The prospect of a human life would bring Bulgarian youth back home as well

Hungarian website Alfahír talked with Stefka Taneva, the coordinator of the Bulgarian Independent Consumers’ Association and asked her how Bulgarian NGOs reacted to the wage union initiative and what options NGOs have for alleviating workers’ problems.

As it is known, Balkan states are not exactly pampered by material wealth, the people living here must face many challenges if they want to ensure proper living standards for themselves and their families. What are the key problems for Bulgarian workers?

As far as Bulgarian workers are concerned, the initiative’s core principle of “equal wages for equal work” is outstandingly important for them, while emigration threatens with a demographic disaster, too. On top of that, our population shows an increasingly ageing trend, which is another major consideration for the future.

How do you think the implementation of the wage union could help these problems?

Our primary expectation from the wage union is that more young people could stay in Bulgaria. This is vital because a young, trained and educated Bulgarian population is the token of our economic and cultural development. Just as I am sure Hungary has a similar experience, it is a common problem here that certain television shows and websites try to lure our young to the West if they had some great achievements in their professions. The biggest concern is that they are our sons and daughters, they were born and raised in Bulgaria, they studied here, so it would be best if they could prosper in their homeland, too. It is interesting to observe the shared Facebook messages of our young people who moved to the west in the hope of a better life. Their communication clearly shows that “they love their homeland and they would love to return if they could achieve decent living standards for themselves here. However, no matter how beautiful and glorious Bulgaria is in their eyes, if they cannot make a living and provide for their families there. It is a sad fact that each Bulgarian family already has at least one educated young member working abroad. They are the age group who could do the most for our country. If everybody could indeed get similar wages for the same work across the EU, many Bulgarians would be able to return home and I am sure they will do so.

How do you plan to reach out to the young, those who are still at home and those who already left?

We will primarily focus on social media. Fortunately, our organization has many young members although most of them have already emigrated.

How interested are Bulgarian NGOs and the general public in the wage union initiative? Do people know about it at all?

Unfortunately, the Bulgarian population has not been sufficiently informed about the wage union but our campaign will focus on reaching out to as many people as possible, together with our NGO allies. I do need to point out however, that several initiatives like this have come to a sad end in Bulgaria in the past 10 years: there are certain NGOs we used to have excellent relations with but they can no longer be considered credible or independent, which was a major factor in a growing apathy about such causes. On the other hand, we also see that many young people, who were forced to move abroad, are very interested in the idea and support it. We also have a good network across Bulgaria, both in terms of other NGOs or the general public, so we will have a lot of people to mobilize.

In your opinion, what is the responsibility of the politicians and governments, either in Bulgaria or Europe, in achieving a wage union?

I believe, that politicians should strive for equality, first of all. I have no doubt that there will be enough statements of support from Bulgaria and our government will back the initiative in some way, but I am also sure that we cannot expect the German government to do so, for example. Even though political forces and organizations typically have the necessary means, we must still expect practical problems at a European level, although cohesion is really needed.

What message would you send to the Eastern European masses who are forced to work in the West?

Be much more active, voice your opinion and stick with it, don’t comply with injustice! This wage union initiative is an excellent opportunity to do so.


Alfahí -