Bulgaria balance

Open letter to David Cameron

I write in my capacity as chairman of the British Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce (BBCC).

May I take the liberty to write to you about “the Bulgarian Question” which has so exercised the concerns of you and your ministers.

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I believe a major injustice has been done to our law-abiding, hard-working fellow-European friends in Bulgaria who have been under stern warnings that they may be thoroughly unwelcome if more than a handful of them exercise their rights to come to work and live in the UK.

An arbitrary assumption has been made from the start that Bulgarians will abusively claim welfare benefits: the past record of that, with the moderate number of dedicated, professionally qualified and also less well-off Bulgarians already here on a legally employed basis, does not support that proposition.

Virtually all of them create economic value, and are I believe net contributors to the British Exchequer by paying their taxes.

History relates a past era in which Benjamin Disraeli, having taken a close interest in “the Eastern Question” at the time of Bulgaria’s desperate and bloody attempts to overthrow the Ottoman yoke, decided not to intervene on behalf of Queen Victoria and the British Empire but abandoned the Bulgarians to their fate of continued oppression. Happily, William Gladstone took the other side, pleading with passion and success for UK and global recognition of the injustices being done to the Bulgarian people.

Over the past 17 years I have devoted my time to the development of successful business, trade and investment relationships between Britain and Bulgaria, and I am honoured to have been awarded an MBE in public recognition of this work.

Building on my broad business experience in Eastern Europe, I had a unique opportunity to draw up a model scheme, described in my report to King Simeon and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for the structure and operation of a working Prime Minister’s Office, for improved inter- and intra-ministerial communications amongst the young and energetic Bulgarian Cabinet, and for imprinting some essential messages on business ethics, elimination of corrupt practices, and improved transparency in recruitment and HR management into the public sector awareness.

Against this background, it has been a great disappointment to watch your government erode such confidence and respect as previously existed between our peoples.

I have nothing against any country seeking to manage and control immigration and social welfare benefits, which perhaps Britain could have done better over the past 150 years, but the recent and continuing vilification of Bulgarians for present political purposes is not justified.

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It is accordingly an uphill battle for the BBCC these days to promote trade and investment in both directions between our countries. The British economy benefits in many ways from a rich ethnic mix which began well over a century ago, and the primary countries which have added industrious and entrepreneurial immigrants to our frequently inadequate workforce have also remained stalwart trading and investment partners of Great Britain.

I sincerely hope you will allow Bulgaria to take its rightful place in this long and successful tradition of an open labour market here.

Bill Drysdale MBE CA

British Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce

Sandpiper Road