But Slavi Binev is highly critical of the EU response.
“I believe that it is not good for the European Union to close its eyes and not to interfere to defend the Bulgarian citizens from the controlled dictatorship they are subjected to,” Binev says.
“I think that the non-interference of the EU shows its hypocrisy and its double standards. It turns out that Europe could interfere in North Africa, in Crimea and everywhere else in the world but when it comes to its own yard, it remains silent.”
“This undermines the EU institutions, and not people who want their freedom.”
Exactly how the European Union institutions can deal with the size of the shadow economy in Bulgaria, and the corruption that goes with it, is not clear. In this situation it seems that the national governments must take the initiative.
Yavor Alexiev concedes that Bulgaria’s economy is perhaps too small for their shadow economy to really impact on European statistics—the country’s output accounted for just 0.3 percent of EU-wide GDP in 2013, and per capita is one of the poorest economies in the 28.
“Most undeclared activities happen at small and medium-sized enterprises that operate on the local level, where competition from other countries is practically nonexistent,” he says.
Lipev, however, has a radical solution from Europe’s side.
“I strongly believe that what the [Commission] needs to do with Bulgaria to tackle this issue and put more serious pressure is simply to stop its EU funds to the country,” he says.
“This will have a serious negative impact on the country and will almost certainly lead to a social outcry, thus putting muchneeded strong pressure on politicians to act and take more effective measures.”
“Such kind of sanctions could do the work, in my opinion. Otherwise, the process could take years.” ▤
Design by Joe Sutherland
Photographs by Joe Sutherland and Paul Burgaud
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