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The curse of living in interesting times*

БНР Новини

Europe is scared of the refugees. And this fear is fueled by the media as they draw a connection between the complex problem of the refugee wave from the Arab world to Europe with Islamic terrorism. While the bomb attacks in Paris and Brussels were the work of Western citizens born and raised in Old Europe, there is hardly any European who does not put a sign of equation between religion and terror. It is precisely this intuition that the media make use of.

The painful truth is actually that the refugee crisis and suicide bombings have shown crystal clear how fragile the alliance that calls itself European proves to be. The problem with the millions of refugees clearly demonstrates the disunity among the 28 member states. The faith of Europeans in their political institutions both on national and supranational level has been badly shaken. And marginalized minorities in the slums of major European cities suddenly found themselves to be the ulcer that Europe for many years ignored in the naive hope that it will heal thanks to the panacea known as "democracy". However, this is the same “panacea” the West tried to impose in the Arab world and called it the "Arab Spring". History should have already taught us the lesson that the imposition of ready-made models in societies that have not grown to reach these new ideas themselves are doomed to failure. And if the uncertainty generated by the Middle East and North Africa until recently seemed quite abstract because somehow it existed only in newscasts, the wave of migrants after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria carried it into our cities.

Bulgaria - for the time being - remains out of the way of refugees to a better life in Western Europe. However, the statistics are startling: last year, the State Agency for Refugees reported an increase of 87 per cent in the number of submitted applications for refugee status compared to 2014. Last year 20,165 applications were submitted in Bulgaria compared to 10,805 a year earlier. Against the backdrop of over one million refugees hosted in Germany, it may seem negligible. Yet security experts from Bulgaria and Western Europe are concerned that Bulgaria is turning into the most important transit center. According to anonymous sources from the security services, migrants are directed through Bulgaria via a well-organized and structured trafficking network. The same sources quote Turkish authorities which officially confirm the existence of 500 established and registered organized traffickers who operate on Bulgarian territory.

This week the Bulgarian Parliament ratified the agreement between Turkey and the EU over the refugee crisis. "The Bulgarian national interest is definitely protected", said from the parliamentary rostrum Deputy Prime Minister for European policies Meglena Kuneva. In her words, this agreement does not refer to issues related to the abolition of visas for Turkish citizens when traveling in the EU, as well as progress in membership talks with Turkey. But we all know that this is what is at stake because Turkey holds the key to resolving the crisis. Europe could not cope with more than two million refugees who are currently on the territory of Turkey. Their logical path would pass through Bulgaria, Bulgaria which has always stressed on the geopolitical advantage of its location at the crossroads connecting the East with the West.

We live at an interesting place in interesting times - a seemingly good combination for the media. But also a curse because neither Bulgarian nor European media are able to transcend their shadow. The image that influential Western television and print media are building about Bulgaria continues to serve the old clichés about a country where the rule of corruption and crime is in supremacy. This image is now "upgraded" with superficial information that Bulgarians are belligerent towards refugees, that they protest against their placement in small frontier towns, even chase them away with a rifle. Bulgaria is helpfully placed in the bunch of hostile eastern Europeans when it comes to the refusal of Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic to accept migrants professing any religion other than Christianity. And native media continue to wander between the reluctance of Bulgarians to coexist with new socially vulnerable fellow citizens and the politically correct discourse of our political elite, without seeking the roots of this hostility. And without trying to get into the role of a mediator.

English version Rossitsa Petcova

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