Blogging is a pretty solitary affair so it was a real pleasure to get an approach from the man behind Boffy’s Blog and asked if I would be interested in doing the odd guest post on his blog about political events going on in the Balkans. I can, of course, speak only about the 2 countries in which I’ve lived for the past decade and more – Bulgaria and Romania - about which I have occasionally posted. Boffy’s invitation coincided with the start of the street protests in Sofia
In recent weeks, events in Belarus have meant that the world’s attention to the Sofia drama - now into its third month – has slipped down the agenda. Somewhat belatedly, therefore, let me bring my readers up to speed – starting with this introductory summary of my particular interest. My Guest Post will then follow – in two parts….
Bulgaria (7 million souls) and Romania (19 million) entered the EU in 2007 - with British stereotypes of the countries covering such images as poisoned umbrellas, cheap plonk, vampires, sea and sand and, more recently, both casual labour and professional skills.
Apart from that, we know little about either country – although some people may have a vague memory of Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson arriving in Bucharest in 1941 in the TV series based on Olivia Manning’s brilliant “Fortunes of War - the Balkan Trilogy”. Only a handful of anglo-saxon historians and the occasional writer (such as Kapka Kassabova) offer insights about the two countries
Coincidentally, 2007 was the year I returned to a mountain house in the Carpathians after a spell of 8 years in Central Asia – only to go to Sofia to lead a project for training Bulgarian regional officials in the compliance system for EC regulations (in those days the migration was both ways!).
The powers-that-be were obviously sleeping when the bids for the contract were opened that day - because it was an Italian company which slipped through the nets to win the multi-million project. And it was therefore with some difficulty that the team I headed was actually permitted, after some delay, to start its work.
But I took both countries so much to my heart that I spent the next decade wintering in Sofia and summering in Romania; and it is from this vantage point that I dare to offer comment on what are actually very complex recent developments in both countries.
Those interested in knowing more can tap into the two E-books I have written about the countries –