The Faces of EU – Bulgaria

An interview with Ivan Petrov, a student from Sofia and an active participant in various political projects.

Before we jump right in, let’s see what young people in Estonia have to say about Bulgarian domestic and foreign policy.

Do you know anything about Bulgarian domestic and foreign policy?

23%: yes

77%: no

“British Bulgarians want to get their own autonomy in the country”

“nice beaches, and a lovely holiday destination”

Tell me about yourself. Are you an active community member? If yes, why do you feel it’s important? Is it a normal thing in your country/community to do so?

My name is Ivan, I’m a 17 year old student from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. My interests are Politics, Filmmaking and Architecture. I try to be an active community member to the fullest of my abilities, because I want to take every chance to improve the world I live in and take part in making those decisions. In Bulgaria, this is not a common thing for young people – they are mostly surrounded by the stigma of corruption in politics, as well as the inability to actually have an effect.

How is youth activism organised in your nation and what is the role of the EU in it?

Youth activism is a very uncommon thing in our conservative Eastern European nation. So much so that this interview might actually contribute the most change than anything I have done in a while.

How do people in your country perceive the EU? How do politicians?

The everyday person’s perception of the EU would be pretty neutral. It is more of the idea of world peace and better future, without many direct improvements of our everyday lives. The two major political coalition oppositions are divided into pro- and anti-EU. Liberal and Conservative, holding predominantly the votes of the younger and elder population, respectively (also of the urban and rural citizens).

What does the EU mean for you personally?

For me, the EU means unlocking a whole new continent of opportunities. It means a whole continent coming together.

How would you describe your country to a foreigner?

Bulgaria is a 1300-year-old hidden gem of a country. Located on the Balkan peninsula, our vast natural vistas span from high mountain peaks to golden beaches, meeting long winding rivers, dense forests, hot mineral water springs and even a desert in between. The diversity in nature is only complimented by our rich culture and strong spirit.

What do you hope for your country to achieve or develop in?

It might be at the bottom of many statistics but to me, Bulgaria is doing quite alright. We could always do better though. A stronger economy, higher education standards and better infrastructure could go a long way in improving our reputation.

How will you contribute to achieving this goal?

These now dreams were better present 150 years ago, around the time we got liberated from the Ottoman Empire. The rich would send out the young and smart to the West in order to study in universities, with the goal of coming back and helping the country. That is what I plan on doing.

How can the EU contribute to the prosperity of your country?

Most of my country’s population and I would really appreciate the EU focusing on us and appreciating our presence more. We have been in the Union for 16 years yet we feel neglected, compared to other EU countries. A month ago we got refused from Schengen, even though we are protecting the external borders and we serve as the main gateway to Asia and China. 

What do you think the EU will look like in 30 years?

I really hope I could optimistically dream of a perfect European Union, thirty years down the line. I wish there to be no borders and a universal application of the Euro, tethered with a strong economy and flawless infrastructure.

Bulgarians headed to the polls to elect their MPs three times in 2021, and then again in October 2022. What’s happening? What kind of impact did it have on the political landscape of Bulgaria and what do you think the long-term implications of this are?

The political landscape of Bulgaria is our contemporary history culminating in a collapse. Since we’ve been liberated at the end of the 19th century, we have undergone installed monarchies, a communist regime, and an attempt at democracy, closer to oligarchy. What is happening is that the people are growing tired of that and have been giving their best to fight the last party in power. However, we have reached a 50-50 state, where we are unable to form a government. It is hard to know what is going to happen.  

NOTE: Also I feel it is important to say that all things said, the EU is still the major source of hope for Bulgaria.

Image: Denitsa Kirilova, Pexels

The campaign is sponsored by the German Embassy in Tallinn

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