If you want to understand how Bulgarian society works, attend a meeting of flat owners at a residential building.
I came to that conclusion after attending one this past weekend, as a representative of my family, owners of a flat in a Sofia building. According to the new Condominium Act, every residential building must, at least every two years, hold a general assembly of apartment owners. This assembly must elect a chairperson and a treasurer to represent the building’s owners for the next two years. In theory it sounds easy. In reality it was not.
First, the general assembly, that is supposed to represent the flat owners’ interests, was at risk of not being held at all, as 15 minutes after the starting time, it consisted of six people, three of them in their 80s. At the last moment, another flat owner came in, claiming he was authorised by another three flat owners to represent them at the meeting.
"They said they will be happy with whatever we decide," he said or, in other words, they just could not be bothered.
My first thought to myself: "Why does this remind me of Bulgarians’ attitude to public matters, from turning out to vote at elections, or a rally protesting against illegal construction or a violation of civil rights?"
With the quorum issue settled, in a fashion, we got on with the agenda of nominating and electing the three-member panel that is supposed to run our building for the next two years. To get to that point, first we had to listen to the report of the man who up to then had acted as the administrative head of the building. According to his account, half of the flat owners had not paid their monthly fees, some for several years, which had mounted up to a total of 700 to 800 leva. These flat owners had not lived in the building for years, while renting out their flats, which had created a real mess as to who owed what and for how long as tenants came and went while the rest of the people living in the building kept paying the bills.
Naturally, the question of making these people pay was raised but was left unresolved, as none of us seemed willing to pursue the debtors. After some thought, their debt was written off.
My second thought: "Why does this remind me of the situation of people not paying their heating or electricity bills for years, at the expense of regular payers?"