Bulgarian PM talk at Harvard

Harvard Crimson writes about the Bulgarian PM visit there yesterday. The original title is “Bulgaria’s Role Key, PM Says”.

Here are some parts I wanted to comment on:

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev stressed the importance of his country in stabilizing the surrounding regions and shaping Europe’s new energy policy in a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School last night.

During the lecture, entitled “Bulgaria as a Stabilizing Factor in Southeast Europe and the Black Sea Region,” Stanishev called for regional cooperation and further Euro-Atlantic integration in ensuring the stability of the two regions.

He highlighted Bulgaria’s role in transporting natural gas through two new proposed pipelines, Nabucco and South Stream, and also proposed an increased focus on nuclear energy.

Stanishev said he was proud with the progress his country has made over the last decade and that he vowed to continue this trend in the future.

“I’m very glad as a Bulgarian,” Stanishev said. “In recent years there’s been a real change in our region.”

“I think he answered the questions reasonably. I thought he was a very practical and intelligent guy who does a great job,” said Nnamdi D. Okike, a student at both the Harvard Business School and Law School.

However, Vessela Hristova, a teaching fellow in the government Department who is from Bulgaria, said she thought otherwise.

“It was his usual propaganda,” she said. “A lot of people are not really specialists in the region, so it flies if he spins questions around.”

“How can he be here and rave about how great the conditions are if the Bulgarian students don’t want to return back?” asked another Bulgarian, Rositsa P. Atanasova from the Divinity School. “They don’t think there’s anything for them to do there, the conditions aren’t ripe enough,” she said.

Bulgaria ranks fifth among foreign countries in the number of students it sends to Harvard.

What strikes me is the fact that our own Bulgarian students still talk about “them”, as if they are somehow different students. I wonder also, why would someone expect that a student, who has decided to go to Harvard, and has the skills to graduate there, should immediately think of coming back to Bulgaria? Or, what exactly does Rositsa think “ripe conditions” are? Do we all really expect that Bulgaria will suddenly change, and the people will suddenly feel that they are part of the civil society? Such “jumps” in the development were part of the communist propaganda, but today it is quite clear (and I’ve written about it in this blog) that the Bulgarian citizens need to understand that before they, themselves, form a civil society, there will be no team spirit, and we all will continue to be individualists.
I think what Nnamdi D. Okike is quoted saying expresses exactly the difference between the objective viewer, and the subjective one. The irony here is, that I am sure Rositsa behaves like all other students at the Harvard, and not like all other Bulgarians on the streets of Sofia. In other words – she can’t live there, without accepting the norms of the society. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why people feel reluctant to come back to Bulgaria – because there are no norms and rules in Bulgaria. And yes, it is a tough task to try to build them. And it will require a lot of small bricks to be placed, before it is finished.

Disclaimer: I’ve done some work for the creation of the civil society in Bulgaria – via ISOC.bg and its role in the promotion and spread of the Internet in the country.

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