Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Buzludzha

12 July, 2009

It was one of the coolest places I’ve been to in Bulgaria. Last weekend I went to the old communist party headquarters. The building was located on top of a mountain overlooking the rose valley.  It would be hard to reach it without a car.

A perfect location for all the head hanchos to meet and lead the country, right? In the distance you can (sort of) make out a little “rook” like building. That is the site where the Bulgarian and Russian armies turned back the Ottomans in 1877-78. It was Bulgaria’s Saratoga.

Given this history of the area, it’s too bad the building they built to rule the country looked like a UFO…

I’m not really sure what they were going for there but it’s interesting nonetheless. A flying saucer with a smoke stack.
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Seven Bulgarian Scandals

30 June, 2009

June 30 (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s Socialist-led government has been plagued by high-level corruption scandals during its four years in power, prompting the European Union to freeze millions of euros in aid for the bloc’s poorest member.

Brussels criticised Sofia for failing to cut links between virtually all political parties and “rings of companies”, a phrase used by Ahmed Dogan — the kingmaker in the ruling coalition and leader of the ethnic Turkish MRF — to explain how parties are funded.

Last year, Transparency International rated Bulgaria the most corrupt EU nation. Despite numerous pledges, Sofia has not convicted a single senior official of graft and has sent to jail only one crime boss since the end of communism in 1989.

Suspected criminals have received temporary immunity from prosecution after registering to run for parliament.

The agriculture and environment ministries, both controlled by the MRF, and the construction and the economy ministries, controlled by the Socialists, have been allegedly involved in some of the most notorious schemes in the past few years.

Here are the main scandals:
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Border Tensions

28 January, 2009

This doesn’t directly impact me or my work here, but it’s been in the news quite a bit recently. Greek farmers have a beef with Bulgaria, saying they have been flooding the Greek market with cheaper commodities and it’s ruining several farmers. In response, several rouge Greek farmers have set up blockade on the main road to Bulgaria (as well as Macedonia and Turkey) and this has been going on for nine days!

Greek roadblocks anger Bulgaria

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)

Lorry drivers fear their cargoes will spoil while they wait at the border

Bulgaria has asked the European Commission to intervene because a border blockade by Greek farmers is preventing goods getting through.

In a letter to the commission, Bulgaria said its hauliers were incurring heavy losses and it demanded that Greece open a transport corridor.

The farmers want help from the Greek government as their industry has been hit by low food prices and bad weather.

They say an aid offer worth 500m euros (£468m; $650m) does not go far enough.

The farmers are now into their ninth day of protests, which have also shut border crossings to Turkey and Macedonia.

Bulgaria’s main road transport association, Basat, says it will sue the Greek state for compensation. It estimated that by Saturday the Greek protest had caused Bulgaria losses of nearly 10m euros, not counting losses from non-fulfilment of contracts.

These blockades can also make for some humorous stories, such as:

Greek Farmers Attempt to Invade Bulgaria in Protest, Border Blockaded

Click to enlarge the photo
Greek farmers tried to storm the Bulgarian border after midnight on Thursday. Photo by actualno.com

About 100 Greek farmers with tractors invaded Bulgaria’s territory briefly at about 1 am Thursday close to the Kulata Border Crossing Point, the BGNES news agency reported.

Many of the Greek farmers are reported to have been drunk. Their group was accompanied by teams from three Greek TV channels.

The farmers advanced with 15 tractors through the bridge on the Bistritsa River close to Kulata. They were met immediately by the Bulgarian border police, and told them they wanted to enter into Bulgaria as part of their ongoing protests against falling commodity prices.

So yea, my country got invaded by drunk farmers (not to belittle the plight of the Greeks, but it is amusing). Thanfully, we were able to repel them.