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Capital foundation organized three debates on euroscepticism in Bulgaria

Capital foundation had three debates with citizens in three different (type of) regions in Bulgaria under CODES project. Previous researches on euroscepticism describes the usual eurosceptic as an "older woman with low education, low income who perceives rather high income inequality and claims to be on the loosing side of the European integration". For our first debate in Bulgaria we decided to take the bull by the horns and went to the toen of Pazardzik to meet poor old women. We had our second debate on euroscеpticism in a small town of Berkovica situated in the heart of the North-Western region of Bulgaria - officially the poorest region of the European union. Our third debate was in the town of Razlog, situated in South-West region of Bulgaria – the richest of Bulgarian regions bordering another EU member state (Greece) which affected its development in recent years. Altogether 53 people took part in the three debates with five main conclusions emerging from them:

1. Dominance of economic issues;

2. A strong sense of lack of justice;

3. Blaming EU for something it’s not to be blamed for;

4. "We only have ourselves to blame" phenomenon;

5. Although criticized, EU is considered the only way for Bulgaria to follow.

Bulgaria is the poorest member of the European Union. This is most likely the reason why economic arguments dominated discussions with citizens. Low incomes and pensions, unemployment, slow pace of catching western standards were very often mentioned spontaneously. The second main identified problem was the lack of justice - different pay for the same activity depending on the nationality of the worker; different levels of subsidies for Bulgarian and EU farmers, disproportionately large financial support by EU to large companies at the expense of small ones in Bulgaria, distribution of European subsidies on corruption schemes among a small number of selected beneficiaries.

The third major group of spontaneously discussed topics is those where EU is wrongly accused. This group includes mostly older people who attribute to the EU the difficulties of the transition to market economy and democracy - higher prices, extremely low pensions for long-term labor, closed enterprises, import of goods at the expense of the local ones, depopulated villages, and increased crime level. The fourth major group of spontaneously discussed topics can be summarized as "we only have ourselves to blame". Many of the participants, although with critical attitude, admits that a number of problems with the application and absorption of European rules, norms, values and funds actually come from the Bulgarian authorities.

The fifth main conclusion from the debates is that despite critics to the EU it is perceived as the only reasonable way for Bulgaria to follow.