What I’m Reading

From the BBC: EU Plans to Block Aid to Bulgaria

The European Commission is planning to block almost $1bn in funds for Bulgaria as a penalty for failing to tackle corruption and organised crime.

A report seen by the BBC warns that millions worth of aid could be lost unless the authorities act decisively.

Bulgaria’s chances of joining the Schengen [border-free zone] area are also at risk.


[The Commission’s report] concludes that Bulgaria “has to make the commitment to cleanse its administration and ensure that the generous support it receives from the EU actually reaches its citizens and is not siphoned off by corrupt officials, operating together with organised crime”.

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have no personal experience with any of this since this type of stuff is way over my head. I work with people in communities and have very little, if any, interaction with the European Union. I’ve noticed more and more headlines regarding Bulgaria have focused on organized crime and corruption. The Daily Press Brief from the US Embassy in the Bulgaria (and made available to Peace Corps Volunteers) shows the daily roundup of Bulgarian news papers have been intently focus on this as well. From everything I’ve read, massive amounts of EU funds to Bulgaria has been siphoned off to corrupt politicians and the mob. What can be most frustrating about this is this the broad daylight some of this stuff occurs. For example, the former Minister of Transportation (who has since lost his job as a result) was accused of stealing EU money earmarked for Bulgaria’s highway projects. He owned a paving company but sold his shares to his brother after he accepted the cabinet post. This company received most of, if not all, the contracts to build and repair Bulgaria’s highways. When pressed on his, he simply replied something to the effect of “It’s my brother’s company, not mine. I have nothing to do with it.” Yeah. Right. As a result of this nepotism, some roads are still in horrible disrepair. My tutor told me that the EU has certain requirements for roads going through mountains; that they must be a certain thickness to withstand the weather. In order to “save money” for “other projects”, the Ministry of Transportation shaved some of the thickness off, leaving some roads in the Rhodopi Mountains in disrepair.

The EU has set up a special commission to monitor all funds going to Bulgaria and Romania. My tutor told me a joke about this. “When we were occupied by the Roman Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting. When we were occupied by the Byzantine Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting. When were were occupied by the Ottoman Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting. When we were occupied by the Soviet Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting. Now the European Union has set up these commissions to monitor our accounting and we will surely destroy the EU!”


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3 Responses to “What I’m Reading”

  1. gogo Says:

    This joke has being repeatedly told before on different sites. And you all guys forget to mention the First Reich and Nazi Germany. Bulgaria was an ally of Germany in both world wars, and in both cases Germany lost :/ It’s a funny thing, really, but I’d say a bit over-stretched and chauvinist. The world’s much more different now. The European Union will not let anyone ruin their accounting and the way I see it, the US won’t either. Things have to change in Bulgaria – especially with regards to public funds being channeled off in corrupt people’s pockets. Such guys deserve to go to jail. You’ve probably already seen the contrast between the extravagant, latest model Mercedes cars on the streets and the miserable salaries of working men and women.

  2. Jimmy Says:

    My understanding is Bulgaria during the Second World War wasn’t a willing ally of Nazi Germany; that the king at the time faced the choice of invasion (since Hitler thought D-Day would start in the Balkans) or begrudingly forming an alliance. As far as I know, the Bulgarian army hardly saw any combat. As for the First World War, wasn’t Bulgaria already occupied with both Balkan Wars? (I don’t mean to sound condecending, I’m asking for verification). I don’t know the circumstances of Bulgaria’s alliance with the Central Powers.

    I agree, the world IS different now and the EU and the US won’t let anyone ruin their accounting. I thought was an interesting historical prespective as well as a pessimistic stance to national events I frequently hear. I agree that such people deserve to go to jail. They are jeopardizing the future of Bulgaria and stealing from the welfare of Bulgarians. I have seen the fancy cars in comparison to what the “average” Bulgarian can afford. Every time I see a Mercedes or similar car (I have actually seen a Ferrari!) I think “There is no legitimate work in this country that can afford that.

  3. gogo Says:

    Thanks so much for replying to my post.
    About WWII – what you say is partly correct. Bulgaria didn’t have much choice, considering it was a small country and considering there was a 1+ million strong Nazi army in 1941 on the Northern border with Romania, waiting to pass across while headed for Greece. Nonetheless, the Bulgarian government and the larger enterprises really had a very strong affiliation with Germany – at some point no less than 80% of all exports/imports were with the Reich. Saving the Roma and Jews community under Hitler was a brave thing to do, and one of the few things we Bulgarians should be proud about. Then again, the declaration of war on the US and the UK, officially issued in December 1941, was actually not quite necessary and quite a stupid thing to do (Sofia was bombed by the allies during the war).

    As it may be, in the First world war, things were a lot different. Bulgaria, at this point, had a thriving economy (despite the Balkan wars). Amazing as it may sound, the two Balkan wars seem not to have exhausted the state one bit! If anything, the armies were better trained and very motivated due to the unfair actions of Bulgaria’s neighbours (1. Bulgaria+Greece+Serbia unite to fight the Ottoman empire; 2. The allies beat the sh&& out of the Turks, with Bulgarian armies almost capturing nowadays Istanbul – Turkey is broken. 3. The Greeks and Serbs sign a treaty to divide most of the conquered land between themselves, excluding Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Tsar declares war on them. 4. The Bulgarian armies turn to face Greeks and Serbs and on a few occasions actually start winning (!). 5. Romania declares war on Bulgaria for whatever reasons. Well yeah, I’m yet to see a country fighting a war on 4 fronts – Turkey, Serbia, Greece and Romania – and winning lol)
    But back in 1914 the wars were over, modern equipment was bought on good terms from Germany, and the country was very very strong. Serbia crumbled – literally – and was occupied bu Bulgaria. Soon after, Romania also fell, being attacked by a joint German/Bulgarian army.

    Anyways, the truth is, the Bulgarian army at that point was simply not adequately prepared for a long-term war. Most people lived in the villages, and they were sort of like used to fighting – and winning – the battles for the year and then getting back to see to their cattle and reaping the fields.
    When the war dragged on, the Bulgarian army was the first to crack in Southern Serbia, being attacked by a huge group of allied forces. Actually it was the first time that Bulgarians ever saw “live” Indians in traditional attire from the colonies, Asean people, black people from Africa.

    So cutting the long story short, Bulgaria was a very eager and key participant in WWI. In the end, it is true we chose the wrong partner (Germany). Bulgaria had a choice back then. Politicians blew it. The results were catastrophic, and some of the consequences are felt to this day.

    I know, I am a history freak…. : ) Sorry about those insanely long posts : )))

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