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Bulgarian women received minimal pensions in Greece after showing a rent contract

29 March 2009 / 17:03:47  GRReporter
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Many Bulgarian women received an additional 480 Euros to their pension without even expecting it in their wildest dreams. About this speaks lawyer Tatyana Griva in an interview for Marina Nikolova.

About a month ago the Greek media said that Bulgarians with only one year standing receive the minimal pension. Is this true?

Actually this is not pension but an addition to a pension. The pension plan says that based on the standing and the years worked in Greece, there is a small amount, which comes out as an addition to a pension. Analogically, if you had worked for two years, you will get ?30-?40. The minimum pension of the Greek National Retirement Institute is ?480, which is given as an addition. It is believed that one European citizen cannot live in a European country with ?30-?40. From then on, it is not a problem of the Bulgarian women, who are working here but of the retirement institute.

Have those who received pensions been working here?

They have. But those are single cases and there are not many people. Journalists exaggerate.

Do they receive pensions from Bulgaria?

 Yes, they receive their pension from Bulgaria too. They have houses and properties there. The employers of the retirement institute here always ask “where do you live?” and the answer is “I rent.” There is no criterion for a permanent citizen, because a permanent citizen is the one who rents their apartment. For the retirement institute this is enough to give a pension.

They don’t even need a green card or a residence permit?

They don’t want it and they don’t care. A pension is given based on a rent contract and a declaration, which is given by the institute and it’s filled out there. In the declaration they fill out that they are permanent citizens and that they are applying for an addition to the pension. It is as if the institute is saying “come so we can give you this pension.” At the beginning there were only single cases but after that an avalanche of Bulgarian women came, who went to make a rent contract so they can deceive the institute.

This is why the retirement institute is frozen right now. A decision is announced that based on the 5 years, which she had worked in Greece, she has the right for a ?60 pension, which she receives. But for the rest, which is given as an addition – the ?480 are frozen for now. Otherwise the addition to the pension is monthly and it adds ?60 or ?70, so one can get a minimum pension. We will wait and see what happens.

The Greek National Retirement Institute needs to define some criteria. People must show some kind of a note, which says that they are not Bulgarian citizens anymore, because this will cause them additional problems in the future. The institute does not have any control – they don’t know whether the woman who takes the money will live here or leave back for Bulgaria.

According to me, the problem is in the retirement institute. But there, they are working legally according to a European community directive. I have spoken to the director of the institute and she said “let whoever wants come and control us, we are working legally.”Each decision, which allows such a pension, includes the article in the law and the directive – article #178 from 1987.

What changed after the labor market opened? Is there a need for residence permits and other documents, which allow a person to get a job?

Yes. In any case when someone is hiring a European citizen – independently of whether the person is from Holland, Bulgaria or Romania, there must be an employment contract and the condition for it is to have the necessary documents, which allow residence or work.

Is it easier for Bulgarians to open a business here now?

Yes, now it is easier. Of course, bureaucracy always exists but previously a special document was required for permanent residence or work. It was very hard to get it and you had to show ?60 000 in your bank account as a guarantee – all this is now gone. Now, even if you have a Ltd. firm in Bulgaria, you can open a branch in Greece. But when you consider how many documents are required, then it’s a hassle. According to different statistics about European countries, Greece is the hardest one to start a business in. On the other hand, Bulgaria is the Balkan Hong Kong – you need little money and you can open a firm in a week.

According to you what kind of business do Bulgarians usually do in Greece?

They usually have small businesses, not even average. They open small food, cosmetics stores, some women open sewing stores. There are also transporting firms, which transport passengers and luggage. There are clubs, bars, etc.

Has the number of people starting businesses increased after the easier procedure came?

The desire to start a business has increase. But having in mind that the average age of Bulgarians and the potential here are mostly older women… The young people who live here have learned the language and have lived long enough in Greece to want to make something theirs, in order not to be cleaners or waiters all live.

What brought you to Greece and how did you manage to find a job in the right profession?

I’m married for a Greek and I managed to recognize my diploma. I passed all necessary exams in order to be able to practice as a lawyer.

How did you meet your husband?

He was studying in Bulgaria and when we made he was working on his dissertation. After I graduated from law school, on the fourth-fifth year, we got married. After that I came to Greece. But before that I had travelled a lot – we used to come here every summer and I realized that I like the atmosphere as a way of life, I also liked the climate. For me it was very important to have to live through a long and cold winter. I started learning Greek from Sofia, because I wanted to be ready. For the first one-two years I was among Greek speakers and I was talking in English because I didn’t understand anything.

Did integrate easily?

As a person I am always very open and I never had any problems with integration. I haven’t faced racism, on the contrary, I was greeted with a lot of love. I adapted very fast, especially when I learned the language, which a barrier but when solved, it opens many others.

What do you like in Greece?

I already said that I like the climate here. I like the fact that I am able to work what I have studied for. I have two children. I have several hobbies and I am a president of a small tennis club. Besides that I travel a lot. With the children, I don’t have much time for anything else, but I love playing and studying with them.

Do you go back to Bulgaria often?

Twice every year. My children speak Bulgarian and there even are words, which they firstly learned in Bulgarian and they don’t know in Greek. When they see cotton candy they say that they want cotton candy and not “mali tis grias” (hair of an old woman) as Greek say.

Have your children shared what they like when they return to Bulgaria?

They like the fact that all summer they can play on the streets without being restricted. It is not like here, where you have to be careful of the cars, thieves, or drug addicts. We also go to the Black Sea and we spend as much time as we can there. I want my children to enjoy their time in Bulgaria, so they can have a good opinion of their mother’s country.

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