June 23, 2016
I don’t know what the result of the UK referendum on Europe will be while I write these lines. We will learn probably tomorrow morning. In Bulgaria, the country I know best, two thirds of people say they don’t care about Brexit. I must be from the minority who cares.
The UK was instrumental for EU enlargement. Without Tony Blair, I’m not sure that Bulgaria and Romania would have joined the EU in 2007. Very soon after, the UK took very harsh positions against Bulgarian, Romanian and Polish workers, although research shows that the nationals of these countries give more to the UK budget that they take. I found that strange, and thought this was a British attitude.
Brits came to Bulgaria and bought houses in villages depleted of their native people. That was a good deal, houses were cheap, the climate is nice and the people are friendly. But some years later they found the distance was too big, that the houses needed maintenance, and most of them sold their property. I also found this a strange British attitude. By the way, from the entire EU, only Brits embarked on this real estate adventure.
In 2008 I decided to settle permanently in Brussels and for some reason my telephone number had become public. I received hundreds of telephone calls from Brits who wanted to advise me how I should invest my money. They were disappointed of course when I was telling then I didn’t have any.
Also in 2008, at a public event I asked a journalistic question, which indicated that I was from Bulgaria. After the end of the session a lady came to me to ask my advice. She said she had invested a lot of her money, upon the advice of a British broker, in a hedge fund betting on Kremikovtsi, a steel plant near Sofia built under communism. She asked me if I thought this was a good deal.
I told the lady rather bluntly that she possibly got the worse deal on earth. Kremikovtsi is a dead business. She looked at me kind of strange and said – but this British gentleman told me this is possibly the best deal on Earth. Then the financial crisis came about. I couldn’t help from thinking that we got there because the London City works like this.
To make a long story short, I find the Brits very entrepreneurial, very bright, unique, and often very self-contradictory. My best friends are British. And I have very bright British colleagues. One of them went to Bulgaria for holidays last year and now often wears a tee-shirt with the portraits of the Bulgarian kings. I wish UK stays in the EU. But if they will vote to leave, well, we will need to make an opportunity from this crisis. Possibly the EU could be more coherent without its most self-contradictory member.