This is a photo of a trade-union protest held on 9 March 2009 in Sofia, Bulgaria. What is striking is that the protesters have obviously lost any trust in their national government and are putting their hope on the European institutions, symbolized by the Belgian capital Brussels. However, this should come as a small surprise as latest opinion polls show the government has the support of 8-10% of the respondents.
On the contrary, the EU has a positive image for 58% of the people as a Eurobarometer study shows. As a comparison this level is 13 points above the EU average. Still, there are countries where the union has an even better image - Romania ( 63% positive), Macedonia (60%) and … surprise, surprise, Ireland (59%) - according to November 2008 data.
In July 2008 the European Commission released an unprecedentedly negative report on Bulgaria which resulted in the freezing and eventual stopping of the pre-accession funds (ISPA, PHARE, SAPARD) that the country was still benefiting from. The main critiques came on the high-level corruption and the inability of the judicial system to deliver verdicts on key cases. Since then, Bulgarians have started (more or less) to rely on the European institutions for a fair picture of what’s really happening in the country.
Given all that, I guess you won’t be surprised if I told you the union of policemen in Bulgaria is preparing for a protest on 15 March … in front of the Czech embassy! The Czech Republic is holding the EU presidency, after all.