Sunday, September 14, 2003

Bulgaria's Difficult Road into Europe

Despite the fact that most Bulgarians look with hope and a sometimes difficult to sustain optimism towards the 2007 horizon, the road is littered with problems. Interesting article from the EU observer today. Just one small quibble, I'm not sure it's still true to say that Bulgaria's population is 8.9 million.

Bulgaria's long bumpy road to EU membership

In the optimistically named Mladost ("Youth") area of Sophia, ugly high-rises and broken-down Ladas balefully remind of the small Eastern Balkan country’s time behind the Iron Curtain. It is here that the ‘Fatherland’ or ‘Rodina’ can be found - one of Bulgaria’s remaining state-owned companies where 15 of its newspapers are printed. In the sweltering heat on the factory floor, Lubteho Kotev (49), who has been working at Rodina for over 16 years, worries that he will be one of the victims of the wave privatisation that is coming to Bulgaria. "We don’t expect very positive changes" says Kotev, who oversees the smooth running of the printing plant. "It's an open secret that the private companies in Bulgaria pay minimum salaries."

He tells of another well-known state-owned company in Bulgaria that was recently bought by an outsider. Most of the workers and machines were replaced. "We are afraid the same things will happen here," says Kotev shaking his head – his cross-shaped earring representing his favourite soccer player, former Bulgarian international Nasko Sirakov, jangles in sympathy. Upstairs, away from the printing machines, the deputy-editor of the Standard newspaper confirms the view on the factory floor. "Jobs will go"

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