- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
The media campaign against Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants plumbs new depths each week. Who would have guessed this country once put Bulgaria on a pedestal?
If anyone ever thought the current anti-Bulgarian agitation in the UK media was a flash in the pan, think again. For weeks and months now a steady drumbeat has rolled on.
In the last few days readers of the tabloid UK media have been treated to such headlines as: “We’re on our way to Britain - up to 29 million could come”; “Begging in Bulgaria - or benefits in Britain?”; “Bulgarians and Romanians plan ‘to flood UK’ in 2014”; and, “We want to get into your country before someone locks the door”.
These grim stories all follow the same form and trajectory: feature-interviews with generic-sounding Balkan types who can’t wait to come to the UK, grab onto the welfare state and suck out all they can. The pictures are much the same, too: scowling, headscarved women with arms full of babies; toothless, shambolic-looking men; children giving the finger to the camera – all shot against a backdrop of garbage dumps and wooden shacks in the rain.
Britain has seen nothing like it since the scaremongering about Asian immigrants in the 1970s, but that campaign was model of restraint compared to this bare-knuckled vendetta.
And while the left then savaged the right-wing media for pandering to racism, this time there is barely a squeak of complaint from that political corner. No votes are to be had in questioning, let alone combating, this kind of group vilification, it seems.
When Britain’s Work and Pensions Minster Ian Duncan Smith last week melodramatically described the threatened invasion as a “crisis”, Labour’s Yvette Cooper countered only with a claim that Labour would be just as tough - or tougher - on the immigrant question than the ruling Conservatives.
To anyone with a sense of history, the new hostility to Bulgarians in particular is a classic case of amnesia. Who would have guessed that just over a century ago, Bulgaria was the idol of England, or part of England, at any rate?
After the great Liberal leader William Gladstone took up the cause of Bulgarian freedom from Ottoman rule in the 1870s with his bestseller, The Bulgarian Horrors, a nationwide campaign known as “The Bulgarian agitation” swept the country, and lasted for years.
Vast crowds attended monster meetings at Blackheath in London and elsewhere to hear orators thunder on the subject. Feeling was so strong that in 1880, voters kicked out Prime Minister Disraeli virtually on the issue of Bulgaria; most agreeing with the Liberals that Disraeli had agreed to borders for the new state of Bulgaria at the Berlin Congress that were far too small.
In Bulgaria, people were appreciative; Gladstone received 27 addresses from different parts of Bulgaria after winning the election.
From then at least until the outbreak of World War One, support for a “free” - i.e. enlarged - Bulgaria was one of the defining causes of British Liberalism. Championing a big Bulgaria was part of what made you a British Liberal.
These days, not only does the old love of Bulgaria, big or small, clearly not survive – no one even remembers it. Partly, one suspects, this is because love is always easy to maintain at a distance. The Bulgarians that the British idealised in the 19th century were not about to move anywhere, let alone to Britain.
The change of heart is also down to the fact that, although few of the media say this directly, (though there are exceptions) what we are now talking about are not any old Bulgarians and Romanians but Bulgarian and Romanian Roma.
In fact, the modern Bulgarian-Romanian agitation - the anti- version - is all about the Roma. Why? Because, as everybody knows, all the Balkan Roma without exception don’t want to work, love begging and opt for lives of petty crime from choice.
Of course, some Roma confirm to this stereotype, and anyone who has been to a big city rail or bus terminal, in Romania especially, is likely to have suffered from their unwanted attention. But all Balkan Roma?
The ones I remember in Serbia mostly kept themselves busy recycling, running market stalls, driving taxis, and shuttle trading between Serbia and Bulgaria. Most people who hosed down the city in the dead of night for the city sanitation department were also Roma, and it didn’t look like a job for the work-shy.
They also play at weddings in their spare time. Quite versatile entrepreneurs, in some ways. Throw in the extra fact that they seem to have zero intolerance towards other faith and racial groups, and aren’t they just the kind of adaptable incomers our government is always telling us we need more of?
Logically, one might have thought so, but no. Roma are Roma and not only does Britain not want them but there seems to be an open season in saying so in the loudest, most offensive terms possible. Gladstone would be spinning in his grave – but who cares?
Powerful businessman who made a fortune in sugar is among pre-qualified bidders for Kosovo’s ambitious planned ski resort.