoctrinating children with Islamofascism. Europe, where are you when we need you?
However, there is a supporting voice in this silence. Teachers' representatives from a European country expressed solidarity with the Bulgarian teachers. The country in question is not, as you could guess, some of the prosperous and culturally prominent members of "Old Europe". It is the other new EU member, our neighbour Romania. I've watched on TV a Romanian teachers' union leader encouraging Bulgarian teachers to continue their strike. On Oct. 6, teachers from Giurgiu even "crossed Danube Bridge to express support for their Bulgarian colleagues. For reference, the average teacher's salary in Romania from 2008 on will be EUR 500 per month" (source, in Bulgarian; another source reports that the minimum teacher's salary in Romania currently is about EUR 260).
This activism of Romanian teachers is even more admirable if we take into account the relationships between Bulgarians and Romanians. As is common for neighbouring nations, they have little love for each other. In the first half of the 20th century, they had bitter territorial disputes and conflicts. When the Communist era approached its end, another source of conflict emerged: cross-border pollution. I'll tell the Bulgarian side of the story because I know only it, though I am sure Romanians also have what to say. Ceausescu's regime built a number of chemical plants along Danube. Ther were located at the proper distance from the nearest Romanian towns, but no proper distance was observed regarding the nearest Bulgarian towns across Danube. Years ago, visiting a friend in one of our oldest Danube towns, Nikopol, I personally "enjoyed" an orange-brown smelly cloud of toxic gas coming from Turnu Magurele across the river. The worst case of pollution was the city of Ruse, regularly chlorinated by a chemical plant near Giurgiu. In the late 1980s, this undeclared chemical war even sparked one of the rare protests against the Communist regime. In the early 1990s, a fire at the Giurgiu plant threatened the very existence of Ruse. A heroic worker saved the day by securing a plug and so preventing an explosion, at the cost of his life. The problem of Ruse was solved not by Romanian government, Bulgarian government or international intervention but by his majesty the Free Market. In normal economic environment, the Giurgiu plant could only accumulate losses. It was shut down and its utilities were cut to scrap.
In the postcommunist era, the main source of dislike between Bulgarians and Romanians were border, customs and police officers of both countries, who habitually harassed travellers from the other country and forced them to pay bribes. When a Romanian journalist used a hidden camera to document corruption among Bulgarian customs officers, Bulgarian authorities prosecuted not the corrupt officers but the journalist, who was sentenced in 2004 to a fine of EUR 500 (source Mediapool, in Bulgarian).
Tensions between the two countries only increased when they applied for EU membership. Because of their many similarities, Bulgaria and Romania were put together and regarded as a group. During the early years of the procedure, Bulgaria was ahead of Romania in many respects. This created speculations that our EU membership could be postponed because of lagging Romania. Soon appeared the idea that we must demand uncoupling from Romania and leaving it behind. But God punished Bulgarians for this ugly talk. In the later years, Romania developed better and now is so much ahead of Bulgaria that, as we say, we can only breathe its dust in the air. I think that this is because Romanians after 2000 tended to vote wisely while Bulgarians kept going to the polls without bringing along their heads, electing the charismatic swindler Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 2001 and the Bulgarian Socialist Party in 2005, not to mention our Turkish minority empowering the infamous Ahmed Dogan's party. So democracy in Bulgaria proved for the zillionth time that nobody can harm you as much as you can harm yourself.
Now, it would be very easy and logical for Romanians to mind their own business and forget us and our misery. But they voice their support for us. So three cheers for the Romanians and I wish them to be even more ahead of us than they are now!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Online petition to help Bulgaria's abandoned disabled children

This petition is at It is triggered by the shocking BBC film about a Bulgarian institution for disabled children (I've blogged about this film at Unfortunately, the petition is for Bulgarian citizens only.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

End of life in pediatric intensive care unit in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

"End of life" is an euphemism for passive euthanasia and means termination of life support for a patient in an intensive care unit. In pediatric units, end of life means that a premature baby is let to die because he seems unable ever to survive without life support, or will have too severe disabilities to be considered a valuable person by the society. However, the case in Plovdiv was different. Translating from Netinfo (
"A blackout occurred after 9 pm on Saturday in the Multiprofile Hospital in the city of Plovdiv and endangered the lives of seven premature babies. The equipment keeping the babies warm and supplying them with oxygen, food and medications depended on electricity. The hospital has its own power generator only for the lighting. The personnel on duty wanted to ask when power supply would be resumed but nobody answered the emergency phone number of the electricity company EVN that was given to them. The blackout lasted for 1 hour 35 minutes. The patient in most critical condition was a newborn girl weighing only 800 grams who was on artificial ventilation. Six hours later, the baby died. The other six babies in the intensive care unit survived by a hair's breadth. The electricity company said that the blackout was caused by a damaged electric cable near the hospital. They also said they have new emergency phone numbers that can be found in Internet."