Sofia Echo


US annual State Department report notes some improvement but also failings in Bulgaria

Author: Gabriel Hershman Date: Fri, Mar 12 2010 35 Comments, 4249 Views
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The US State Department annual human rights report on Bulgaria uncovers positive steps on corruption and transparency but problems in the treatment of detainees and minority groups as well as poor prison conditions and judicial backlogs.

The annual report begins with an overview of Bulgaria's problems.

"There were problems with police abuse and mistreatment of pretrial detainees, prison inmates, and minorities; harsh conditions in prisons and detention facilities; and official impunity. There were some limitations on freedom of the press; discrimination against religious minorities; and pervasive government corruption in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The new government took initial steps to address corruption, and progress was made by the year's end. Other problems included violence against women and children, and substandard education for Romani children; harsh conditions in state-run institutions for children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; and discrimination against minority groups."

The report highlights deaths in custody, conditions of detention and a spate of kidnappings.

"During the year four persons in police custody died under unclear circumstances. Three cases involved accusations that the police did not provide adequate medical attention to seriously ill detainees. In the fourth case, prosecutors charged two police officers for placing a hood over a detainee who then suffocated during his transfer to another detention centre.
Ransom kidnappings involving wealthy businessmen and their families remained a problem. In December police arrested more than 30 members of a kidnapping gang believed to be responsible for 17 to 19 kidnappings. At year's end the alleged leaders of the gang remained in jail awaiting trial.
Police can detain persons for 24 hours without charging them. Human rights observers noted a continuing decline of cases where police arrested suspects for minor offences and physically abused them to force confessions. However, there were reports that this practice was more widely used with Romani suspects. Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) reported that Romani victims have been more willing to lodge official complaints against the authorities.
Human rights groups continued to claim that medical examinations in cases of police abuse were not properly investigated and that offending officers were very rarely punished.
Prison conditions generally did not meet international standards, and the government did not allocate funds to make significant improvements.
Conditions in some prisons were harsh, with inadequate toilet facilities and insufficient heating and ventilation. The daily food allowance was approximately 2.5 leva. NGOs received complaints about both the quality and quantity of food.
Overcrowding remained a serious problem. At year's end there were 9071 prisoners in the country's 13 prisons, fewer than in the previous three years but still several times more than capacity. NGOs received complaints from prisoners about insufficient space and considered this a major factor contributing to brutality among inmates."

Bulgaria's judiciary also earned a rebuke.

"Long delays awaiting trial were common, and there was a large backlog of outstanding investigations. Tough statutorily mandated time limits for investigations often resulted in hasty indictments that were returned by judges for additional investigation.
Judicial and investigative backlogs remained a serious problem in some jurisdictions. Despite modest improvements, long delays awaiting criminal trials were common. According to practitioners, the law did not sufficiently reduce the opportunities for delaying cases."

The plight of refugees, and in particular the controversial Busmantsi detention centre, was again noted, including a death at the centre in October 2009.

"The UNHCR claimed that the risk of genuine refugees being rejected was limited. Nonetheless, observers remained concerned about the institutional capacity of the government to process requests and transfer applicants to shelters. According to lawyers, the practice of sending asylum seekers who enter illegally to the Center for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in Busmantsi resulted in their being treated as illegal immigrants, subject to potential deportation. In Busmantsi there were numerous reports of guards mistreating detainees and of stays exceeding six months. Detainees also complained of poor living conditions and inadequate access to legal counsel. The May 15 amendments to the Foreigners Act set a maximum six-month period of detention.
The law requires that persons seeking refugee status file an application within "a reasonable time" after entering the country.
On October 6, Hassun Albaddj, a rejected asylum applicant from Syria, died in the Busmantsi detention centre. He was in custody since 2006 and was reportedly one of two individuals not released after the amendments to the law. A preliminary review found no evidence of physical abuse. However, witnesses claimed that guards ignored repeated requests for medical attention."

Corrupt voting practices were also cited in the report.

"Another significant type of violation, linked to the change in the election law, was the organised busing of voters from their home districts to districts in which majoritarian candidates needed extra votes, usually referred to as 'election-day tourism.' Observers noted that the surge in vote buying was prompted by efforts of business circles and organised crime figures to enter parliament through the new majoritarian seats. Bussed voters allegedly received money, food, and a free excursion in exchange for voting outside their districts.
On September 2, parliament established a committee to investigate numerous accusations of double voting and improper registration of citizen voters living in Turkey."

Misappropriation of EU funds was also noted.

"Corruption was pervasive in the country and plagued all branches of government. Corrupt practices included bribery, EU funds fraud, elaborate embezzlement schemes, legislation protecting private interests, and official protection for organised crime figures. Corruption reportedly was severe in high civil and administrative courts.
In its July 22 report, the European Commission severely criticised the country for misuse of EU funds. In 2008 the EU blacklisted two government agencies handling EU assistance and stripped the country of an estimated 486 million euro in EU funding."

The report also picked up on violence against women, noting that "although there were no precise statistics on its occurrence, police believed that one of every four women had been a victim".

Sub-standard education and institutional care was also an issue, particularly concerning the Roma and children with disabilities.

"According to the Ministry of Education and Science, 8820 students dropped out of school during the current academic year compared with 14 000 in the previous year (2007-08). The majority of students left school due to social and family reasons.
The number of school dropouts was highest in regions with large Romani populations.
Education for Romani children was generally inferior, and nearly 10 per cent of Roma never attended school. During the year the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the 2005 ruling that the city of Sofia was guilty of discrimination for failing to provide equal educational opportunities to Romani children. In November the anti-discrimination commission found that the Ministry of Education discriminated against children with disabilities by limiting their choice of education and isolating them in specialised institutions. The commission recommended that the ministry initiate legislative changes that take into account the children's specific education needs but allow for their integration into society.
Violence against children was a problem. According to the national centre for public opinion surveys, during the year one in every five children was a victim of violence in school. According to the National Statistical Institute, 2606 children were victims of serious crimes in 2008, compared with 2743 in 2007. The government often removed children from abusive homes and prosecuted abusive parents; however, once away from their families, children often fell victim to street violence or violence in specialized institutions.
During the year there were 7190 children in 138 specialised institutions. This was a decrease from 7276 children in 140 institutions in 2008 and a 44 per cent decrease from 12 609 children in 165 institutions in 2001. The majority of children in institutions were Roma. Watchdog organisations claimed the actual number was much higher, and the government manipulated the numbers by changing the terminology for the different types of institutions. Most children in state institutions were not orphans; they were institutionalised for reasons including disability, poverty, and other family problems."

Disabled individuals also continued to face discrimination in the workplace, according to the report.

"The law promotes the employment of persons with disabilities; however, enforcement was poor, and most persons with disabilities were unemployed primarily due to lack of access to adequate education and skills. For the most part, work places were not equipped to accommodate persons with disabilities, and many were not able to find accessible transportation.
Persons with mental and physical disabilities, including very young children, were often separated from the rest of society. For example, they were placed in special schools, which lowered the quality of their education. The government operated 26 institutions for children and youth with disabilities.
The constitution protects the right of all citizens to vote, and the law provides specific measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the polls. However, in practice these measures were rarely enforced, and the majority of polling stations were still not wheelchair accessible."

High rates of unemployment among the Roma, as well as housing problems, were also noted.

"Workplace discrimination against minorities, especially Roma, continued to be a problem. The unemployment rate among Roma was nearly 65 per cent, reaching 80 per cent in some regions. The generally unfavourable attitudes towards Roma, coupled with their poor education level, made Roma less able to find jobs. Many observers noted the quality of education offered to Romani children was inferior to that afforded to most other students.
Popular prejudice against Roma remained widespread. There were isolated cases of police harassment, arbitrary arrests, and violence against Roma. However, NGOs reported that while more Roma were willing to launch complaints against the authorities, the number of complaints had dropped in recent years.
In September the Burgas municipality destroyed 46 Romani homes, leaving at least 200 persons homeless. There were reports that municipal police used disproportionate force against the Romani inhabitants during the demolitions. Since Romani residents lacked legal titles to this land, the Burgas municipality did not provide any alternative housing for the evicted residents. Local NGOs estimated that 50 to 70 per cent of Romani housing was illegally constructed and were concerned that more municipalities would initiate legal proceedings to demolish illegally built houses."

Social assistance was also found wanting.

"On August 6, the European Committee of Social Rights unanimously found the country to be in violation of the European Social Charter by failing to meet its obligations to ensure than any person who is without adequate resources has access to social assistance provided by the state. The committee issued the ruling in response to 2006 and 2008 amendments to the Social Assistance Act, which limited the time citizens were eligible for assistance. The court found that these restrictions had a disproportionate effect on Roma, women, and other marginalised groups and that access to social assistance cannot be subject to time limits if the persons affected continue to meet the basic condition for eligibility for assistance."

Gay rights continued to be stifled or - at least - the report implied a reluctance to tackle discrimination.

"The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but the government did not effectively enforce this prohibition. Reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons were rare, but societal discrimination, particularly discrimination in employment, remained a problem. The gay-rights organization Gemini reported that individuals continued to be reluctant to pursue legal remedies for discrimination due to the stigma of being openly identified as gay."

There continued to be incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Since 2008 there were 110 cases of vandalism against mosques, including an October 7 fire that completely destroyed the Nokopol mosque; authorities determined the fire was arson. On October 8, the government announced that it would provide 25 000 leva to repair this mosque and another mosque that was also damaged in a fire believed to be accidental. The investigation into the arson continued at year's end.
According to the Jewish organisation Shalom, anti-Semitism was not widespread, but there were increasing reports of anti-Semitic incidents prior to the July 5 national elections. On June 24, vandals broke a memorial slab in Blagoevgrad, in the southwest, before its unveiling. The memorial was dedicated to Jews from Aegean Thrace who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp. On July 13, several Molotov cocktails were thrown at the former synagogue and the Jewish school in the coastal city of Burgas. In 2008 a Jewish cemetery in Shumen was desecrated; the youths were caught and ordered by the court to attend an educational program In January anti-Semitic slogans, including "Juden Verboten" (Jews forbidden), were painted on the Holocaust memorial in Plovdiv. Jewish organizations expressed concern over the lack of public reaction to these incidents from the government and the lack of successful prosecutions.
On May 21, the Sofia municipal council decided to name one of the capital city's streets after Bogdan Filov, a prominent scholar and former prime minister. As prime minister, Filov's government passed anti-Semitic legislation, advocated the country's alliance with Nazi Germany, and deported approximately 12 000 Jews from present-day Macedonia and Greece to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. In response to local and international outrage, then Sofia mayor and now Prime Minister Boyko Borissov submitted a report to the Sofia City Council calling for the annulment of this decision. On October 2, the Sofia City Council annulled the decision, returning the street to its original name."

The report also says that some children are still being forced to work in sometimes dire conditions.

"The law prohibits forced or compulsory labour, including by children; however, according to the government's labour inspectorate, there were some reports that such practices occurred in the agricultural and textile industries. Children sometimes were forced to work due to economic conditions or because of pressure from family members or criminal organizations. Women and children were trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.
Besides trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labor included heavy physical labour and health hazards on family tobacco farms, particularly among the ethnic Turkish minority. The government continued programmes to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, mounting educational campaigns about their effects, and intervened to protect, withdraw, rehabilitate, and reintegrate children engaged in the worst forms of child labour."

  • Close to 260 000 asylum applicants in EU in 2009 – Eurostat
  • Claims of asylum inconsistently examined across European Union – UN
  • Jewish School in Sofia daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti
  • EU lauds Bulgaria's will for reform but slams judiciary
    • Anonymous
      Stefcho Rating:
      #35 07, 00, Fri, Mar 19 2010

      Being Bulgarian is just more cool.

      Really? How is that? After everything you just said and then to come to terms with it and still feel that being Bulgarian is just cool. I think it's depressing, to know that you'll neve be allowed to become susessful because of the barriers put in place but your govt. Your depressing me.

    • Anonymous
      Stefcho Rating:
      #34 06, 53, Fri, Mar 19 2010

      Valeri, your comparisons are not a fair assessment of the bribes that that place in BG. You paid for services that cover your butt and your businesses butt, it does something. All the bribe in BG is just make the people have no faith in your govt. They don't trust them to watch their pet's. As far as America going forward in the 21th century, sleep well, we will survive and continue to be the greatest nation in the world. Before you retort by saying that we are full of ourselves just think about where everyone in the world wants [...]

      Read the full comment to go, to America the land of opporntunity as you well know. If your willing to work hard the sky is the limit. Otherwise the lines at the Embassy wouldn't be so long everyday. You can try to mislead the Bulgarian in the room with your propaganda regarding America but the whole world knows where success is possible, including yourself.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #33 21, 13, Thu, Mar 18 2010

      For me, I can live here, speak the language, learn the history and culture, etc. But no matter what, I'll always be American (which I would never change). I think the same is for you having lived in the U.S., regardless of how long, you were born in BG and are Bulgarian.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #32 20, 55, Wed, Mar 17 2010

      "..did you create successful businesses by continuously thinking you could never do it?"

      I am typical Bulgarian. I continuously think that I can't do it, I am perpetually miserable as I compare my level with others better off, I feel wronged by the world at any given time and don't particularly care if it goes to hell in a basket. I never think of the positives in my life, like a great family and great income, and mostly like to focus on the money I never made and the opportunities I've missed.


      Read the full comment Only difference is that I am aware of all that, and most of my fellow Bulgarians are not. I think that it's important to accept yourself, but that comes from self knowledge and contemplative nature. With all our faults, I'd never want to be American, passport or not, even if I could. Being Bulgarian is just more cool.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #31 19, 42, Wed, Mar 17 2010

      Valeri, the reason why you are 'forced' to use your U.S. passport when entering the country is because you are a citizen, and it's the law. I believe the same holds true for Bulgarians, if you are a citizen, you must enter on your Bulgarian identification. Some time ago my husband was given a very hard time (because his BG passport had expired) at the border by using his other passport.

      If you don't like your U.S. passport though, you can always relinquish your U.S. citizenship at any time. :)

      As you [...]

      Read the full comment disagree with the BG government's involvement with the U.S. military, then I think what you are doing is right. It is your right as a citizen to voice your disapproval to your government.

      Personally, I am not sure if multi-party system would work well for us. Some countries do really poorly with a multiparty system. Rather, at this stage, I think that a third party option would be much better. Most of the country is very centrist and I'd personally love to see a viable independent party emerge.

      Oh, I LOVE our naive optimism. I think that it can be a great thing. There is a lot of potential here and people can oftentimes overlook this. For example, you are a business owner, did you create successful businesses by continuously thinking you could never do it?

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #30 18, 46, Wed, Mar 17 2010

      ".. something that is needed in Bulgaria very badly, it's a humanitarian project and we'll say they have had to pay off people at every level in order to move ahead and these are not people that have this kind of resources,."

      Very much familiar with it, but having owned businesses in both - US and BG - I have to say that in the end it amounts to the same. Here you pay off, in the US you dish out for all sorts of fees and liabilities insurances. The amount of money I've spent on [...]

      Read the full comment lawyers in the US - frankly money is money - in the end it's irrelevant if it was a bribe, they are still missing from my account. There are so many free loaders with every productive bit in both that I've accepted it for lack of choice.

      If there is anything BG should learn from you - a small dose of that naive optimism in your country, wouldn't be that bad for us. That said I personally have NO faith in the future of the US. I think your system is completely unworkable and counterintuitive for the 21st century. You need to convert to the multi party Parliamentarian system if you were to survive. As it is, you have Federal MPs (Senators and Representatives) that are strictly locally elected and owe ALL of their loyalty to the folks who send them there exclusively - their local.

      That's why it's one major bar brawl. Every one needs to take goodies home, or they won't be back next time. That's no way to run a Federal Government.

      Just because people are flocking, it means nothing. Half of the Middle East would move to BG if we let them. It's called "population pressure" and people will go where there is space and peace. You have Mexico and Central America there about to explode with babies....

    • Anonymous
      Stefcho Rating:
      #29 12, 19, Wed, Mar 17 2010

      Just imagine that in a few years the US has to change EVERYTHING they know! There would be rivers of blood, if that were to happen in the US....

      Well Valeri,your point here is very well taken. I don't know if your in the states now or in BG but this healthcare debate that's going on right now is dividing the country in such a way that it's getting very personal by people on different sides of the issue. Obama, Pelosi are ripping apart everything that has kept us together by dividing this country. I think [...]

      Read the full comment it was Roosvelt that once said "a houe divided will never stand" these words ring so true in America today, the power the speaker of the house has in our House side of Congress is a very corrupt system, she has the power to strong arm members by taking away earmarks to certain states who's members will not vote the way that she and Obama want and she is using (misusing) the power she has in such a way that it's outraging American's that don't want big govt in there lives. Most Americans don't like big govt, as you probably know this is the difference between Liberal and Conservative in America. In America the Dems are the Liberals where I think in BG this is the opposite,your Democrats are more conservative. Yes, I drank the juice, I am a Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity conservative, I don't think is right to punish the rich to sustain the poor, this redistribution of weath will destroy America as we know it, it will survive in the end as our system does work, we will in fact remove the people in the mid term election to also remove the ability of the Liberal House to change life as we know it. I never claimed that America is by far perfect, it is not but we don't or influence other country's to be like us, they choose to dublicate themselves to be more like us in the fact that they consider our system to me the world standard of Democracy, with all of it's problems, they see the movies and hear the propaganda of what it's like to live in America and think it's some sort of easy ride and a paradise, we both know it is not but yet millions attempt to come here and start a new life to improve their lives and most that come here do improve their lives greatly, it is the land of opporntunity but as you said if put into proper perspective, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I know this, you know this yet we are overwhelmed with illegal immigration everyday to speak of your problem with the passport issue and as I said this will in fact change and you know this, it's just a matter of time. Anyway, I'm wasting space here to point out the fustration I have of the barriers that are in place to allow the average Bulgarian to move ahead and improve their quality of life, I have one example that I'd love to tell you about but it is to specific and I don't want to reveal it on the echo. But let's just say that it is something that is needed in Bulgaria very badly, it's a humanitarian project and we'll say they have had to pay off people at every level in order to move ahead and these are not people that have this kind of resources, they are doing this after almost killing themselves for the past 8 yrs and not when they are in the postiion to move forward with this project they have hit nothing but brick wall and obstacles beyond my wildest imagination. So yes I get very fustrated, these people mean very much to me and it hurts to see what they have had to sacrifice to accomplish this, but they have and are now moving forward but still they are running into these brick walls everyday. And knowing Bulgaria, spending 8 years there I've seen first hand the affect that the corruption of govt officals has had on people and how it affects so many other peoplel the trickle down affect so to speak, it is nothing short of obstuctionist govt.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #28 06, 42, Wed, Mar 17 2010

      "My problem is not with the Bulgarian people, it is with it's govt. they are by far the most unproductive govt I've ever seen,"

      When I hear that I want to scream!

      Stefcho, please think deeper. The government IS the people! I don't know any Bulgarian who wouldn't take care of # 1 before anything else or wouldn't do exactly what the people in government do. Are you naive enough to think that the average Bulgarian's productivity is relatively much higher than the government's? Don't listen to Bulgarians who haven't spent long [...]

      Read the full comment years in the west - they have no point of reference and have no clue of exactly how unproductive they themselves are.. Everything is the other's fault and never theirs. They are just poor victims.

      I am super realistic about BG - the difference is that I see it in perspective whereas your view is influenced by unhinged Bulgarians you know, that are feeling lost - with good reason! Just imagine that in a few years the US has to change EVERYTHING they know! There would be rivers of blood, if that were to happen in the US....

      You don't believe me, but BG has NEVER been on a better path! Not in my lifetime. As far as minorities and relatively, for the neighborhood, historically mild treatment - try extermination cams in Yugoslavia, genocide in Turkey, pogroms in Romania - it's a rough neighborhood where attitude towards gipsies is child's play by comparison. Everything in context.

      We are not ignoring our problems, I just don't want the US to comment on them, because I see you as much more deeply corrupt and criminal country and culture than BG - by far! For all the wealth and 200 years of "free market" you still have double the murder rate of BG - that just speaks of malignant culture and a sick society.

      We are at least obvious and unsophisticated about corruption. The US is one big legal scam.

      "I think you meant to say communism didn't you?"

      I usually say what I mean. I said "socialism" - you know like in the US today - a Police State where the government is the biggest employer and the society is on permanent war footing...

    • Anonymous
      Stefcho Rating:
      #27 04, 13, Wed, Mar 17 2010

      BG has been pretty mild on minorities, but improvements are needed.

      Jeeze, do you really think so? Find me one Bulgaria that has a postive perspective of Gypsies or tell me that people like Volen Siderov are pro Turkish. Does he still what them to change their names back to Bulgarian names? Perhaps he just needs to get drunk and humiliate himself on a flight to Germany. Maybe some of the people that read this have not actually been to Bulgaria and have seen for themselves the anti Gypsie sentiment,it's malignant, these people have isolated themselves [...]

      Read the full comment from the average Bulgarian because they know that they will not be given a break in any way shape or form. They are regarded as animals by the average Bulgarian. As for the Bulgarian Turks, they are still not fully excepted as "Bulgarian" it's like Bulgarian light. They do have a real hero in the Parliment in good old Volen don't they?

      and yes, you are right - I've done great in the US! Americans treat foreigners, probably better than most. They are smart in that they are doing it for selfish reasons"

      It's called capitalism, I'm sure you've learned this and benifited from it as well.

      50 years of socialism have done job on all"

      I think you meant to say communism didn't you? Iron rule, but I hear everything was so much better then, everyone had a job, maybe didn't do anything but got up and went somewhere for the day. I'm sure it was a horrible time and I don't mean to undermine the horror's that occured during this time period please don't misunderstand me.
      I'm sure that no country is proud of every part of there past, does Geramany go around talking about how wonderful the Nazi's were and I don't clam that the state's are perfect. I'm saying I think you are really under estimating the major problems that still excist in BG, you can't continue to just ignore them and turn the tables on the states, your not playing fair by continuing to ignore your problems, they are very real to some people, perhaps they haven't affected you but I know people in BG that are having rought time right now and the govt does nothing about it, they continue to play games and get nothing done. While in the mean time real people are suffering with real problems and problems that if someone just took a little time and put some efforts into itc could be fixed but no, not without a payoff, it's the way of the land.
      Your are right in that BG will never be like America and it shouldn't be, it should be itself, nobody expects this not even me. My problem is not with the Bulgarian people, it is with it's govt. they are by far the most unproductive govt I've ever seen, I don't expect this to change. Operation octopus was a shame that BG put on for Brussle's anyone can see that, do you really think this was to promote law and order, no, it was simply to but there own guys in positions of power. Something's never change.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #26 23, 05, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      and yes, you are right - I've done great in the US! Americans treat foreigners, probably better than most. They are smart in that they are doing it for selfish reasons - you don't want to have a miserable group of people living among you. That doesn't change the fact that unless I pretend to be one of them - using US passport, they won't let me in. That's a major chip on my shoulder. Is that OK with you?

      I've always been for better treatment for minorities in BG - it's what's [...]

      Read the full comment good for BG! All things consider, within the European/Balkan context, BG has been pretty mild on minorities, but improvements are needed. Talking with my old mother the other day, she was telling me how pre 1944, in her town, the Bulgarian Gypsies were very different. They were living in clean homes, working hard for a living - my grandfather (leading citizen of the town - he imported the first automobile in the 1920s) was lending them money for small businesses, from bike rentals to shoe shining boxes for the kids, who were honest and friendly.

      Maybe it wasn't all peaches, but she never felt uneasy about walking around their parts of town.

      50 years of socialism have done job on all, but as they say in the US "women and minorities, hardest hit";) I think you had a similar result with socialism among your African-Americans starting in the 60s. Nothing short of destroying their family structure and turning them to crime. There is a difference between giving people opportunity and paying them. The first helps, the second kills.
      Again - not too different.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #25 21, 58, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      "You consider yourself equal to France, UK, Germany, Netherlands?"

      Not any more than Puerto Rico can compare to New England. That's no excuse.

      And is isn't me that bashes the US - that report didn't come from China. Fix your country and please don't worry about us. The US is a mess. And it's going to get worse - sorry to say that. Sure I am anti-American - because I know you. I know what a rip off corrupt country the US is - first hand - trust me!


      Read the full comment /> Nothing personal towards any individual - Americans are fine as people. I just don't see the US as a positive factor, and certainly don't see them as productive influence in our neighborhood.

      That economic crises we are all dealing with, has "made in USA" all over it. Even much of the Greek crises has the stamp of big Wall Street "investment firms" written all over. Never have I seen a worse bunch of crooks than in the US - Medoff is the tip of the iceberg. It one big scam. All that would be none of my business, until I see those State Department reports. Then I have to put things into perspective.

    • Anonymous
      Stefcho Rating:
      #24 21, 12, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      That's your only problem, the border issue? I highly doubt that, you seem to have a major chip on your shoulder about everything American. This border issue will be resolved in time and then you'll go on to some other issue about the states. Like I said you didn't seem to complain when you stayed there did you? Let's put things into context Valeri, yes you are an EU member, the newest EU member along with Romania. You consider yourself equal to France, UK, Germany, Netherlands? In what way other then a title? Your decades behind these countries in so [...]

      Read the full comment many ways, so yes BG is still broken. You don't comply with most EU mandates or you have the best excuses in the world. You take more then you contribute and what is given is stolen by members of your govt, so tell the folks out there the real story and don't sugar coat it like you always do, the trust factor from your fellow EU members is just not there yet, that was obvious during the Jenkova hearings, they knew she was a puppet for Boyko.
      Your anti US sentiment is so obvious, next time then why don't you stay in BG and have your child in your wonderful hospitals, I'm sure your mind was at ease that your child was born in the US because the care she and your wife would get would be far superior to what she would have gotten in BG. As I also said you probably have also made good contacts in the US and use them to further your own interest in BG. I'm not saying it's wrong to do that but don't come down so hard on a country that did in fact welcome you at one time at least if not several. I also see that the ECHO in it's normal tradition has removed this from the site on Tues. God forbid anybody speaks the truth about BG in the press. As there is no true freedom of the press in BG, it is still a communist state, far from being a true democracy. But that's OK I'm a big boy I can take your anti American sentiment. With all of that said however, I still believe that Bulgaria is on it's way to being a truly free state, if the govt would allow it to be, all it does not is put barriers in front of the average Bulgarian, those that want to start a legitiment business are strong armed into payoffs, govt officals won't issue permits without a hand out, the govt doesn't even follow it's own law's. This isn't broken? I don't want to bore everyone with the list of things that the everyday Bulgarian has to deal with, if they live there, they know this already. But it's a long list, a very long list and the govt does nothing to ease this burden. Yet you continue to bash America and don't look in your own backyard for the hipcrocy that is going on everyday in BG.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #23 19, 45, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      More than that.
      The EU allows every resident of Guam or Puerto Rico to travel freely, because of their US passports.

      The EU should start imposing restrictions to the various US States and territories in retaliation, and then perhaps the US will rethink its discriminatory practices.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #22 18, 49, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      "Of course the U.S. can apply whatever restrictions on entrance as it chooses regardless of the applicant's country's EU membership."

      That's not what Brussels thinks. Treating all EU passports equally is among the points of contention between the US and the EU. The EU treats all US states equally. Not all are wealthy either.

      "Call it discrimination if you like. BG is certainly restricting who it admits in it's borders. No reason to provide excuses."

      Yeah and we don't have military bases in the countries we exclude from [...]

      Read the full comment free travel, do we?

      We don't have to agree with it. Or support the US. So long as the US discriminates against BG passports, I will work towards kicking the US military personal out of BG. It's my logical right and prerogative as a Bulgarian national. No one can convince ma that it's OK to mistreat us.

      P.S. A few hundred million over the years is nothing and the US is getting what it payed for. Now either treat us like an EU country or keep your opinions to yourselves.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #21 18, 27, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      The U.S. has given Bulgaria several hundred million dollars in various forms of aid since 1990. That's not an insignificant amount by any stretch of the imagination.

      As far as BG troops participating in a NATO led coalition, the total number accounts for approximately 0.60% of the total from 44 countries. This is what happens when a country joins a group like NATO, before long, you are required to participate.

      Of course the U.S. can apply whatever restrictions on entrance as it chooses regardless of the applicant's country's EU membership. Call it [...]

      Read the full comment discrimination if you like. BG is certainly restricting who it admits in it's borders. No reason to provide excuses.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #20 18, 11, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      " don't disagree with the content of the article, you just don't like the fact that it came from the American State Dept. If France or Germany wrote the very same 'facts' you're saying you would agree with it?"

      Is there an echo on the Echo?

      Yes, how many times do I have to say that? Yes - France and Germany are completely different case. They allow us to travel freely, accepted us in their structures, they finance our transition and have every right to demand and expect [...]

      Read the full comment progress. Besides they are much more of a positive example than the US.

      I am not an apologist for BG any more than Amexpat or Stefcho are apologists for the US. BG is not a broken state, it's a state in transition, member of the EU and a participant in good standing in every meaningful world institution. BG has many problems, chief among them the mentality of the so called "average Bulgarian" which often makes them unable to see themselves in perspective. Context is everything. BG has never been in a better path or place in my lifetime. If she is a broken state now, then she was nothing less than a concentration camp, when I was growing up. I'd take broken state any day.

      BG was broken in 1947 when everything was stolen and the cream of our intellectual and entrepreneurial elite was wiped out. Over 100,000 people were simply killed by the Bulgarian Commies - the most % wise in Eastern Europe. What followed was 5 decades of arbitrary rule, isolation and misery that had the culminate effect of distorting the collective POV and mentality. BG is just now beginning to recover from that deep would. It will take a long time though. That is the context.

    • Anonymous
      expat Rating:
      #19 15, 50, Tue, Mar 16 2010

      I can go on and on.... the point is that BG's problems are if anything less dramatic than those of the US, and if you read the report, it's painting a picture of borderline rogue state - completely out of context

      You are correct Valeri, they are much more then what was painted in the article and I think you know it. Quite being Bulgaria's apoligist, it is a broken state with major systemic problems and you know it, it constantly screws over it's people and you know it, it doesn't provide a good education to [...]

      Read the full comment it's children and you know it, it's try's to screw it's business out of it's VAT refunds by trying to get them to except 10% less which is a violation of the law and you know it, you don't disagree with the content of the article, you just don't like the fact that it came from the American State Dept. If France or Geramany wrote the very same 'facts' you're saying you would agree with it? I think it's time that you go out and mingle with the average Bulgarian and see what there live's are really like. You've spent time in the states as you've stated so I'm assuming that you are making much more then the average Bulgarian so I don't think you speak for them.
      You continue to justify everything that goes wrong with Bulgaria so your more then likley part of the problem then the solution. If you actually cared about the average Bulgaian you would have stated that the education, health care, social programs are by far not enough to help it's most desparate people. I'm sure you benifited from living in America but then you come back and just trash it, I suppose that's your way of saying thanks.

    • AnonymousValeriTue, Mar 16 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #17 23, 59, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      "I believe BG is also closely scrutinizing and refusing visas to applicants from certain countries."

      BG has EU visa requirements for any none-EU visitor. We are obliged because we are part of the EU. The US discriminates against Bulgarian nationals at her borders, and does not treat them like it does the average EU national. The money BG has received from the US has been insignificant and has been a payment, not a hand out. US pays for participating in her wars. She needs us, among many others, for pure legitimacy for her conflicts, mostly for [...]

      Read the full comment PR, so that she can refer to her auxiliaries as an "International Coalition".

      This is not wrong or right, just a fact.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #16 23, 10, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      Regarding the visa requirements of any country, I believe it is fully up to the country in question as to who it allows to let in and on what grounds. I have lived in a few countries, and traveled to many others. While I may not always understand or agree with their respective immigration policies, the fact remains that it's their sovereign decision. I believe BG is also closely scrutinizing and refusing visas to applicants from certain countries.

      To "1", thank you for the links. It's important to note this information, as the U.S. gives away [...]

      Read the full comment a lot of taxpayer money in foreign aid. I have noticed that for as much complaining as people do about U.S. actions and policies, which is their right to do, interestingly, no one ever seems to complain when we write a check.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #15 22, 29, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      "Are the criticisms toward the report due to inaccurate findings, or that it was published by the State Department?"

      The second.

      "In my opinion, we live in a very intertwined world, and very few countries can afford to be isolationist."

      Remind that to any Bulgarian trying to enter the US without special permission (visa). Somehow I think that "intertwinement" is very much one way. I have no patience for the opinions of countries discriminating against us. The EU put their money where their mouth is - open the [...]

      Read the full comment borders and treat us like humans. I'd take criticism from them. Not so the US. All they do is get us involved in wars....

    • Anonymous neutral
      #14 22, 14, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      Are the criticisms toward the report due to inaccurate findings, or that it was published by the State Department? In my opinion, we live in a very intertwined world, and very few countries can afford to be isolationist. To think that countries are all going to stay out of each others' business is, at this stage, wishful thinking.

      Of course countries like China or Russia are writing reports on other countries. They don't base their decisions on what they see on CNN. They, among many other countries, have very real geopolitical concerns and they monitor very [...]

      Read the full comment closely the conditions of countries.

      As far as the Echo is concerned, most news reported is primarily centered on Bulgaria, Europe and the U.S. There is generally very very little news regarding other countries. Why this is, I have no idea, as there is far more going on in the world than just what the EU and US are up to. But, this is their website.

    • Anonymous1Mon, Mar 15 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #12 20, 44, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      "... the EU continues to ignore the problems in Bulgaria,.."

      Really? I think most EU officials would disagree with that statement - violently!

      The EU continues to push for BG to reform - that's their job, not that of the US. We are not part of the US. The US is not in the EU - Russia is more European than the US.

      This just reenforces the notion that the US sees itself in charge of the world.

      Not to mention that the uS [...]

      Read the full comment has double the murder rate of BG and major gang problems all over their cities. To be even commenting on BGs crime and corruption is the hight of incredulity... Embezzlement... - you had Medoff as the head of the NASDAQ!!!

      The US also has the highest % of prison population - higher than Russia for sure.

      Everybody has their problems, solve yours before you judge others...

    • Anonymous
      Stefcho Rating:
      #11 20, 31, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      Is it that they don't trust Brussels to paint a realistic picture of one of the EU countries?
      Valeri, it is exactly the reason that things like this are done, the EU continues to ignore the problems in Bulgaria, I realize that things don't change overnight but I'm sure you couldn't find one person in the EU to say that BG is it total complience with it's own standards. You know that most of these things are in fact true, yet you continue to just blame the US for its opinion of BG, a fairly accurate opinion and [...]

      Read the full comment fair, in fact I think they were kind.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #10 19, 15, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      Expat, perhaps.
      The problem is however that the "US State Department" has that really bad connotation and it sounds like war and aggression.

      If the Echo publishes a report like that done by the Chinese or Argentinean equivalent, we would just shrug and move on.
      As it is, we have your soldiers and bases visibly walking around our country, (something the Soviets never allowed - I've never seen what a Russian soldier looks like growing up) and when we see a report from the US it really adds up.


      Read the full comment /> Does China issue reports on EVERY State or on the US generally?

      I ask that because we are part of the EU and the US invariably ignores that fact.
      Is it that they don't trust Brussels to paint a realistic picture of one of the EU countries?

    • Anonymous neutral
      #9 18, 42, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      The U.S. issues reports on an extremely wide variety of topics, this happens to be just one. It's nothing personal. The State Department writes these reports on every country. The State Department oversees our foreign service corps, so it is relevant that they would publish reports of this nature. The U.S. is not the only country (not to mention NGO's, among others) either who writes and publishes reports on international matters (including individual countries).

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #8 17, 59, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      make no mistake - the US is the new USSR. In every way!

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #7 17, 58, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      Yeah Jackson,
      things mentioned are everyone's business, it's the fact that the report comes from the US State Department that I question.

      It's like China making such reports and we publishing them.

    • Anonymous
      NICK Rating:
      #6 12, 22, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      Why the press pays so much attention to these reports?Personally,i believe that its not appropriate the State Department to make such reports and i do not read them.This work must be done by authorised bodies of the International Community and not by a single country.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #5 10, 01, Mon, Mar 15 2010

      If you really believe that, I have some great land I want to sell you on the Black Sea coast. Easy to see that you are not the sharpest tool in the shed.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #4 06, 47, Sun, Mar 14 2010

      One should only take a crack at Amnesty International Human Rights Report on the U.S. and NOT get surprised to see similarities...

    • Anonymous
      Jackson Rating:
      #3 15, 07, Sat, Mar 13 2010

      Wise up, dude. The things mentioned in this report are everybody's business.

    • Profile preview
      Десен Rating: 1393
      #2 03, 50, Sat, Mar 13 2010

      Yeah, right on
      Any word or even better a press conference on the matter from mr. Warlick would be right on the money.
      Go get em Jimbo, even before dudes like Valeri could spell USSR :)

      Не цъфтиш ли като цвете, гниеш като бурен.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #1 23, 59, Fri, Mar 12 2010

      Yeah OK but I still don't see how is this US State Department business...

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