FORUM

ARE EAST EUROPEANS RACIST?

I'm sorry to report that today, on the ground floor of our building, I found a fresh pile of human excrement. It took me by surprise, but it is only the last instalment in a series of unprovoked attacks on the building. So far it has featured the theft of bikes and the smashing of window panes on the entrance door. When a workman came in a white van to put in a new pane of glass, I went to chat to him and let off some steam. Turned out he had far more steam to let off. In fact, he was the human Flying Scotsman.

"What's wrong with them, why do they do this?" I asked rhetorically.

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ALL CHAOTIC ON THE EASTERN FRONT

No one has expected Bulgaria to become an exemplary EU member from the very beginning of its membership, but then no one has anticipated no change whatsoever in its immigration and labour regulations concerning EU citizens.

The Foreign Ministry told VAGABOND at the end of January that Bulgaria would open up its labour market regardless of the "transition period" protective measures imposed on Bulgarians' right to work and live in the EU by a number of EU countries, including the UK and Ireland.

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CREEPING IN QUIETLY

Those Bulgarians who reached Britain in the early days after EU accession should be sure to mention Saddam Hussein in their bedtime prayers. In his final hours, the former Iraqi dictator spoke of his execution as self-sacrifice. He perhaps hadn't pictured Bulgarian emigres as the ones who'd go free in his stead. But, as in many countries, Saddam's hanging just before New Year filled virtually every page of every newspaper in Britain for days, leaving no room for those other bogeymen the media plainly had in their sights: our new EU cousins from Romania and Bulgaria.

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BIG BUSINESS

Whether you’ve invested in a sun, ski, city, golf or spa location in Bulgaria, if you want to see a serious rental return on your investment, you need to ensure that it ticks all the boxes for holidaying visitors.

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QADHAFIADA

On New Year's Eve, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians wore small paper national flags pinned to their coats. These were not in celebration of the country's historic accession to the EU, but an expression of solidarity with five Bulgarians sentenced to death by a Libyan court.

"You are not alone," read the message on the ribbons. And it was more or less true. A kind of national mourning has been in place in Bulgaria for almost eight years now concerning the fates of the five Bulgarian nurses in Libya who recently received death sentences for a second time.

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THE BULGARIAN UMBRELLA

On Waterloo Bridge in Central London, on 7 September 1978, a man was "accidentally" stabbed with an umbrella. Four days later, at St James's Hospital in Balham, that man died in excruciating pain. The autopsy at Wandsworth Public Mortuary revealed a tiny pellet had been injected into his thigh. The pellet had gone undetected on the X-rays. It was later taken to the Chemical Defence Establishment in Porton Down. A team of forensic experts, including a CIA operative, examined the pinhead-sized object and found it to be concave, with two tiny holes in it. But it was empty.

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COMPLAINING TO THE ARMENIAN PRIEST

Scholars disagree about the exact origin of this relatively recent Bulgarian idiom. Some claim that the priest in question was an important man in Istanbul in the 19th Century, who even had connections in the Supreme Porte. Those wishing to express their dissatisfaction with the inefficiency of the Ottoman bureaucracy would use him as an intermediary for their interests; a simple call from the Armenian priest was said to be more helpful than dozens of official letters to the various levels of the administration.

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COMING IN FROM THE COLD

Bulgaria has entered the EU after 17 years of economic transition on the thorny way to market economy and Western values. Unrivalled celebrations, lavishly organised by the government, spread the "spirit of Europe" across the country. The new European millennium for Bulgaria started at the beginning of 2007. Mr Balkanski, dressed up in a tailored three-piece pinstripe suit, met old Madam Europe and seduced her with his charms and promises over a bowl of tripe soup and home-brewed rakiya.

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BIG BROTHER'S LOOKING THE OTHER WAY

With the collapse of the Soviet regime and the subsequent opening of borders, the Russian diaspora in Western Europe and the US has lost part of its charm. The romantic image established over the years by Tsarist emigres and dissidents has been shattered by the invasion of the crassly-mannered nouveau riche into tourist hot spots and the immigration of hundreds of thousands of people ready to do anything to survive.

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