Is Bulgaria a Tolerant Country?

9 12 2011

With the end of this project just around the corner, I just want to regret that the lack of time hasn’t let my talk about the health system situation. Forgive me for hasn’t given you any information about the topic. Despite I’m pretty happy about how the rest of the topics have been developed.

I put a lot of attention in the education. I have to recognize that this topic really obsess me. I strongly believe that a country able to generate a well educated citizenship has made more than half of the work to achieve a healthy democracy.

I would like providing more information about the current economic situation because I didn’t want to turn my blog into a boring compilation of numbers. Despite of this, following the statements of Ivo, Manager of Fenix Hotel that we found out that Blagoevgrad is a city with huge possibilities but still need some investments.

A paused reflection of the roads state and other infrastructure was also an obligation, due to the big improvements which every member of the European Union have experimented in their first years since the entrance.

In my opinion my initial purpose has been developed properly. The topic is so huge, and consequences for Blagoevgrad people to entry in the EU are so deep that it’s impossible to summarize it in a four months project.  In spite of all you can find here a global vision of the improvements and the future steps the EU will bring to Blago.

My last post was a bit controversial. I wrote a short post giving my own opinion about religious tolerance in Sofia, which is that the capital of Bulgaria is a pretty plural city with different and varied religious places. I knew thanks to a comment that the situation could be less idyllic than it could seem.

With the intention to get a larger knowledge of the topic I have been interviewing several people. All of them whether Bulgarians or foreigners were young people, so probably this post would not be enough to clarify the real tolerance situation on the country.

Neither could be enough to express the opinion of a whole generation, because the research has not been so deep. But I still think that there is really interesting to check how different profiles of people perceive the topic, probably influenced by their own conditions. In the video below you can hear the opinion of Nadia (Mexico), Hristo (Bulgaria), Viktor (Bulgaria), Ali (Turkey) and Nico (France):





Knowing Your Neighbor’s Culture Avoids Problems

30 11 2011

Integrating all religions in the European Society is a big deal for the European Union. The European Union has association trades with some Muslim countries as Morocco. Despite many efforts done for the European Government and the states members leaders religious conflicts have not been solved yet.

European governments still have to face complicated situations related with religion.

The controversial caricatures of Prophet Mahoma published in Danish newspaper “Jyllands Postema” are a good example.  The Prophet was drawn with a bomb as a turban. In the following days other European media joined to “Jyllands Postema” and they also published cartoons which were qualified for the Muslim Community as offensive and it sparked their wrath.

These kinds of conflicts reflect lack of knowledge of the religion of our neighbors. The solution is not so far as seems. Acting with respect and learning a bit more about other cultures must help us to build a healthier society.

In this case the European Government might take as example the city of Sofia. I was there last weekend and I checked for myself they have a lot of different religious places. I entered in some of them and I saw Muslims, orthodox Christian and Jewish praying in different churches, cathedral, mosques and synagogues. Furthermore nobody from other religions was bothering around at least as far as I stayed there.

Nevertheless as I know thanks to a comment in this post, I could have experienced a fake illusion of tolerance. I have to apologize for my ignorance of these facts and thank to milva113 for her corrections.  There is a political party in Bulgaria called “ATAKA“. Their supporters are racist and nationalist and they have starred some violent incidents against Muslim Community in Bulgaria.

However according to my own experience, I keep thinking that if Sofia is able to avoid fights between different religions, followers will be a great example how different religions could coexist in the same place. I promise to keep working in this topic hereafter.

In the map below you can see the huge variety of religious places that Sofia holds:





Bulgaria Needs Better Roads

10 11 2011

When you met Nadia Reza and she told you she is Mexican and she is only 21 years old, you cannot even imagine how well she knows the European roads.

Nadia is so lively that in few months she has crossed almost whole Europe. She uses to take flight from one country to another but then she often travel inside the country by bus and seldom by train or by taxi. Even once she crossed the border between Macedonia and Bulgaria by walk under the watchful eye of a Border Policeman, who was pretty freaked out. Obviously, he is more accustomed to see people crossing by bus or car so it was more shocking for him than for Nadia, who remember this story with a big smile in her face.

She thinks that Bulgarian roads are too old and the Government needs to improve it for make the country more accessible, and for give Bulgarians and foreigners the chance to travel faster and in a more comfortable way along the country.

Spain, Germany or France are some countries she has visited in Western Europe. She is studying in the AUBG as exchange student and during the fall break she has been travelling around the Balkans so she knows pretty well the situation of the European roads.

You can listen below an Interview with Nadia Rezar:





A good educational offer

21 10 2011

Blagoevgrad students have the chance to choose where they are going to study from a large number of colleges. Actually the city has good educational offerings. However, quantity and quality are not the same.

In Blagoevgrad primary´s schools, pupils learn Writing, Reading, Music, Drawing, Sport, and English. The methods are basically the same as in all primary schools around the world. For example, in English lessons the goal is teach the children the alphabet “repeating the sounds and remembering a card with some picture of it and associated item, listening to easily remembered songs with a few common words and so on,” as declared Boryana Petrova who received her full education in Blagoevgrad.
In the next higher the courses are more specialized. Some of them are Bulgarian, English, Literature, Math and Natural sciences. The students have 7 hours per day, and their lessons consist only of English lessons, Math, Literature, Sport, Music and Art.

The students are distributed in small groups. So each pupil may receive as much attention as possible from the teacher. Veselina Apostolov, an English professor at Blagoevgrad´s high school said that her biggest class has 28 students, and the smallest 23.”

High schools are specialized in different education ranches. A student can choose between: Foreign Language High School, a Math high school, an Economics High School, a Professional High School for Architecture.

There are also some quality differences among the Blagoevgrad education institutions. “In my opinion the level of the education –at my high school- is relatively high compared to other schools,” said Venelina Miteva who studied Mathematical and Science School “Acad. Sergei Koroliov”.  The high school entrance exams used to define the best schools of the city holds Boryana Petrova who studied in Foreign Language High School “Academic Lyudmil Stoyanov”.  . “Students are obliged to take two exams, in Literature and MathShe holds also that Bulgarian educational level is approximately the same level than the others students around Europe. “Bulgarian students are having the same grades as the European students.”

When the time to go to university arrives, the Blagoevgrad students will be well prepared.  “Teachers were very strict and we had papers and quizes all the time, as we do now in University” declared Venelina Miteva.

When the students finished de high school, in addition to be well prepared, they have the chance to go to university without leaving Blagoevgrad. There are two universities in the city: American University in Bulgaria and South West University.

Although the educational level is pretty good, the interviewees propose some improvements.  All of them think that it is really important to improve about new technologies and multimedia resources. Venelina Miteva thinks that for motivate the students; they could be granted prizes for good achievements.

Listen below the interview with Veselina Apostolov, an English professor at Blagoevgrad´s high school:





Statement of UN about anti-Roma manifestations in Bulgaria

5 10 2011

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the anti-Roma demonstrations in Bulgaria since the 23 of September, when a Roma leader, called Kiril Rashkow was blamed of killing a 19 years old boy. Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has issued a statement in which he show concern about an entire community to be targeted for an offence allegedly committed by an individual. It is not the first time that there are problems with Roma community in UE. These kinds of situations, despite being rejected for the European Union institutions, are becoming more usual. For example, about one year ago, French government expelled the Romanian gypsy’s community of France. You can read the hole statement below:

4 October 2011

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville 

Location: Geneva 

Subject: Bulgaria

 

 

  We are deeply concerned about the anti-Roma demonstrations that  have  been occurring in Bulgaria  since 23 September, when an  ethnic Bulgarian  youth was run over and killed by a van reportedly  belonging to a local Roma.  The protests continued into this  past weekend, spreading to some 14  towns  across the country.  We regret the death of the young man in the village of Katunitsa. We  hope  that if the driver of the van is culpable, he will be brought to  justice in 
accordance with the law, and that through such a judicial  process, the facts  surrounding the young  man’s death will be clearly  established.
The hate speech that has been fuelling the anti-Roma  protests in Bulgaria is of great concern. It is unacceptable for an entire community to be targeted for  an offence allegedly committed by an individual. We call on Bulgarian authorities at the highest  political level to publicly restate this principle of individual criminal responsibility. The political leadership must take a strong stance against hate speech and ensure that police officers continue to be deployed in sufficient numbers to protect Roma neighbourhoods from threats of retribution and harassment. Recently, anti-Roma demonstrations have also taken place in Hungary and the Czech Republic. In all three countries, political parties with extreme nationalist views have reportedly seized the opportunity to stoke up anti-Roma prejudice. In such an atmosphere, inter-ethnic tensions rise, and Roma risk becoming scapegoats of broader dissatisfaction. Such hostility adds to the challenges which millions of Roma in Europe face in realisation of their economic, social and cultural rights, including education, health and, particularly, employment. We encourage the EU and European States to adopt and implement socially inclusive policies to end the long-standing discrimination against Roma communities in Europe.





Schengen will have to wait

3 10 2011

Finland and Netherlands blocked Sept. 22 the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the passport-free Schengen area.  Thegoverments of Finland and Netherlands argue that for an efficient entry into Schengen, both countrie
s should improve the judiciary system, fighting corruption and organized crime. The blocked is not definitive; the issue will be discussed again at the EU summit to be held this month.

When Bulgaria and Romania joined to the European Union in 2007, the EU members promised them a place in Schengen. However, some members consider these two countries aren´t ready to open their borders to the rest EU. Jerzy Miller,

Interior Minister of Poland –whose country holds the EU´s rotating presidency,-  have declared that Bulgaria and Romania had made “huge progress”. But it seems there still are not enough improvements, at least that´s the opinion of Finland and Netherlands.

“Imagine you have a door with eight of the best locks in the world. But before that door is standing someone who lets everybody in, then you have a problem,” said Dutch Immigration Minister Gerd Leers.

Most of members support the integration in two phases without preset dates. A first step would involve the opening of air and sea borders. And second, open the land borders.

It´s not the first time European Union have had problems with Schengen area this year. France and Italy tried to limit the freedom to travel inside Europe at the beginning of the year, when a lot of immigrants from Tunisia arrived to the Italian coast.

In the image below you can check the current situation of Schengen area:

I was in one of Bulgarian´s borders last week. Especifically in the frontier with Turkey where you have to pass a lot of controls. It was a really annoying experience.

You can hear below the opinion of Andrej Hocevar, one of the persons who was travelling with me.





“Corruption problems have to be solved by Bulgarian people by themselves”

16 09 2011

Interview with a political science student from the American Univesity in Bulgaria (Blagoevgrad)

Victor is 19 years old and he has just started to study political science. He is optimistic about the entry of Bulgaria in the EU. He maintains that the European grants are properly invested. “Adopt the Euro will be good because it would improve the situation of Bulgaria. It will allow easier trades and travel to other European countries without change money.” he declared. However he is aware that the Euro would raise the prices, but he think it will not a problem if the salaries  also rise.

Victor says that:  “The crisis haven’t really hit Bulgaria, as much that is has hit wealthier countries in the West. Because there are so many investments here”

He says that the Bulgarian government is corrupt as the rest of governments around the world. But he trust in the ability of Bulgarian people to change their own country. “Corruption problems have to be solved by Bulgarian people by themselves, by good people who would stop the corruption” he said.

Finally he thinks thatBulgarianeeds at least 4 or 5 years to assume European government functions: “Bulgariais not trusted as a country without corruption and it would not be a benefit for Bulgaria and the EU”.

Listen the whole interview with Viktor: