Report from Sofia.
The rigid calm of Sofia pours ice on the skin of its visitor. An apathetic end-of-the-story calm. A calm that announces shopping centres close at hand, the latest thriller, luxury and market goods, exclusion and flexibility. What was in the past considered the sixteenth republic of the old URSS, is nowadays a poised orphan country, won by market forces: anxious to become immediately the opposite of what it was.
Battle-field for the new fluxes of the world policy, conquered territory for the expansion of the European Union (EU) and, at the same time, for the expansion of the Atlantic Alliance, Bulgaria has let itself be run through, cut through, atomized, in a triumph of the impotence and good will of an applicant country and its frustrated delusions.
And yet, the economy is developing, at least in the economists opinion, in a positive way. It is within the top five of the European continent (4,5%), a satisfying report, as regards market privatization and liberalization and a little entrepreneurial activity, with ever-increasing independence. But poverty is remembered above all in the minds. There is so much wealth in this world, but not for us, not for us an old Bulgarian song sang. Even though 75% of the population thinks it has lost its social status since the fall of Communism, and even though unemployment is very close to 20%, people dont complain. They admire the luxury parade of Mercedes in the city-centre and are content with it.
The government of the ex-king Simeon II is droppping in the polls; the ex-body-guard of the ex-dictator Givkov, today Minister for the Interior, has become the most popular man in the country, hammering home his fantastic conservative rhetoric; Gipsy immigrants are not integrated and crime such as drugs and stealing is encouraging intolerance.
It is within this frame of diffused fragility, that the foreign powers, as they used to be called here in the Balkans, are now acting and infiltrating the conceptof Globalization vague in Boulevard Saint-Germain but extremely alive in Sveta Nedelya square. A Globalization that is everything but monolithic, since its interpretations are many. And two main models are clashing in the battlefield: the social-market economy and the made-in-the-USA free trade. European Union on one side and NATO-IMF on the other.
The first model is official, transparent, subscribed to in the annual reports of the Commission about enlargement, published on the Internet. It includes all the fields: it is, of course, economic; but it is also politic and social. And, therefore, more difficult to imitate if it is true that Bulgaria will join the EU as soon as 2007.
The other model is more subtle, more fragmented and opaque. It came with the last enlargement of NATO, expected at the Summit of Prague on November 21st and 22nd, but it was born before, thanks to the combined action, after the fall of the Wall, of such institutions as the IMF, and American foundations and companies. The result? The economic and social made-in-the-USA doctrine crept quickly into the minds of the ruling élite, the present one as well as that of the future. The Americanization of youth is palpable in the smallest of details: in the address @hotmail.com; Georgi (pronunciation: Gheorghi) becomes George (English pronunciation). If, for example, an Italian called Giorgio were to do the same he would be considered an eccentric. At the university of Economy there is room only for Free trade during the "Macro" lessons. Foundations from overseas dont fail to organize frequent conferences with big-name professors from Harvard. In short, with all the arms of the American soft power deployed on the territory, Bulgaria is always going to become still more Americanized. Since 1989 Bulgarians read less, go seldom to the theatre, and watch more TV series declares Boriana Dimitrova, Sociologist.
But public opinion is less pro-American than you would expect. According to a recent poll made by Alpha Research of Sophia, only 32% interviewees hoped for a development in diplomatic relationships between their country and USA, 67% preferred the European Union and 60% the beloved Russia. On the other hand, only recently did the same adhesion to NATO get back on top of polls, passing from a miserable 34% of supporters in 1995 to the present 58%. A meagre result compared to the large 90% of the population who acknowledge the advantages of entrance to the EU.
But beyond this worrying division between public opinion traditionally diffident against Washington and the rampant élite, the Americanization in progress is utterly relentless. And it is difficult to understand how Europe can include countries that, after an instant cultural capitulation, are going to enter the Atlantic security system or did already, like Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. A system that seals - it is worth remembering the position of USA as a regional power in Europe.
Unfortunately, Europeans heard the alarm bell with a grotesque delay, only when Romany ratified the bilateral agreement with United States unexpectedly, to exonerate its citizens from the judgment of the International Penal Court. But the cacophony could soon become epidemic and crystallize the differences: with West Europe looking for its autonomy within the European defence of PESC, with the World Commerce Organization (WCO), as well as on the global diplomatic field (Kyoto) and a group of Eastern countries aspiring to penetrate the European fortress on behalf of a hyper-power, rather than unification.
The truth is, that the Union after having lost its game of soft power in Eastern Europe, is going to jeopardize its own projects of autonomous defence, aiming among other things at putting forward an historical European rapid reaction force amounting to 60.000 soldiers by March 2003. These are projects that must all be confirmed by these Countries now in the orbit of American influence.
Moreover, Europe is and remains a model of society and culture; a perfectible model, of course; a model to be exposed to the constructive critics of the new Countries. But, at the moment, with the Orthodox litany about the respect of the acquis communautaire, we are only deceiving ourselves if we believe that we can feed a universe, the Eastern one, with our world. It will soon throw it out.
While, at the very East, the Iron Curtain is now being submersed by a second Atlantic, specular to the one of the North-Treaty, the solitude of the European Union becomes radicalized and becomes psychoanalytically internal. And when, for the purposes of Left wing reform, some sections of European intelligensia propose to promote globally our model of society, these words are imperceptible in the icy calm of Sophia.