February 24, 2014
A quarter of a century ago Ukrainians and Bulgarians escaped from the clutch of Soviet dominance. But Russia's influence remained strong both in Kiev and Sofia. This is something that protesters in Kiev know well, unlike the fact that Bulgaria has been a member of the European Union for seven years already.
Here are seven facts that protesters in Kiev will definitely be shocked to learn about EU member Bulgaria.
1. Bulgaria joined the European Union on January 1, 2007, but bad habits fester. Ever since the country has remained reform-weary, riddled with crime and corruption and wholly unready for membership.
2. Although Bulgaria entered the EU seven years ago living standards are worsening, the average pension stands at 100 euros, while the average salary – at 350 euros.
3. Despite EU membership, Bulgaria has been sliding backwards to what many observers now call "Putinisation" in terms of energy policy, monopolies and almost complete lack of media freedom.
4. Bulgaria's EU membership has fueled corruption as EU funds are the only fresh money flowing into the country. Not a single high-level official has been sentenced or jailed for embezzlement of EU funds.
5. Bulgarians suffer the indignity of being treated as second-class citizens in wealthier EU member states and being told that they do not really belong after all.
6. A total of 500-600 doctors are leaving Bulgaria every year to work and live in Western EU countries, bleeding Bulgaria white of medical staff.
7. The protests in Bulgaria also claimed lives – dozens of Bulgarians set themselves on fire in an unprecedented series of self-immolations, triggered by poverty and despair. Unlike Ukraine, however, they are not considered heroes.