In the late autumn of 1989, with the collapse of the communist regime, many of my former classmates and friends emigrated because they did not believe in the future of Bulgaria, or more precisely they did not believe that it was possible for Bulgaria to become part of the Western European community, a prospect which attracted them irresistibly.
I think many of those who remained also believed.
Then, just twenty years ago, those who left began their uneasy years as emigrants. Some worked very hard, some
resumed their studies , some found themselves living in poverty, although nobody ever admit ted it. Eventually, they achieved their Euro pean future, even though many had expected a different reality.
At the same time, we in Bulgaria began our first lessons in democracy and the market economy.
With much effort I, for example, created the Pygmalion publishing house for European litera ture. Then, with considerably greater effort, I created TV Evropa, the first pro-European
news television broadcaster. This is now seen every day by about a million Bulgarians around the world. Meanwhile, Iwas singing and crying on the streets together with hundreds of
thousands of Bulgarians and I am proud that our joint efforts ensured the European future of Bulgaria, even if that future is not exactly as we had imagined.
For me, the pro-European orientation of Bulgaria was a cause behind which Ihad stood long before the Bulgarian politicians could clearly formulate it and before Bulgarian society had reconsidered it and adopted it as their own. Igrew up in a family of patriots and, together with the books of Simeon Radev and Zahari Stoyanov, thus, I was aware of the negative role of Russia and the Soviet Union in the his tory of Bulgaria. My conviction that Bulgaria should be part of the West-European family was very firm. So without any hesitation I took the pro-Western position through the books and the international initiatives of the Pygmalion publishing house.
As a reminder, during this time my colleagues had been publishing forgotten love stories and were nostalgically attracted by post-Soviet literature. The same was also true of TV Evropa, which had set, as is evident from its name, a pro-European policy and pro-European spirit as an absolute priority. Meanwhile, the other TV broadcasters were occupied with Big Brother and the stupid jokes of various ridiculous “outcasts”. The reason for relating this background is to make it clear why Ihold the convictions Ido today. ·
In the middle of the 90s, more politicians and Bulgarians began to embrace the European idea. It is fair to say that the new genera tion of non-communist Bulgarian politicians has been able to realise and implement the pro-Western course of the country much faster than the Bulgarian people and Bulgarian voters.
Had this not been the case, we would today resemble the Ukraine and Georgia. We Bulgarians can be proud that, when we had the opportunity to choose, both after gaining our independence in the late 19th century and after the fall of Communism in the late 20th century, we made our choice in favour of Western Europe and its values.
I’m glad that what 20 years ago many people thought impossible, and consequently prompted them to leave Bulgaria, has actually become reality. I do not know whether the people who emigrated are happy today, but I do know we miss them. I also know that we will miss them even more in the future because they could contribute to the modernization of Bulgaria. But this is another story.
After becoming a full member of NATO and the EU, it seems that for the first time in our history our East versus West choice is final.
However, is this really so?
The complex European history teaches us that nothing is final. Could Bulgarian society again be surprised by a Berlin Congress or a Yalta conference, caused perhaps by a severe economic crisis or some other misfortune? Might Western Europe give in to an increasingly aggressive Russia and exchange Eastern European countries for oil and security? From today’s perspective, this is not possible because the well performing Euro pean economies need Eastern markets and labour power from Eastern Europe. Western elites very well understand this and are united on this topic.
On the other hand, Western politicians who are being elected by less educated and more xenophob ic voters , who preach euroscepticism and create distrust towards the new member states of the European Union, constantly appear. What would hap pen if a future government of Eurosceptics coincided with a very severe economic crisis?
Today, we do not yet know whether the current crisis is severe or very severe .
Each similar situation, however, raises ques tions about the European choice of Bulgaria, both inside Bulgaria and in Western Europe. I do not want to imagine what would happen if we fail to follow our European choice. Then, the possibility arises that we could again be
persuaded that our way lies in the direction of Moscow or the Bosphorus. In any case, nobody should doubt that we would become a very sad eastern territory.
Therefore, it would be good to have a national consensus among the politicians, the various national elites and the media in this regard; to speak and act exclusively by European standards, both within the country and on the broader European stage.
It is essential that those in power and the opposition in complex times achieve dialogue and actions which do not undermine the authority of Bulgaria, regardless of any political convictions and despite the severity of internal political contradictions because, if we discard the European choice, I have no idea how we could explain our actions to our children and grandchildren.