As I mentioned in the “About this blog” section, one of my key responsibilities as a Fulbright grantee is to enhance understanding between Americans and Bulgarians. In my mind, a crucial part of this entails sharing updates on current events in Bulgaria. Back when I first started my Fulbright application, I signed up for Bulgaria Google Alerts. Essentially, this service sends a consolidated e-mail every day summarizing the top news stories in the region. Several major stories impacting Bulgaria and the Balkan region over the past few weeks jumped out at me, and I wanted to give a quick summary of the most impactful ones.
1. Heavy flooding in June killed 12 people and caused significant damage along the coast of the Black Sea. Varna and Dobrich (the 3rd and 9th largest cities in Bulgaria) were amongst the hardest hit, with many people losing electricity or experiencing extreme property damage. A national day of mourning was declared on June 23rd to remember those lost.
Cars and even homes were swept away by the force of the flooding
2. A massive pipeline project in Bulgaria has been delayed due to considerable political pressure from the European Union. The South Stream pipeline is planned to run directly through Bulgaria, and pump natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe. There is rising concern in the US and EU that completion of the pipeline would increase European dependency on Russia for energy, and ultimately give Russia too much power. There are also ramifications for the current crisis in Ukraine, as the pipeline would allow Russia to limit energy to Ukraine without impacting the rest of Europe. This Wall Street Journal article gives some interesting historical context about why that’s important.
3. Five people were arrested yesterday for their involvement in a plot against some of the top banks in Bulgaria. The conspirators used text messages and e-mails to spread false rumors about the instability of banks, which led to a mass withdrawal of ~$550 million in just a matter of hours. The government quickly approved an emergency credit line of more than $2 billion, which restored stability. President Rosen Plevneliev has been working to increase confidence in the banks, saying “We have sufficient reserves, means and tools to deal with any attempt at destabilization, and we stand behind each bank that becomes the target of an attack.”
Thank you Dave Gross for sending me the NYT article about the South Stream pipeline!