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The police are tired and demoralized, they want to leave their jobs

25 July 2013 / 01:07:49  GRReporter
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In practice, we had three points of serious clashes. There were a lot of active citizens who lay down and sat down, and who wanted to be in the way by all peaceful means. Then, bottles of mineral water flew and, as we heard, more solid things. There was brutal pushing as well. My impressions are that things which were thrown by other protesters and the rude attitude of the police hurt the protesters. What I can say is that 95% of policemen are tired, unmotivated, demoralized and want this to end. I was knocked to the ground and then pulled by two policemen but I can say that no unusual force or malice was exerted on me. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a few cases in which things were otherwise.

What distinguishes the protest in Bulgaria from the protests in Greece is that it is for fiscal discipline whereas, in the majority of the countries of the European South, the people are protesting against major budget cuts. What is the cause of this?

It sounds like a paradox but only at first. When you do not trust a corrupt government, the last thing you want is for it to take large loans and to spend them, buying, for a short while, people’s love in the form of social benefits and allowances in order for this government to have a bigger budget and to be able to steal more.

So, the total lack of confidence, on the part of the protesters, in the honesty of the government explains this paradox.

How would you comment on Commissioner Viviane Reding’s support for the protesters in Bulgaria and what practical result could be expected from it?

I attended the meeting. Mrs. Reding is a unique, very unusual and charismatic politician compared with the others I have seen live or in the media. She said some very important things, two of which are of particular weight. Firstly, she has expressed her support for the spirit of the protests because their demands against the oligarchy and corruption are fair. The second important message was that "this government and the elections are your domestic problem." I see the connection between the two things as a common message, namely that Europe supports us, but it cannot remove the Bulgarian government. We saw the limit of official Brussels at the meeting.

The President supported the protesters some time ago too but then, despite the argument that he has no such powers, there was a lot of criticism that he was doing nothing more. How do you evaluate his position?

I am one of the people who support the President, although I expect a bit more from him. The main reason for him to obtain the support of the majority of the protesters, including mine, is that he is able to speak in a different way, especially with young people.

Bulgaria is currently in a very interesting situation in which the President can put a veto on the law on the budget. No such thing has been done so far. However, the situation is so radicalized, fortunately not in the classic sense of the word, and I do not see why it should not be extended to this option. I would personally support a similar decision of the President because the return of the law would mean that a larger majority must pass it. Then, the full parliamentary support which the current coalition cannot obtain will be necessary.

The "dirty" secret of this government is that the anti-European, Semitic and ultranationalist party called Attack supports it. If the law on the budget update is returned, the current double coalition, which is triple in practice, will have to demonstrate that it is backed by a party with which Sergey Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), should disaffiliate as requested by the European Union and his European partners.

Although international media have focused on what is happening in Bulgaria after last night's developments, they have not covered the protests for 40 days. How do you intend to draw their interest as a press centre?

This is a fact. The protest was somehow overshadowed by more exotic protests. This is slightly disappointing because the people who have worked and are working in the media know the stereotypes about Bulgaria and the labels international media repeat about us: the poorest, most corrupt, most criticized, etc. country.

When the citizens of Sofia and other major cities rebelled with clear slogans against corruption, we expected a little more support from outside. The support from the diplomats of almost all major European countries and the unprecedented declaration of the ambassadors of France and Germany were a nice surprise. Incidentally, the French ambassador was at the protest on the following day. He did not hold a slogan and no one expected him to do so but he was walking around and talking with the people.

The lack of interest on the part of international media was a disappointment. But obviously this is reality. We know that the media do not work perfectly either.

However, they paid attention to the situation today. Do you think it will be retained without daily clashes outside the parliament building?

In all cases, the media interest will increase. I cannot predict how and why. I hope that it will continue. We are doing our best to help foreign media who are interested in the situation in Bulgaria; we are translating material into English. I.e. we are doing whatever we can to help.

Tags: PoliticsBulgariaProtestsClashesPoliceAntigovernment press centreNikolai Staikov
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