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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February 2005, 16:45 GMT
Have your say: Bulgaria
Bulgarian village
In Crossing Continents, Rosie Goldsmith visited Bulgaria, where British people are snapping up property, but a murky underworld is also thriving.

We asked for your comments on the following:

Are you thinking of investing in property in Bulgaria?

Do you think that Bulgaria is ready for EU membership?

Should more pressure be put on Bulgaria to rid itself of its underworld problems?

This debate is now closed. Below is a selection of your views:

I thought the programme was interesting and gave a reasonably balanced view.

So, I would suggest that those who interpret it as an out and out general attack on Bulgaria are showing signs of paranoia.

The judicial system is in need of massive reform
Pat, UK
Raising an issue is not "stereotyping a nation".

Having lived in Bulgaria, I know corruption is widespread and affects all levels of society, mainly because it is the only way people can survive.

Yes, organised crime is in the hands of a very small number of gangsters, but the government does practically nothing about it and the judicial system is in need of massive reform.

Rather than criticising a programme that raises issues, stand up and do something about them.
Pat, UK

I felt you effectively demonised the gypsy population of Bulgaria.

The problem of babies being sold was portrayed as a purely gypsy phenomenon, gypsy women being talked about, not the criminals who are probably responsible.

The fact that they are hated and economically persecuted makes it easier for criminal gangs to prey upon their young women.

The notion that some Bulgarians and sympathisers then try and distance themselves from their problem population on this site further adds to the insult.
Brett Van Toen, UK

I have read all the comments in their entirety and all I have to say is: long live Bulgaria!

To all the nay-sayers regarding our readiness to join the EU in 2007 - I'll say - look at what Bulgaria can bring to the table and you'll find yourself in an awkward position.

Do you really think that a country with 14 centuries of history needs to prove itself worthy?
Emil Todorov, Seattle, WA

As a Bulgarian I am extremely proud of the progress my country is making.

I believe Bulgaria has always been a part of Europe, and to be a part of the European Union is only a theoretical change.

The baby smuggling problem is not a new one, and not a Bulgarian made one
Brani, Bulgarian living in the USA
Many highly-developed countries face similar problems with illegal baby traffic.

The baby smuggling problem is not a new one, and not a Bulgarian made one.

I am sure the Bulgarian authorities are doing everything in their power to stop and correct this problem.

There is a "murky underworld" everywhere in the world.

Very nice words were said before my comment here, and I thank these people for them.

And to prove to you that I believe in everything I wrote here, let me also tell you, I am coming back to live in Bulgaria with my family, and this is of my own free will.

This programme has had a tremendous emotional impact on the readers.

I can see how it would be hard for the middle-class people living in developed countries to be compassionate towards someone who gives his own baby up for money.

Trying to find out what Bulgaria can bring to the European Union... is a much better approach
Viktor Hinov
Most of these mothers give babies up for financial reasons.

Also most of the time these are young girls not yet fully developed emotionally and socially.

By the same token as developed countries scrutinize Bulgaria, Bulgarian people evaluate the pros and cons of the Western culture.

I feel that trying to find out what Bulgaria can bring to the European Union, rather then pointing out isolated criminal facts is a much better approach.
Viktor Hinov, Bulgarian American living in USA

It is a great pity that we have these underworld characters, we have them in the UK as well.

It is time to take a stand and tell Bulgaria, Romania and all the other countries that before they can join us they have to put their own house in order.
Andrew, UK

Yes, the problem with exporting babies is real, but the Bulgarian state has nothing to do with it.

What about the EU members buying the babies? I think that those who buy are the real criminals.

In Bulgaria every person is equal
So, let's not talk about corruption only in Bulgaria.

Also let's not talk about gypsy discrimination in Bulgaria because believe me, in Bulgaria every person is equal.

Don't forget that Roman people are everywhere and that wherever they are, they face the same problems and cause the same troubles.

There is a lot more to write about Bulgaria. Don't be so afraid of us.
Boyan, Bulgaria

Bulgaria has much to do before it reaches the development level of the West European countries.

We have our problems, but I think many other European countries have a lot to do too
J Slavov
But what makes Bulgaria unique is the people and I think we deserve our chance to live in better conditions.

At the moment I'm a student in Germany and I see the difference, not only in the infrastructure, but also in the people.

We have our problems, but I think many other European countries have a lot to do too, and it's by far better to co-operate than to discriminate.
J Slavov, Bulgarian, studying in Germany

Bulgaria is a lovely country, with very friendly people. But the thing I don't like is a two-tier system of charging at many hotels for Bulgarian people and foreigners.

Surely if they want to join the EU this system will have to change?

Besides some of the road conditions, the signs on the road are not very helpful either.
Bryce, UK

There has always been a great difference in Bulgarian culture and that of the Roman population in Bulgaria.

Having listened to the BBC programme, I feel that it was not stated clearly enough that such a difference really exists.

All countries should make joined efforts to stop babies imported to their countries
Bulgarians are people who value and care for their family and children immensely.

Problems with Roman babies have been commented on for some time and there were various ways suggested to solve them.

But this is an issue that should be looked at from all the aspects, and all countries should make joined efforts to stop babies imported to their countries as well.
Slavena, Bulgaria, living in the UK

I think the phenomenon that you have exposed is as ancient as humanity.

This problem exists all over the world, in every country, maybe in the UK too.

I agree we have a lot of work to do, but we need of the confidence of Europe's people
Madelena Gurova
We must to fight it, but if you search, you will find it.

So let us be more optimistic and positive. Why have you not investigated the high spiritual potential of the Bulgarians? It is essential.

I agree we have a lot of work to do, but we need of the confidence of Europe's people.
Madelena Gurova, Bulgaria in Tunisia

It is commendable that the BBC has done a serious investigation of a problem Bulgaria faces.

But you cannot stereotype the whole country based on a single problem.
Ivan Manolov, Bulgaria

Bulgaria has many problems, and crime is one of them. But the whole world has problems with organised crime.

There are many people in Bulgaria who are highly educated and can do much for the prosperity of the EU. They really deserve a chance.
Todor Bradov, Bulgaria

I applaud this morning's Crossing Continents for highlighting the issue of the illegal baby trade. I would also like to see more efforts being made to stamp out the market in the recipient countries.

It is a simple case of supply and demand; if the demand is there then the supply will come form somewhere.

Both sides of this appalling trade have to be tackled
Paul Dimmick, England
I am not excusing the actions of the criminal gangs, but both sides of this appalling trade have to be tackled.

We seem to be happy to take advantage of Bulgaria's cheap property market, but somewhat reluctant to condemn the Western demand for illegally adopted babies.

And let's not forget, the real victims of this crime are the children themselves and the young Bulgarian (mostly Roma) mothers.
Paul Dimmick, England

I think there are so many problems in Bulgaria like corruption and crime. I think the EU must put a little pressure on the Bulgarian government to find a good solution.

I hope things become better in the next few years because the people of Bulgaria deserve a better standard of life, and Bulgaria should take its part in Europe's community.
Borislav Lazarov, Bulgaria

Our church has a twinning link with the Petrich Baptist Church in SW Bulgaria, where unemployment is about 80%, pensions are insufficient, and property prices are rising rapidly because of foreign interest, making it even more difficult for locals to afford.

They have a proud history, but I am less proud of what my own people have done, and are doing to them
Revd Jones, England
I have a profound respect for the people, but they live in a country that superpowers have been exploiting century after century - Ottomans, Austro-Hungarian, British Empire, Imperial Russian, Soviet Union, Nato, the EU and now global business.

They have a proud history, but I am less proud of what my own people have done, and are doing to them.

Congratulations on a good programme.
Revd Robert M Jones, England

Bulgaria is definitely ready to join the EU.

It is not a massive country so it should not be an expensive issue for the West.

Poland benefited a lot. The UK benefited too I believe, just think of the taxes all the Poles pay in the UK and all the millions of people who can now buy on a free basis UK services and produce.

Benefits go both ways. So who loses out? Those outside Europe, those who want to see a weak and divided Europe.

Bulgaria should join in 2007. It was, however, better not to have them in 2004, as this would be too much of a shock. Besides, it is a few years behind Poland et al.
Pawel, Poland

Greece as a neighbouring country is suffering from Bulgarian crime and it seems the Bulgarians are not doing enough to curb it.

I would like to see the Bulgarian authorities tackling crime before Bulgaria joins the EU.
Daphne, Greece

This needs to be put into perspective.

The problems of the gypsy population in Bulgaria are numerous and one of them is the extremely high birth rate, due to the lack of any birth control culture.

Also if a gypsy woman gives a baby through the official route for adoption, she gets nothing.

The problem is not easy to judge or solve, especially when rest of Bulgaria and Europe has an aging population and very low birth rates.
Jivko Stoyanov, Bulgarian living in Switzerland

I've travelled extensively in Bulgaria and other parts of Europe, and am currently living in Milan.

There should be a greater effort made to tackle these problems as a collective
The problems that Bulgaria faces pale in the face of what already exists within the EU, for example in Italy.

If member countries are tolerant of what exists in Italy and elsewhere, there should be no fear of the what new countries like Bulgaria and Romania bring.

There should be instead a greater effort made to tackle these problems as a collective in the social project for which the EU was intended.

I visited Bulgaria last year on a business trip, spending a couple of days in Sofia.

For a capital, much of it is still in need of renovation, although a lot has been done. I was shocked when some masonry fell off the roofs in one of Sofia's biggest shopping streets. The roads from the airport were in a pretty poor state, I've seen better roads in Morocco and India.

I also understood that almost no-one makes serious money in Bulgaria completely legally. My hosts told me about lots of corruption.

Many Bulgarians are clever and resourceful and manage somehow to make a decent living in a very tough environment
Rebecca, Belgium
I have to say however that the Bulgarian people are among the most hospitable you can meet and will do anything and everything to make their guests feel at home.

Many Bulgarians are clever and resourceful and manage somehow to make a decent living in a very tough environment.

I've visited a number of the new member states and can say that Bulgaria has a long way to go before it reaches the same standards of living and infrastructure as Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

I think 2007 is too soon a date for membership.
Rebecca, Belgium

I just read your article and it is not the first I have read where a bad light has been put on Bulgaria.

I have travelled Bulgaria and seen its problems first-hand, but the corruption and organised crime are down to a minority.

The rest of the population have values rarely seen in countries such as England.

I have many Bulgarian friends who have taken me into their homes and shared what little they had.

I feel safer on the streets of Sofia that I would do in London
Stuart, Germany
I have found in Bulgaria a real sense of community and friendliness.

Bulgaria is far more developed that many believe and I feel safer on the streets of Sofia that I would do in London.

Bulgarians are looking forward to EU acceptance in 2007 and a move towards a more prosperous future where their passport does not carry with it discrimination.

Give the people of the this beautiful country a chance.
Stuart Clark, Scottish living in Germany

Stuart is right. Sofia is safer than London, Manchester and most other west European cities let alone capitals.

Did I see a word of suggestion that Greece and Italy, our EU partners and fonts of civilisation, have been illegally importing babies?

Bulgaria is a sea of tranquillity, tolerance and stability in the otherwise troubled Balkans
John, UK
Over the last 15 years some people have seen massive financial changes for the worse so there are excesses. The Bulgarian government is tackling these and almost all the EU Accession Chapters have now been met.

Bulgaria is a sea of tranquillity, tolerance and stability in the otherwise troubled Balkans.

Rather than highlight a problem that is being tackled, perhaps the BBC could find some positive spin to support a small country at the eastern edge of Europe coming to terms with the rapid changes that we cannot understand from our comfortable armchair viewpoint.
John, Manchester, UK

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

Presenter: Rosie Goldsmith
Producer: John Murphy

Crossing Continents


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