“The Wage Union should bring us together rather than divide us" - Bulgaria is optimistic, too

How serious a challenge is it for Jobbik’s Bulgarian ally to collect the statements of support for the wage union initiative? How can Bulgarian NGOs contribute to the success and what message is the VMRO sending to Hungarians who struggle for equal wages? Among others, these were the questions we asked from Mihail Petrov, the leader of the patriotic party’s youth organization and one of the original launchers of the European Citizens’ Initiative.

Did you expect the European Commission to register the initiative or were you surprised by the decision?

Basically, this was the decision I expected because our application was correct both formally and legally. As a matter of fact, they might only have rejected it if they had made a political decision on the matter.

Why is it important for Bulgaria that the initiative got the green light?

Because it gives us a chance to voice our discontent with the European Union’s social policy. At last, we can now speak the truth and change the EU’s mechanisms of operation.

As an initiator of the project, what kind of challenges do you face now?

My job is mostly related to organizational tasks in Bulgaria and internationally as well. Of course, it does not mean that I won’t participate in the promotion of the initiative or the practical campaign itself.

You need to collect about 13 thousand statements of support in Bulgaria. How do you see your chances to do so in one year? Do you think you might collect much more even?

13 thousand signatures are not so dramatically many, so we expect to collect significantly more since Bulgaria’s people are quite intensively seeking for a positive change. There is an extremely high demand for increasing living standards in Bulgaria, that is why we believe that a significant part of our society will support the wage union.

Márton Gyöngyösi, Julian Angelov, Gábor Vona and Mihail Petrov in the Bulgarian Parliament

What will be the biggest challenge for you in collecting the statements of support?

We expect the resistance of the opposition and our political competitors to be the biggest obstacle. VMRO is a fairly centrist, centre-right conservative party, so we must expect significant attacks from the left, the right and the centre, too. Driven rather by political rivalry than ideological reasons, but our opponents are likely to employ any means, including provocation, to discredit the initiative.

Do you think your role in government could be an advantage?

As a matter of fact, our only advantage is that we will be able to articulate and stress our opinion through the media. In that regard, the promotion of the initiative is quite certain. Besides, we have good positions in the Parliament to convince the Bulgarian nation, too. We will have a chance to demonstrate that the wage union is not a hyped-up media “bubble” since each and every Bulgarian citizen has the right for better wages.

What is the average Bulgarian citizen’s take on the initiative? How much interest have you experienced from NGOs and trade unions? How did the other parties react?

Average citizens can very much identify with the initiative since we unfortunately are lagging far behind the western living standards even though we formally belong to Europe. Average Bulgarian citizens expect equal chances and want their work to enjoy the same kind of appreciation as that of a Western European. NGOs have been showing increasing interest in the wage union concept, but these organizations are quite fragmented in Bulgaria, unfortunately. We must definitely unify them and gather them under the banner of the initiative. That will be the token of success. Other parties have not voiced their official opinions: they either may not have learnt of the initiative yet, or they simply ignore it. Of course, the slack summer season has a major role in that, too.

 

Mihail Mihali Petrov, Angel Dzhambazki and Julian Angelov

Telling made-up reasons or even straight lies, the Hungarian government attempts to block the initiative instead of supporting it. What is your message to those who hinder this project out of ignorance or political motivations?

In Bulgaria, no one has stepped up against the initiative: since there’s no campaign yet, there’s no counter-campaign, either. There’s silence, like the silence before the storm... As a matter of fact, summer is not quite an active period in the political arena, we expect any significant events to happen from the autumn on. My message to our Hungarian allies is this: Do not give in to the provocations of your political opponents and never give up, keep fighting for your rights until the very end. I wish you a lot of strength and endurance for this struggle.

The Hungarian government also keeps scaring voters, saying that if the Wage Union is implemented, our homeland will be flooded by migrants. Is this a real risk?

I don’t think that wage equality would lead to this at all. Furthermore, the social and cultural features of Western Europe are quite different from our Eastern Central European life and from those of Central Europe, too. Immigrants would probably not feel at home in these countries at all. The massive wave of immigrants don’t aim for our territories. They clearly and obviously target the well-known Western European countries, more specifically, their former colonizers. If certain people are trying to threaten us with an influx of migrants in case the Wage Union is implemented, it is nothing but a blatant attempt at a smear campaign by politically counter-interested parties.

Gábor Vona said that the project and the inclusion of the “equal wages for equal work” principle in the EU Treaties could lay the foundations for a new Europe with more solidarity and social integrity. Do you think this initiative could really reform the European Union?

I fully agree and I believe that fast and efficient reforms in structural areas are vital after Brexit. We definitely need to eliminate wage inequalities and stop the internal migration wave since it was a key driver of Brexit: it is exactly what caused the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Solidarity is needed in written and theoretical forms as well as at an actual practical level. I am fully convinced that the citizens of the European Union would feel and appreciate the elimination of wage inequalities.

 

Mihail Petrov at the time of signing the wage union initiative in Budapest

How do you see the cooperation of the initiators? Are they developing a common strategy to reach out to their citizens or each country is going to collect the signatures in its own way?

I believe the necessary coordination is beginning to take shape. VMRO has only been in constant contact with Jobbik so far but we definitely want to intensify the cooperation with the other participants as well. We launched this initiative together and we must stay united to go on with it. As the saying goes: united we stand!

Are you planning to reach out to the Western European public or perhaps to mobilize Bulgarian youth working in the west?

We definitely are. We would like to respectfully ask all of them to support our initiative in the name of justice and fairness. This initiative is not against them but for eliminating the factors that divide us and drive a wedge between us. We are members of an alliance and an economic community where we are supposed to enjoy equal rights. The wage union should bring us together rather than divide us. We are definitely planning to reach out to Bulgarians regardless if they stay at home or have decided to leave their homeland for economic reasons. Our main goal is to ensure that each and every Bulgarian citizen could make ends meet in their own homeland so that they would not have to look for the opportunity to prosper abroad.

 

Alfahír.hu - Jobbik.com