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a�?If we vote and elect members of the European Parliament, where shall we find them afterwards to make them help us?a�?
This has been the most frequently asked question at the Ministry of state administration site, while the staff of Nikolai Vassilev was trying to make the campaign and organize the voters in May. And in fact, these 18 people might be flying like a flock of birds between Sofia and Brussels with an unknown place of landing, with an unknown usefulness for the separate voter.
The Bulgarian people have been considering the things in this way and a very low percentage of them went to the ballot-boxes. Maybe it is due to the fact that the appointed earlier Bulgarian representatives to the European Parliament could not practically show of what use they might be for the people.
Nevertheless, Bulgaria elected 18 representatives for the European Parliament. Their remunerations happened to be among the lowest in the Parliament. It is close to the logics, that to equalize their standard with their colleagues from the European Parliament, they might decide to economize from some of the preplanned expenditures. Could they decide to do it at the expense of communication with the Bulgarian citizens?
Every one of the 18 members of the European Parliament disposes of a sum between 3500 and 3900 Euros monthly to hire and maintain offices.
This sum is not accounted for. They may vary depending upon whether the member of the European Parliament has been missing the Committees’ sittings or the plenary sittings where he/she has been supposed to vote.
Apart from this, other 15 000 Euros monthly are presupposed for assistants’ pay. These sums have to be accounted for, as there had been cases in the past, when the members of the European Parliament had been hiring members of their families as their assistants. At present the assistants are contracted and they receive their pay from the EP. In Brussels the members of the European Parliament are usually hiring three assistants, usually Bulgarians. These are the people to prepare the reports and the positions; therefore they have to be in command of several languages, to have the relevant qualification and educational level. For this reason the condition of the EP is that their monthly pay should be not less than 3000 Euros.
People that are fond of making calculations can reach to the result, that every month the European Parliament allots to our representatives in Strasbourg a sum of the equivalent of 660 000 Bulgarian Levs for offices and assistants. Can you imagine the way this sum is to be spent? In fact, our members in the European Parliament are becoming employers and the effect of their management will be depending on their skills to set up and maintain their teams.
The members of the European Parliament put themselves quickly on the right track and started to open offices in Bulgaria.
During the last month the network of offices became quite intensive. In cities like Sofia, Bourgas and Varna several offices have been opened by members of the European Parliament from different political forces. The pioneer of this practice was the former member of the European Parliament Stefan Sofianski, who had opened his office in the same room in the Party House that he previously used as a member of the National assembly. Unlike him, Atanas Paparisov from BSP managed to overcome the election barrier and won the next mandate after May 28th as member of the European Parliament. “My office has been opened in Plovdiv yet at the beginning of the year and it is still functioning. Quite a lot of work is done there and it is located in the White house, the same place where the head office of BSP is located. The White house in Plovdiv has been bought by BSP, and the member of the European Parliament declares, that he has hired a room there using it as a place to meet people at. He ascertains that usually he gives daily consultations for four to five people with registration in advance, along with e-mail A�correspondence. Usually members of the European Parliament from one political group decide to open and maintain one office in different regions in the country. “I have tried to concentrate my activity to the South Central region” explained Paparizov, the leader of the Bulgarian socialists’ group in EP. His colleague Marusia Lubcheva opened an office in Bourgas.
In Sofia BSP got saturated with information offices.
Kristian Vigenin, Iliana Jotova, and Evgeni Kirilov, each one of them opened his own office, only in different residential areas. Kirilov is intending to open an office also in Vratsa. The problem with Northern Bulgaria is a bit more complicated, recognize the socialists. Nevertheless Iliana Jotova is ambitious to open offices in other cities in the country. Last week she explained that she was willing to open information offices in Gabrovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Ruse, Lovech and perhaps in Pleven too. The offices will be offering consultations on preparing projects for the European funding, there seminars and trainings will be organized. The members of the European Parliament do not want to share details about the renting contracts for their offices, but the sums are not large. They add in a rush that the monthly sum of 3500 Euros goes for the office maintenance – electricity, telephone, and water supply plus events costs. All they assure, that money should be spent on purpose to the last stotinka. At the same time EP is not demanding financial report from them. And who else might demand for it?
The GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) representatives opened information centers in Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Smolian and Pazardzik. In Varna Dushana Zdravkova is hosting the office, in Burgas – Rumiana Zeleva, in Ruse – Nikolai Mladenov, in Smolian – Vladimir Uruchev and in Pazardzik – Petia Stavreva. For Sofia the GERB members of the European Parliament are intending to open an office together. “We are clear about the fact that many people cannot afford to reach Brussels to meet the members of the European Parliament from Burgas. Instead of spending much money on opening expensive offices there, we considered it more useful for the people to open this reception hall here” explained at the opening of the office in Burgas the city Mayor Dimiter Nikolov, who, for that time, was the regional coordinator to GERB. Dushana Zdravkova explained that her office had been leased at market prices, supplied with all the necessary documents. The office is located on 82-84 “Makedonia”str. “Contrary to many of the different political parties’ clubs, these information centers are not opened for making “image” and they are not cafA�s. A lot of work is done in them”, asserts Zdravkova. Her office in Varna has been often offered to non-governmental organizations to make their meetings there. According to Zdravkova, young people were also showing interest to her office. Some people were visiting her office to share problems that had not been adequately or satisfactory solved by the local or the state administration. “Sometimes I have the feeling that these people see in us their last hope for defense” notes she.
Unlike the two large groups of members of the European Parliament disposing monthly of about 35 000 Levs, to rent offices and maintain them, Bilyana Raeva from NMSS can dispose of a sum five times less, as she is the only one of the NMSS nominees that ended the European Parliament elections successfully. She chose a quite an ambitious approach and opened series of information offices. The main one is located in the head office of NMSS on “Vrabcha” str. She is not going to pay a rent for it, but she is covering the maintenance. She notes that the monthly costs for telephones, for example, may reach the sum of 10 000 Levs. Until now Raeva has opened seven information offices; besides the one in the capital city, she opened offices in Varna, Plovdiv, Gabrovo, Vidin, Vratza and Gorna Oryahovitza. She is planning to open offices in Lovech, Blagoevgrad, Nessebar, Jambol and Razgrad or Dobrich. Part of these offices ale located in the NMSS party clubs.” My office in Vratza, as well as my offices in Gabrovo, Plovdiv and Varna, are not located in the NMSS party clubs” explained Raeva. For her new offices she would not prefer to be located in party clubs. She would require that they should be situated in the city centers, to be on the first floor, to be at the corner of the building.22 assistants are working already in Bilyana Raeva’s team, she pays them wages and insurance. “All of a sudden, I turned to be an employer and this demands a lot of work to be done” explained Raeva. Her assistants tell they have to work a lot as her demands are high.
The MFR representatives in the European Parliament are observing the same rules of organization. They have also shared the country into regions and each of the four of them is responsible for one of the regions. Metin Kazak has already opened his office in Sofia, located near the NPC and he is preparing to open one more in Targovishte. Prof. Vladko Panaiotov opened an office in Kardzali. Filiz Husmenova is going to consult the citizen of Silistra; Mariela Baeva is also preparing an opening of an office.” I am in Kardzali since 20 years; I worked as director to the College on mining. The local people are used
to look for me first in the college, then they call my mobile phone, my wife is almost doing the job of my secretary”, explains Prof. Panaiotov. He has been paying to lecturers from the College on electronics to help consulting the people wishing to write projects. Interest has been shown in the region towards projects on using sun light as an energy source and on building high-tech factories.
In spite of the EP support for opening offices, recently the National Parliament Chairman Pirinski signed an order saying that every political group of Bulgarian Members of the European Parliament will be disposing of a room in the NA building on “Batemberg” Square. This gives them an additional option to meet people, though the access to the building is a special one.
Communication with people is possible virtually too. Every member of the European Parliament has a site. Some of these sites do not have working links. The members of the European Parliament were infected also by the blog fashion. The most popular is the one of Nikolai Mladenov giving in details what exactly is the work of a member of the European Parliament. His program is sometimes described in such details, that people start thinking whether the members of the European Parliament have enough time for their personal lives.