Emil Stoyanov was born in 1959 in Plovdiv.
In 1991 he founded Pygmalion Publishing House.
In 2001 he founded the first Bulgarian news television company EVROPA, which he successfully managed for 15 years. In 2016 Stoyanov sold his shares in TV EVROPA and left its management.
In 2009 he was elected MEP from the civic quota of PP GERB. He became the first Bulgarian member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and the Media.
In 2017 he founded the electronic news site DEBATI.
How will you remember 2019? Was it good for us Bulgarians or not? Did any historical event take place during the year?
There were no remarkable events in Bulgaria last year – not ones that will remain in the history books, for better or for worse. Our economy has continued its good development of the last twenty years and has grown by another 3.5%. This is more than twice the average growth of all other EU countries. People’s income has also increased, especially in the big cities. This is due to the stability and wealth of the huge market of the European Union, of which our country is already an organic part from which we derive many benefits. Already more than 75% of Bulgaria’s exports are to member states.
On the other hand, it seems that the political and public debate has subsided. This is a bad sign for democracy. One party has been in power for 10 years practically, there is no efficient opposition in Parliament and the media are enamoured with the ruling party. From this point of view, we are actually moving away from the European model.
On the other hand, this circumstance does not seem to bother our society; therefore we could conclude that our attitudes and mindset are closer to Eurasian than to European political realities.
Bulgaria has been a member of NATO and the EU for over 10 years now. We have undoubtedly become richer, but are we more European now? Are we more sensitive to the values of democracy?
Of course, we are more European now – at least, due to the fact that half of the Bulgarians have had the opportunity to travel in the West. As a result, we have established without any difficulty that there is no better model for the lives of people than the Western European model. The problem is that for various reasons we like the European funds, but we do not like the European democratic values. In terms of democratic values, we are always looking for ways to cheat, as in the case of the Venice Commission. However, to think that the European institutions do not analyze daily the developments in our country or that they can be manipulated is rather naive. We cannot delude the EU institutions. Even the British, whose economy is 50 times bigger than ours, cannot outsmart them. We cannot outsmart the European institutions with either our constant pretence of being some sort of mediator between Europe and Russia. This is not only naive, it is dangerous. If we do not start to see our society as part of the West, we will inevitably become like Ukraine and Belarus.
You have been following the political processes in Bulgaria and Europe for years. Many analysts are concerned about the future of the European Union because of the increasing power of populists and Brexit. What is your forecast for the next decade from domestic and European perspective?
The era of European tranquillity and prosperity, personified by Merkel and Juncker is over. Brexit and President Trump will push the EU towards fundamental reforms. Bulgarian leaders need to realize this without delay, because we can quickly and easily be placed in the “backyard” of the Union. Technically this would not be difficult, because we were unable able to join Schengen or the Eurozone. In fact, being outside of Schengen and the Eurozone is our biggest failure – it is a failure for both our politicians and administration, as well as for the entire Bulgarian society. This failure is likely to incur long-term negative consequences.
My personal prediction is that due to the obvious difficulties for post-communist countries (Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc.) to integrate into European values and democratic systems, the European Union will move towards a gradual divide into 2 parts or 2 speeds as it is customary to say. In fact, this is Macron’s plan, shared by most Western European countries. Most probably they will tell us at some point: ‘Well, we remain economically connected and the common market will continue to work, but as regards politics and democratic institutions, we leave you to deal with your post-communist nostalgia and your undemocratic reflexes. We are the first speed, and you continue as you wish …”
This would be a very bad scenario for Bulgaria, because the next step will inevitably be in the direction of Eurasia, which is actually the plan and policy of Putin and Russia.
In 2019 freelance journalism faced a number of crises. Freedom of the media is one of the basic tenets of democracy, however many prominent experts, including the Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, has said that in Bulgaria there is a “media civil war” going on. What in your opinion is the state of the media environment?
For 25 years I have been involved in media and in the real sector, as well as in the European Parliament Media Commission. The situation with the media in our country has never been worse. The new launch of Radio Free Europe in our country is a proof of that and it is also a very negative verdict on the freedoms in Bulgaria in general. I am not even talking about our country being ranked in 111th place by Reporters Without Borders, but with the naked eye one can see that 90% of the media gravitate around the authorities. The media even organized protests in defence of the ruling power, which is our indisputable contribution to democracy.
Hence, politicians need to take immediate action as, without freedom of the media, we will surely fall out of the European configuration, regardless of our economic achievements. Turkey is also experiencing economic growth but will never join the EU.
What is the role of the intelligentsia and has it occupied a proper and important place and role in the management of society during the years of Transition? Did their knowledge and behaviour influence the development of the political elite during this period?
This question is very important for Bulgaria. The democratic changes in our country, some successful some not so much, were achieved by the Bulgarian intelligentsia and the Bulgarian people paid the price for them. I mean both the right and left intelligentsia. In the first twenty years after the fall of communism, politics in Bulgaria was dominated by highly educated people. This was largely the reason for our accession to the European Union and NATO. However, as a result of the fierce confrontation between the post-communist elite and the new democratic elite, both the right and left elites were destroyed. This vacuum brought to power more pragmatic people but lacking the necessary expertise. In the long run, this will not yield positive results.
Nevertheless, I do not believe that it is now possible to bring back the old elites, and it probably would not make sense because they already played their historical role. I hope instead that the generation of the 1980s and 1990s, which does not remember communism and is familiar with European politics and values, will gradually take on governing positions and lead our country according to its ideas and choices.