EP Today: The Bulgarian choice for Europe

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 believed.

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.