Year in Review 2017: Bulgaria in September

Written by on December 19, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Year in Review 2017: Bulgaria in September

On the first day of September 2017, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva meets her Montenegrin counterpart Srdjan Darmanović in Podgorica and says Bulgaria would spare no effort to ensure that Montenegro joins the European Union as soon as the country is ready with all the necessary reforms. What she does not say is that not even Bulgaria was ready with necessary reforms, 10 years and 8 months after its EU accession.

Ekaterina Zaharieva wants to back an EU accession of Montenegro.

As expected, Bulgaria’s tourist numbers explode. Almost 5 million foreign tourists have chosen Bulgaria as a travel destination from January through July of 2017. This amounts to an increase of 7.2 percent, compared to the same period last year. Most foreign tourists in Bulgaria hit the Black Sea beaches.

Balchik has just one of countless beaches in Bulgaria. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The Dutch European Parliament member Kati Piri says, thousands of European Union citizens again experienced serious obstacles because of corruption in Bulgaria, being forced to pay off border police and fraudulent fines to traffic police. The complaints Piri received are credible, also because they fit the description of corruption schemes which have been registered at Bulgaria’s borders since the collapse of communism.

New complaints about corruption at Bulgaria’s borders surface in September.

September 15 is the first day of school after Bulgaria’s long summer vacations. Problems surface, even before that day arrives. Thousands of first-graders are not “covered by our education system”, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reports. The authorities do not know where they are of if they will be coming to school. The next problem: The renovation of many school buildings will not be completed by the first day of school.

Bulgarian school kids. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

A national security report adopted by Bulgaria’s Cabinet that names Russia as one of the main foreign policy risks causes a stormy reaction among political parties in the National Assembly on September 13. According to the report, “the actions of Russia as a source of regional instability also threatens our basic goal of a united, free and peaceful Europe”. This riles the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, lineal successor to the communist party, whose regime held Bulgaria in the closest orbit to the Kremlin.

Some parties in Parliament don’t like to read the words “Russia” and “threat” in one sentence. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

As if the weather could read calendars, temperatures in Bulgaria decrease substantially on the first day of autumn. After an extreme winter and an extreme summer, it is suddenly easier to breathe, at average autumn temperatures.

On September 21, temperatures in Bulgaria slump. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The discussion about Bulgaria and the Schengen area continues. Shortly after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had stated the Schengen Area needed to be opened for Bulgaria and Romania immediately, he was rebuffed. “As long as the European Union’s external borders are not safe enough, there will have to be internal border checks”, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, says. More and more politicians in Germany and Austria follow suit.

For Bulgaria, Schengen seems to be as far away as ever, in September of 2017.

Also in September, a Bulgarian parliamentary committee calls for going back to square one on fighter jet acquisition, the discussion on which had started while Bulgaria was governed by Ognyan Gerdzhikov’s caretaker government. In the meantime, Former Air Force general and today’s President of Bulgaria Roumen Radev says “Iran’s Hassan Rohani is extremely well-meaning”, after meeting him at the UN in New York. No word on Iran sponsoring terror or threatening to wipe out Israel.

President Roumen Radev meets Bulgarian expatriates in New York.

Radev also meets Bulgarian expatriates in New York City. Not only does he want Bulgaria to keep in touch with them, but he wants them to return: “For me, Bulgaria will have succeeded when you tell your children to come back to study and work in it”, Radev says.

Year in Review 2017: Bulgaria in January

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