In the Guardian, John O’Brennan brings us up to date on the much less reported-on protests in Bulgaria:
Bulgarians are protesting against far-reaching and systematic corruption and the “capture” of the state by rent-seeking oligarchic networks. Oresharski was appointed by the BSP to head a so-called “expert” government, after a general election in April produced a tight outcome. The technocratic government came about because the leading figures within the two largest political parties, the BSP and the centre-right Gerb (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) were widely discredited. And although the prime minister has now withdrawn the appointment of Peevski, for protesters the episode suggested that even respected figures like Oresharski are incapable of shaking off the shadowy world of oligarchic power in Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria it is often impossible to know where organised crime ends and legitimate business begins. The nexus between the two is characterised by complex bureaucratic structures, opaque corporate accounting and a maze of offshore accounts. In Varna, Bulgaria’s third largest city, the protests have taken direct aim at TIM, a business conglomerate allied to Gerb and long the real power in the region. Some estimates suggest that it controls up to 70% of Varna’s economy, including most of the tourist infrastructure. When protesters in Varna yell “M-A-F-I-A” they are automatically collapsing business into politics and implicating local municipal officials as the agents of this powerful oligarchic network.
Varna perfectly illustrates why the current protests are largely non-party-political and anti-politics in tone: the definitive division in today’s Bulgaria is no longer between right and left, but between the citizens and the mafia. This is a world where the guilty don’t just go unpunished; they ascend to the highest citadels of power.
Although corruption and the abuse of power are the central themes of this protest, economic hardship also plays a role. New data from the EU demonstrates that Bulgarians have the lowest standard of living in the European Union, at around 50% of the EU average. Even Croatia, which will accede to the EU on 1 July, is significantly more prosperous than Bulgaria.
Romania’s Gandul has a bit of fun at Britain’s expense:
Public fears in the UK over mass immigration by Eastern Europeans has prompted a peculiar response from Romania: One newspaper published a series of ads playing on British cultural stereotypes, and saying why people should move to Romania instead.
“Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water,” one of the ads proudly states, hinting at the high costs of living in the UK. Another ad made fun of British cuisine: “We serve more food groups than pies, sausage, fish and chips.”
Other ads touched upon politics, weather and even women: “Half of our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.”
The ‘Why don`t you come over?’ ad campaign was designed by the online Romanian newspaper Gandul and GMP Advertising firm in response to numerous reports in the British media about a possible government initiative to launch a negative ad campaign discouraging Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to work in Britain.
Update, 13 September: The campaign just won a Gold Award at AdStars.
A recent discovery in Bulgaria promises to tell us more about the culture of the Getae, a powerful tribe in Thrace:
Archaeologists in Bulgaria are chuffed today to announce that golden treasures and artifacts produced by the ancient Thracians have been discovered in a subterranean tomb complex in the north of the country.
The treasures include snake-headed bracelets, a golden crown or tiara type affair, a golden horse head and piles of smaller solid gold items including rings, statuettes and buttons. They’re thought to date from the third century BC and to have been produced by the Getae, a tribe among the ancient Thracians.
[. . .]
Thracian warriors played prominent parts in many of the wars of antiquity. The peltast javelineer style of fighting was said to have originated in Thrace, gradually superseding the armoured hoplite warrior: an entire phalanx of the formidable Spartans was crushed by peltasts fighting for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and the lightly armoured Greek/Thracian warriors are also said to have inflicted severe damage on heavy Persian cavalry.
Alexander the Great — from the neighbouring area of Macedonia — is also said to have used Thracian mercenaries in his world-spanning campaigns, and later on Thracian warriors were prominent in the armies of Rome and then the Eastern empire. In particular, the famous gladiator and rebel Spartacus had originally been a Roman auxiliary soldier from Thrace. Later on — after the fall of Rome, when the Empire was ruled from Constantinople — both the emperor Justinian and the great general Belisarius are said to have been Thracians.