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DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Bulgarians vote in the UK on 4 April 2021. [Gulchay Suleyman]

In our changing Europe, worsening demography is often a catastrophe for democracy.

Romania and Bulgaria are good examples of countries depleted of the healthiest part of their population, as hundreds of thousands of their most active and dynamic citizens chose to make a better living abroad.

Roughly one-third of Bulgaria’s voters live abroad. Consequently, election results are usually determined by a more elderly, less dynamic and less active population at home.

And if one adds to this mix the so-called “controlled vote”, the result is political asphyxia, with the same parties making sure nothing changes, breeding disgust for politics and chasing abroad the next generation of émigrés.

It is amazing how results differ according to where the vote was cast. In Romania, legislative elections were held on 6 December 2020. Inside the country, 28.9% of the voters cast a ballot for the Romanian Socialist Party (PSD), which we could call a conservative force. In comparison, only 3.4% of the Romanian diaspora voted for PSD.

Conversely, 15.4% of the Romanians inside the country voted for USR-Plus, a reformist force, while for the diaspora, USR-Plus was the number one choice, with 32.6% of the ballots.

Bulgaria held legislative elections last Sunday (4 April). The ruling conservative GERB party won the most support among domestic voters, gaining 25% of the vote. But the Bulgarian diaspora credited incumbent prime minister Boyko Borissov’s party with only 8.6% while voting for protest parties in droves.

Musician-turned-politician Slavi Trifonov’s There Is Such A People party got 30.6% abroad, while progressive alliance Democratic Bulgaria got 17.6%. Domestically, Trifonov’s party received 17% and Democratic Bulgaria some 9%.

The differences between the diaspora and domestic electorate is not a matter of nuances.  Both in Bulgaria and Romania, the establishment fears the diaspora and tries to make it difficult for their nationals abroad to cast a vote.

Still, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians queued for hours to cast their ballots abroad.

This year, a record 180,000 Bulgarian diaspora voted on Sunday and if the conditions for voting had been easier, that figure might have topped one million, maybe more. Can anyone imagine how that might have affected the election result?

Today the protest parties in Bulgaria are pushing in parliament for a radical change to the election rules. Even if their minority government doesn’t last long, if they achieve this goal, the next elections will see the conservative parties dwarfed – and open the way for real change, real reform.

We will call this a success when the young Romanians and Bulgarians opt for staying home or returning from abroad. You may say I’m a dreamer.


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The Roundup

The European Commission could find it difficult to transfer the first tranche of the recovery funds to all member states according to its calendar, as most plans are expected to be approved at the same time and there will be limited capacity to borrow from the markets.

EU lawmakers moved closer to ratifying the bloc’s new trade agreement with the UK, after the European Parliament’s International Trade and Foreign Affairs Committees gave their green light to the pact.

Greece plans to open its borders to vaccinated visitors from several countries from next week, the government said, as the country seeks to restart its badly-hit tourism sector.

The importance of the freshly awarded EU protection for halloumi cheese goes beyond its food implication: key political actors have seen it as a historic opportunity to enhance economic cooperation and bring the two national communities in Cyprus closer.

The EU voiced support for the United States over cyber-attacks it has suffered, including a major hack blamed on Russia, as Washington imposed new sanctions on Moscow.

EURACTIV Bulgaria’s investigative journalist Valia Ahchieva depicts in her latest production on YouTube a sad reality: a plant protection product called Mocap containing an EU-banned active ingredient is not only being used but also subsidised by Bulgaria’s ministry of agriculture.

The event formally launching the Conference on the Future of Europe on 9 May is set to be a ‘hybrid’ of online and physical participation because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the EU Commissioner tasked with guiding the process said.

Africa is the continent that contributes least to climate change, yet it is impacted more harshly than others and lacks support to innovate, says the Portuguese presidency of the EU Council, which organised an EU-Africa Green Talk in Paris.

Look out for…

  • Eurogroup
  • Informal video conference of economic and finance ministers
  • Commissioner Breton in Paris to meet Prime Minister of France Jean Castex
  • Commissioner Timmermans holds a call with the COP26 President
  • European Parliament’s ENVI Committee

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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