Milen Marinov tells us the story of Bulgaria, his homeland where despite EU membership, corruption still exists but this is a story of hope and a future that Milen is ready to fight for and we all at Europa United salute him and his fellow Bulgarians on this important day for Europe.

I was born in Eastern Europe when the communist system was in period of decline. There were no more severe repressions or forced labour camps with fading functions. The communist leader of my country was more a hero in jokes, than a frightening dictator. That’s why Western Europe, was no longer the object of desperate hope that it had been for previous generations.

Of course, we all knew, that “in West everything is much better”, that “they have more freedom and live much better than us”. But like children we didn’tt feel very oppressed or poor at all.

The difference appeared later.

Democracy came in Eastern Europe with the 1990s. Democracy came, but freedom and a better life did not.

From the dead body of communism crawled the plague of new type criminals – known in Russia like “Novye Russkie” or “The New Russians”, and in Bulgaria famous like “bortzi”, which means “wrestlers” or “fighters”.  In early 90s hardworking and enterprising Bulgarians created dozens of thousands companies and start-ups. Less than one of ten from them survived to 1997. Offices had been burned, shops had been destroyed, entrepreneurs had been beaten and sometimes killed by these “bortzi”. The backbone of the Bulgarian small and middle business had been crushed in those days.

And in these violent and muddy times appeared the new dream- about a European Union like place of rule of law, peace and stability where your property is protected, your initiatives will be encouraged and where you can work, study and progress, without threats, racketeering and frauds.
And we fought for this dream. In the winter of 1996-1997, Bulgarians put their country on a European course. After years of hard reforms, the country became a member of NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. In 2014, the EU fully opened its labour market for us and nowadays Bulgarians can live, work and study everywhere they want within the Union.

But the struggle hasn’t come to an end. We have yet to achieve our dream. My country is tattered and torn from corruption, internal divisions and a high crime rate. These “bortzi” from the 90s entered in politics and occupied the business world. They formed new class of oligarchy with roots deep in the dark.

But we will never give up.

Me, and many people like me,  are determined to transform our country into proper European state.

And we will succeed.

Milen Marinov
Bulgarian journalist and devoted to the European cause.

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