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The European South has failed financially, the East politically

25 December 2013 / 13:12:08  GRReporter
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The problem is not that some textbook representatives of the current political class have climbed up the ladder of power. The problem is that the government itself has descended to their level. However, those over three million people who did not vote should assume much of the responsibility for this too. It seems that, out of the immortal habit of communist times, one thinks, "this country is not mine, the best thing I can do is to outsmart it or to escape from it, others should think about it, make decisions and assume responsibility". To change this attitude, we must first begin to love our country and ourselves, and start believing that it is ours and that we can change it. Then, what you call "the political class" might be embarrassed. Now it has nothing to fear, the toothless and bumptious institutions, much of the media and civil society are not disturbing it. I agree with those who want a majority electoral system in two rounds but I do not see which of the ruling parties will accept it.
The national parliaments of Bulgaria and Greece already involve extreme right-wing and left-wing parties. Do you expect that this situation will reach the European Parliament?

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta have recently warned in a speech about such a high probability. The rise of various types of populism like extreme nationalism, separatism, xenophobia, racism and of fascist organisations such as Golden Dawn is a fact everywhere in Europe and this is one of the signs of the crisis. It shows that the crisis is not only economic and financial but it is also a crisis of the political model and values. These ideas and groups intervene where a vacuum of the trust in Europe has formed. They benefit from people’s anxiety, anger and despair.

Greece is a typical example due to the shock reforms, which it has had to experience. But despite the fact that they have got drastically poorer, Greeks are still richer than Bulgarians (see Eurostat) and I hope that they are beginning to understand the meaning of social insecurity which has been typical for their northern neighbours for 24 years already, since the fall of communism. In Bulgaria, the nationalist and anti-European discourse is due to the lack of a tangible positive effect of the EU membership. The Bulgarians suffered with dignity a lot of difficult reforms in order for the country to become an EU member. The Bulgarians experienced what the Greeks are experiencing now in the years after the introduction of the currency board in 1997. However, the expected higher standard of living and more equitable society have never materialized. Poverty, the mafia and oligarchs, organised crime and corruption are still here. Young and educated people are leaving the country en masse because they are seeing no prospects for development in this sick and perverse society. The country has lost nearly 2 million people who have emigrated since 1990. So, in such a situation, one may reasonably ask, "What was the meaning of becoming an EU member? Where is Europe? Why is it not helping us?" This doubt and lack of faith are the basis of populism. It quickly "infects" and involves many people because it offers easy explanations and simple solutions, which are accessible to all, namely to expel the foreigners, to sterilize the Gypsies, to nationalize the factories, to kick out the foreign investors, to break up the European Union, to unite with Russia, China, etc. Such ideas quickly "make the masses drunk" but the awakening from that "drunkenness" is painful because the aforementioned explanations and solutions are utopian. They usually serve a handful of political scammers who themselves do not believe in them.

Unlike Greece, Bulgaria has a class which is hampered by Europe and which benefits from this type of populism. I am convinced that this class would not hesitate to drag the country out of the EU if it had a chance to do so. It has always put its interests above national ones. These are the offspring of some of the former communist nomenclature, the former secret services. For them, it is vital to preserve Russia’s influence at the expense of Europe’s. Their interests are supported by the Attack party. It does not meet the cliché of a "far-right" party. This extreme nationalist anti-European party uses far-left rhetoric; it wants nationalisation, calls the foreign investors "colonists", glorifies China and Cuba and objectively works in favour of the interests of Putin's Russia in Bulgaria.

The rise of populism is a warning to the pro-European parties, whether they are left, right or centrist, that they have to forget their differences when it comes to saving Europe. Now the dividing line is not between the traditional left and right wings but between Europe and anti- Europe. This is a conceptual dividing line associated with values too and it is testing the political maturity of societies. In purely practical terms, if populist parties took enough seats in the next European Parliament, they would be able to hinder the adoption of legislation that would put an end to the crisis and overcome its consequences by stimulating employment and growth. And most of all, they would be able to hinder the European integration, without which there would be no guarantees that a crisis like this one would not be repeated. In addition, the EU would become increasingly irrelevant to the process of globalisation.

Tags: PoliticsEuropean ParliamentPolitical extremesRefugeesMigrationElectionsBulgariaSergey StanishevAttackReform blocVeselin Zhelev
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