FORUM

LIBERAL DEMOCRACY SUSTAINS FURTHER BLOWS IN BOYKO BORISOV'S BULGARIA

Yet few expected something as dramatic as that: iPhone snaps of a half-naked prime minister sleeping across his bed, a bedside cupboard full of wads of 500-euro bills. Plus several gold ingots. Plus his favourite gun positioned on top. The images, anonymously sent to several media and subsequently widely circulated to the general public, might have befitted an underworld boss after an orgy of booze, sex and gambling rather than the prime minister of an EU member state. But photos do not lie. Welcome to the bedroom of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 12:04
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BULGARIA, IN THE MEANTIME

Predictably, the coronavirus emergency has made all other events in what remains the EU's poorest and least free state look like insubstantial tidbits. With very few exceptions all media have focused exclusively on the alarmist press conferences of Gen Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, the military doctor who heads the emergency staff, and on the lifts Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has given to his ministers in his private jeep to inspect unfinished stretches of road.

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:53
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ANGRY SOFIANITES

From job opportunities to entertainment options: living in Sofia, Bulgaria's largest city, has its perks. It also has its downsides. This is why Sofianites are an angry lot, eagerly expressing their frustration at queues, while driving and especially on social media. What specifically drives these people crazy? Like in every big city traffic, infrastructure, pollution and overpopulation play their roles. But like unhappy families, each angry city is angry in its own way. Here is a long, but by no means exhaustive list of the things that force locals off their rockers.

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:31
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BULGARIA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Since 13 March 2020 Bulgaria has been run by three generals and a sheriff. First and foremost comes General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski. A surgeon installed to manage the Military Medical Academy in Sofia, Mutafchiyski rose to prominence when he was appointed the head of the emergency National Operative Headquarters. Neither a virologist, nor a psychologist he is seen at daily news briefings where he utilises his military schooling to give out what is in essence increasingly restrictive commands to ban citizens from moving about and gathering together.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 09:42
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IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

"Dimitrina?" I have not heard from her for more than a month, which is unusual.

"Почина."

"Po-chi-na?" I type the word phonetically in an online translation tool. "What?"

"Почина. Me, Dimitrina sister. Bye."

I met Dimitrina on 19 October 2018. She had fallen asleep standing up against the wall of Second Hospital in Sofia, on the corner of Slivnitsa and Hristo Botev Boulevards. A woman with bright fuchsia sneakers the sort teenage girls wear and two blood-red scars on her nose.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:37
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BALANCING OUT IN CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Political science students all over the world are being taught in the early stages of their studies that the best way for an authoritarian government – any authoritarian government – to enhance its own powers is to use a crisis – any crisis – as a justification. The bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity. At a time of a huge crisis it becomes easier to take away citizens freedoms and rights not only with a couple of decrees, but also with the general public applauding from the sidelines.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 08:43
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BULGARIA'S 'DEMOCRATORSHIP'

For a few weeks last autumn Central Sofia was paralysed by mass protests. Nothing like the huge outpour of public energy that had kept the city dysfunctional for months in 2013 and resulted in bringing back Boyko Borisov to power, but still a manifestation of people's will that kept the media – and public consciousness – busy and working. The reason? The proposed appointment of Ivan Geshev for the position of chief prosecutor, the Bulgarian equivalent of the US attorney general.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 09:01
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WHY BULGARIANS ARE LEAVING BULGARIA

You don't have to be in the construction business, or in any other sort of business for that matter, to see that Bulgaria over the past decade has increasingly experienced workforce shortages in anything from service personnel in the restaurants and the hotels to qualified doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, web designers and software engineers. A trip through the Bulgarian countryside will reveal some unpleasant sites. Many villages that once thrived have been deserted, with their population in many cases numbering just a couple of elderly folk.

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 15:49
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FOOTBALL PITCH OUTRAGE HIGHLIGHTS DEEPER PROBLEMS

Those Bulgarians old enough to remember 1994 are now appalled because in 2019 Bulgaria marked its worst ever loss, 0-6. To add insult to injury, the loss happened in Sofia, at the Stalin-era national stadium called Vasil Levski.

What Europe and the world will remember of that warm October evening when Bulgaria lost 0-6 to England, however, is not the outrageous score. Europe and the world will remember what The Guardian billed a miserable occasion… in a miserable stadium against a miserable opposition played out to a miserable backdrop of recrimination and bad blood.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 14:16
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ARRIVAL CITY

As an airplane is swooping over a field beside Sofia Airport, two horses and a donkey do not look up, but keep grazing among the rubbish. Shacks made of bricks, corrugated iron and wood encroach upon the field. Heavy lorries with international logos rush by the shacks on the road from the airport and its business park.

This is an everyday scene from Hristo Botev, a neighbourhood bearing the name of the great Bulgarian 19th century poet and revolutionary.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 13:58
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