Bulgaria and Romania: Big money limit the power of free speech and civil society

John Lloyd’s masterclass on journalism approached various issues that deal with corruption, journalism and the two countries

On 11 March 2022 Financial Times’ John Lloyd held a master class on journalism in Turda (Romania), organized by the Rațiu Forum. One of the panels of Lloyd’s seminar had Cross-border Talks’ Vladimir Mitev as an interlocutor on issues related to journalism, corruption, Bulgaria and Romania. We offer the transcript of the session.

Intro

John Lloyd: One of the main elements I wanted to do with you on your program is Corruption, which is allied to investigative reporting because investigative reporters very often report on corruption: corruption in government, corruption in business, corruption everywhere. One of the interesting questions that we journalists have to ask ourselves is how far does reporting on corruption make it clear who are corrupt and how much the corruption has cost the country. We should ask ourselves, how far is that reporting valuable? How far is it decreasing the amount of corruption?

Some time ago, I did a seminar in India where now journalism is becoming less free. But ten years ago, journalism in India was fairly free. There were problems. India is a huge country, as you know, and there were problems in different areas, there were different laws and rules and customs and so on. But by large, especially at the national level, journalists could report fairly freely, which is no longer the case. However, the more free journalism has become, the more the investigative reporters in India reported on corruption, the more the corruption grew. Not, I think, because of the reporting, but in spite of the reporting.

So if that is the case, if we report on corruption and it doesn’t have any effect or even an opposite effect on the amount of corruption, we have to ask ourselves what is happening. Why is it not the case that when a corrupt person or a corrupt organization is revealed, shown to be corrupt, nothing happens to that person or that organization, but nevertheless, the amount of corruption still goes up. And that’s true not just in India, but in many other cases as well. So it’s one of the things we should talk about, I think. 

But first, we have a colleague who is waiting to talk to us from Bulgaria. His name is Vladimir Mitev. He’s been a journalist for many years. He’s also active in NGOs. He now had a career mainly in radio. He also knows and has reported on Romania for many years. So I want to bring him in first to talk a bit about that subject and his impressions on what’s happening in Bulgaria and also to a degree at least, to compare the situation in Bulgaria and neighboring countries with the situation here in Romania. Vladimir, can you hear and can you see?

Vladimir Mitev: Yes, I hear and see. Hello to everyone!

Corruption in Bulgaria

A first question is arising from what I’ve just said, how far in Bulgaria and in your experience also in Romania, by comparison, how far are issues of corruption and indeed anti-corruption at the center of of government and also at the center of journalism? How far do journalists try to report on it and how prevalent is it in Bulgaria at the moment? Bulgaria is now number 78 in the so-called transparency index of corruption. As you know, the lower down you are on the scale, the more corruption there is. Romania is a bit higher at 66, kind of in the middle of the scale. Bulgaria is slightly over the middle towards the bottom. How far is that an issue in Bulgaria, how far is the government trying to do something about it and how far is it able? Is journalism able to report on it?

I would say that the situation has been dynamic in the last years, and we all remember that Romania had the so-called golden era of anti-corruption under Laura Kövesi as chief prosecutor of the anti-corruption agency. But eventually that stopped at a certain moment.

In recent times in Bulgaria, there has certainly been a lot of talk about anti-corruption. Let me just remind you that we had for a long time the governance of Boyko Borisov, who is perceived by many people as some kind of those Balkan politicians who are essentially corrupt for a number of reasons, but of course there isn’t any case going on against him. And there were protests on an anti-corruption basis in 2020, which led to the situation in which the government of Borissov left.

However, in Bulgaria, as you may know, if you have listened to the news, there has been some difficulty forming a government for the last months. And there is of course this talk on anti-corruption. There are people who believe that, for example, that the Bulgarian chief prosecutor is doing anti-corruption in a corrupt way and he has to be changed. And I would say there is a lot of talk often or sometimes at high pitch. But beyond the talk, there isn’t really any significant operation or situation in which some case is brought to completion. And somebody who is, for example, high-ranking politician or some other representative of economic interest goes to jail because of corruption.

I don’t know if you get a good introductory picture to that, but let me say corruption is a complex issue and it may be used as some kind of a tool to fight for political affirmation. Maybe you know that there is a so-called technopopulist tendency in various societies, which often also has anti-corruption in its agenda. There are also other tendencies which are perceived as more related to oligarchy, so let’s say more corrupt from some point of view. But this balance is dynamic in any society. 

Press freedom in Bulgaria

We were talking earlier this morning about these issues. One of the things that came up and was talked about a good deal were, actually, as you say, the oligarchs, the owners of the media and how far the owners of the media were close to the political parties and how far journalism could be said to be free. That is, that the owners and or the parties both exercised a large influence upon what was written or what was broadcast, what was on the web. Is that also the case in Bulgaria? In other words, is there a situation in which good journalists say about their journalism: “I wanted to write this, but actually I couldn’t do it because of pressure from above.”

I would say the media or journalists can write whatever they want. In the times of social networks, you’re really free and nobody can stop you from publishing anything. It can even gain traction if you are an influencer or somehow reach a lot of shares. But I would say that we are also responsible for what we publish. And here the situation becomes more complex in the sense that journalists or media that try to have better editorial standards and not be just some superstructure of economic interests – these media usually do not have big budgets. And now the problem appears – what happens when these media somehow harm or threaten strong economic interests?

I can give an example from this week. A medium which is generally seen as having anti-corruption agenda, which is in line also with our issue here, publishes something which is not even very strong or it’s not even an investigation, basically a text based on a press release from the financial Ministry. It claimed that there is a certain problem with an insurance company. Following this report, the insurance company filed a claim at the court at the value of 1 million leva, which is roughly €500,000, against this media. And it is in fact a media which is not a big media. It doesn’t have a big budget. Even its editor-in-chief said that this sum is maybe larger than two years income or turnover of the media. So if the court decides that there is some harmful or unprofessional behavior in this case, the media would have to close. This type of claim is called SLAPP, and maybe our public is familiar with this term. It’s an abbreviation for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. And they are getting more and more frequent in Bulgaria.

Basically, we have already reached a situation in which journalists have to have really very, very precise, very well grounded writing on anything they write. Because if some strong financial interests are harmed and there are companies which can claim damages of millions of euro and such cases, they’re very frightening for the free press or even for the attempts of a free press. This is also discouraging from doing some very serious journalist work. 

Maybe you know, the famous phrase by George Orwell that journalism is when you publish something which somebody doesn’t want to have it published. And when you are publishing everything that is okay for everyone, it’s a PR. For a number of reasons, we are discouraged to engage in such a contestation of any strong economic authority. And you can imagine that it is not good for press freedom in Bulgaria.

SLAPP

Just so that I and everybody here understands what you were saying, Vladimir, the SLAPP thing, is a legal vehicle which has been brought in by the government?

No, no, I can’t say it’s a legal vehicle in this sense that some government promotes it, but it’s a term which I think is used by the European Union, Reporters Without Borders in such type of international organizations to mark these type of cases in which journalists are threatened with very huge costs, possibly if because some strong financial interests are harmed.

Sorry, sorry to interrupt you, but if they are brought to court and threatened with fines or, as you say, very large costs, that is usually brought in by a company which alleges that it’s been unfairly treated?

Yes, exactly.

So it’s more companies that do this than the government.

Yes.

And what you were saying is that it is so costly. If you lose a case or even if you win it, you have to pay the costs for your defense, that journalists are now inhibited. They fear the results of losing a case so much that they will not write what they know or what they think they know.

Yes. Basically, that’s my message.

Romania and NGOs

And from your knowledge, is that the case also here in Romania?

Can I say something? Now it’s in a debate that they want to make it official: If one NGO wants to contest an administrative decision in a court, they want to make a deposit of about 50,000 lei. So it’s almost €10,000. And if you lose in court, you lose this money, you lose the money. And our NGO, we have something like 20 cases in the court per year.

For which you then have to put down 50,000 lei.

Until now, no, it was just a proposal from the government in the past. We won a lot of cases in which the decision was to protect the Virgin Forest of Romania. And almost, I would say, the management plan for the Forest District in different places, sometimes they put Virgin Forest on for logging. It’s an interesting conflict because the people who are making these environmental management plans are also the same that they must control and put it into action to say. So in the future it will be very difficult for us because we don’t have a lot of money to cover all these cases.

Bulgaria and NGOs

Vladimir, are you hearing this? Is Bulgaria in a similar situation? 

I’m not aware of such problems with NGOs. At least, I haven’t read about it. My impression generally is that in Romania, NGOs and investigative journalists somehow are more established than in Bulgaria. Of course, it’s maybe a subjective perception. I do feel NGOs in any country have influence, but in Romania, I believe, they have been traditionally strong. And maybe that is if you allow me just an interpretation, maybe that is the reason some obstacles are created against them now because maybe they have been too strong.

And somebody is using the same method because they wanted now to reduce the period that you can go in a court from almost half of it to only 30 days to find it go in court to say we do not agree with this. Also, it’s a new thing that they wanted to do. Just last week there was a protest in front of the government of Romania.

Just to make a point on this. I hadn’t realized that this was happening in Romania. NGOs are very numerous now, in most democratic societies, there are many, many NGOs for all kinds of things. In the UK there must be thousands of NGOs, big and small. But in many societies, including like the one I was talking about a minute ago in India, the NGOs are now facing the same kind of restrictions that you were talking about. It’s getting more and more difficult for them to work and that’s bad for journalism, partly because some NGOs like the one that Vladimir just mentioned, Reporters Without Borders, are about journalism. But also because journalists use NGOs a lot. They are centers of information the way you go to say what’s happening in the forest, what’s happening in hospitals. And usually you will find an NGO which is concerned with that and which has much information and so it is very valuable. So the more that they are closed down and unable to work properly, the worse it is for us.

Vladimir, back to you. You were talking earlier about the anti-corruption measures and you suggested that the anti-corruption measures brought in by the government were not particularly strong.

Yes. You want me to develop the idea?

Anti-corruption in Bulgaria

Expand on that a bit.

You know, there are different elites in any country, and especially in Bulgaria. I have a feeling of certain heterogeneity in our political elites. In our situation constantly somebody is fighting against somebody. Maybe the public is aware that we had a government which came with an anti-corruption agenda. It was the government of Petkov which ruled from December 2021 until somewhere around August 2022. And it openly said that it wants to change the person or to somehow dismiss or fire the chief prosecutor because apparently they are from different tendencies, let’s say, in the political and economic system. And it was believed that if somehow the chief prosecutor can be changed, some good anti-corruption will start. But I think it’s more complex. And as you everyone knows, this government went into history and the chief prosecutor still stands.

In 2020, I allowed myself to write an article in Open Democracy about the protests in Bulgaria, mentioning also the Romanian anti-corruption fight, which was very popular in Bulgaria for some time, and Romanian anti-corruption fight was very strong around 2016, 2018. Eventually it stopped. It’s a big issue of course, to comment on that. But the Romanian state somehow changed its attitude towards anti-corruption and Laura Kovesi left Romania eventually, becoming the European chief prosecutor. In any case, I wrote at that moment that, even though I don’t have sympathies for the Bulgarian chief prosecutor, basically he may be the only person who really tried some anti-corruption. And there was a situation in which Vassil Bozhkov, an important oligarch, was taken down. He’s now living in Dubai.

Really, when we think about anti-corruption, we need to rethink something more complex. It’s not good against evil. There are various contexts and we need to be aware that Bulgaria, at least in my view, is much more oligarchical than Romania. And in Romania there is usually this talk of a stronger state than in Bulgaria. So every country has its specifics when it tries to apply anti-corruption. 

Maybe the fact that Romania had this golden era of anti-corruption, which led to many ministers going to prison and eventually later led to the firing of the chief prosecutor, Kovesi, was one thing which needs to be discussed and maybe our public knows this situation well. And in the case of Bulgaria, we see that anti-corruption is much more a talk, such a type of discourse which unites some people behind the so-called more anti-corruption oriented political forces. But beyond the talk, we never really had anti-corruption experts like Romania did.

I remember discussing with Romanian anti-corruption experts, which were publishing articles and trying to suggest what indicators, for example, show that there is evolution in the anti-corruption situation in Romania or in good governance in Romania. There was, at least from my point of view, a certain attempt for anti-corruption to not be only a political issue, but to to really somehow modernize society and bring people in this process. In Bulgaria, I’m not even aware of significant anti-corruption experts. And maybe that is a sign that only now or until recently, there was never such a strong effort to do anti-corruption.

The golden era of anti-corruption in Romania

Well, throw it open to you. There was a time I thought, I think that Vladimir is right about that in Romania, where I’ve now forgotten the name of the prosecutor. A woman.

Laura Kovesi.

That’s right. Who’s now in the European Union the chief prosecutor. And actually there was a very big corruption case going on in the European Union. You must be involved with it. But would you say that when she was the prosecutor here, that was a golden age, relatively. In other words, that corruption cases were examined, taken and had an effect?

Are you asking me?

No, no. I’m asking you Romanians first.  I’ll come back to you. What do you think?

It was a flourishing period and Romanians learned that it is possible that corrupt means highly powerful figures can be prosecuted. I don’t know if it was a golden age because some people, some voices criticized the direction the prosecutors were going. But yeah, for sure it was a flourishing period for people to be brought to justice.

And people mainly, I think politicians did go to jail.

Yes, there are yes, there were some sentences, but well, actually, just yesterday there was a new sentence for corruption. An oligarch from the Moldova region of Romania was sentenced to jail. But the new problem in Romania is that people are sentenced to jail, but  by the time the sentence is public, they have left Romania already. And so this the civil society and journalists are now questioning why the authorities are not acting, because obviously the police know it’s going to be a sentencing. These people have fled the country. And it’s not just one case. There’s been many cases where these people have fled the country. The day of the sentencing.

They go to Dubai. Are we going to say Dubai must be one of the richest countries in the world, full of people who can’t be anywhere else. But that’s not true. Where do they go? They go all over.

Apparently he went to Italy, but I’m not sure if he’s still in Italy. We had our ex-minister of tourism and then I would have a famous politician in Romania, who was sentenced and went to Bulgaria. She was caught there and they sent her back to us. 

I would like to say there was not even a thought of a golden age. Not to say because there wasn’t. Because this case was very visible at the time. Was a big time, big shots, but never from the revolution until now, we have had the anti-corruption fight at the local level. The big corruption is at the local level. They are big money that no prosecutor goes to the local level.

Not even the prosecutors, at the local level know about DNA.

The famous DNA has a department to the Alba Iulia, which is known as the weak department of DNA. They don’t have not even one serious case.

Maybe you can say that it was a golden era because it had a lot of impact around the Romanians or in the region because you saw a lot of very important figures going to jail or being sentenced. But on the other side, a lot of people got angry and a lot of people said that there was a big controversy around the technicalities of how those cases were built using what is called secret services.

There was usage of cooperation with secret services, using a mandate for national security, which after the Constitutional Court said that there wasn’t a case because corruption is not a problem of national security. So I don’t know. After she left the country, it’s like she lost a big part of the support that she had before when she was in opposition and now people didn’t like her leaving. Yeah, I think that the civil society didn’t like her leaving. But I think she had to leave. She lost her job. So she had to leave because she was lost.

But the level of corruption is the same. Nothing changed.

Corruption in Russia

One of the things that when I was living in Moscow that was quite prevalent, this was, of course, after the fall of the Soviet Union is that corruption started at the very lowest level. So if you were driving a car and in Moscow all the cars had special number plates. And if you were a correspondent, you had a number plate with car pay. And in this case, Britain was the first in the number plate race.

One time when I went out to see a friend in a restaurant. And because I knew that the law in Moscow in Russia was that you could not drink anything, any alcohol in the blood would be would be a crime. So I drank a non-alcoholic beer. But non-alcoholic beer, as you may know, smells like beer. So anyway, I was driving back from the restaurant to go home. And I was flagged down by a guy, the traffic police. And he put his head into the window and smelt my breath and said: “Oh, oh, you’re drunk.” And I said: “No, no. It was non-alcoholic beer.” He said: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” So we talked a bit, argued a bit, and he said: “No. Well, if you don’t admit, I must take you to the office.” This was about midnight. So we went to the main office of the afternoon building inspector at midnight. And there was only one. There was one light on in the building. Quite high up. And we went up the fire escape to this waiting room. In the lighted room was a woman wearing a very dirty white overall who the policeman addressed as comrade doctor. And said comrade doctor he saluted and said: “This man is drunk. I suspect that he’s drunk. He needs to have a breathalyzer test.” So he brought out from a drawer and somewhat ancient breathalyzer equipment. And asked me to blow into it. I blew into it thinking, this, this is fine. I haven’t got any alcohol. My blood, she took it back. So hid it under her, under her bosom and looked at it and then said: “Yeah, he’s drunk.” The one person in the room who was drunk was her. So the man said: “This is very, very, very serious. You’re caught drunk driving. I must impound your car and take you to the police station. It’s Friday evening and you cannot phone your embassy until Monday.” So I thought: “Oh, God. Two days in a cell.” And then. So I said: “Look. Is there a way of settling this now?” Making clear what I was talking about. And he said there is a way. He said $150. So luckily for me or unluckily, perhaps I had $150. So I gave it to him. He saluted me and said: “Spasibo” and let me go. Drunk, obviously, and a danger to motorists, but clearly it was okay.

My point of this sad story is that that’s where corruption starts. Here I was a British citizen paying an officer of the law in Moscow itself, a large offense simply in order not to be put in a jail cell for two days. And that seems to me to be how corruption works. In other words, it starts where an official, a state official, has got some power over you. And, of course, the traffic police is a very obvious one.

How far is that? But in neighboring Georgia, for a while, at least, when Saakashvili was president, he got the police to be more or less clean. It had been quite corrupt. He cleaned it up. Actually, quite a lot of the rest of Georgian society remained fairly corrupt. But the police for some reason, I think they got a pay rise and so on. How far is there in Romania and, Vladimir, in Bulgaria, How far is corruption starting at the low level. In other words. Giving a policeman a bribe in order not to be, not not to be fined or something like it?

Petty corruption in Bulgaria and Romania

I myself am not a driver, but I have heard various stories, even from Romanians travelling through Bulgaria until a few years ago, which were basically mocking Bulgarian policemen for some reasons related to such situations. But as far as I know there has been this practice that there are no longer so many policemen, traffic policemen on the roads between the cities. And in fact, there are cameras which record the speed of the vehicles. So I think modernization through such measures reduces corruption.

But let me once again repeat my thesis about Romania, which has anti-corruption experts and Bulgaria doesn’t have. I remember some years ago, maybe even ten years ago, I discussed and interviewed a person who had calculated the number of small corruption, medium corruption and the high corruption in Romania in terms of damages which they bring. And there were some methods. It was an NGO person. So basically at that moment, even maybe ten or maybe even a little bit more years in Romania, it was known generally or there were some figures. There were some calculations on what the levels of corruption are in different types. I have never heard of such a thing in Bulgaria. Maybe there are, of course, I don’t know. But I at least I don’t know about such studies in Bulgaria: how much is the small corruption harming the state budget or the economy; what is the level of medium corruption.

Corruption as a cultural phenomenon

But what then? I’m just asking you, generally, what do you make of the theory that the writing on corruption is that really corrupt societies start from the bottom. They may or they may start from the top. But they permeate. They go through the bottom as well. If you can say the police at the bottom of the society. So the whole society is complicit in some kind of corruption. If you want another flat, you pay the agency. If you want some good medical care, you pay the hospital and the doctor and so on. So it just goes on. Everybody assumes that some of the payments they will have to make on any given day or any given month will be essentially a bribe. And it’s so common that nobody ever does well, people complain about it, but nothing happens. Is that a picture of what Romanian society is now? Or is it partly that and partly not that? Is it? Was it like that and now getting better? What do you reckon?

I think it is decreasing. It is decreasing, but you can still see it in schools, hospitals or some institutions. And I think that bribery is deeply ingrained in our culture in a way I had encountered when I wrote the piece about Persons with disabilities. They thought that even journalists need to be paid, I guess because they tried to give me something because I was writing about them. So it’s deeply ingrained that we are thinking that we need to give someone something, if they do, if they do something good for us, if we do something like a favor.

It’s quite common to be asked when you are working with some people about their cases and they are asking you, I need to pay you today. Last week happened to me. I was working on a case with a woman who had some problems with some doctors from a small hospital. I wrote her story and at the end she asked me, do you need to pay some money? Yeah. So it’s quite common to ask people if they need to pay you money. Of course you.

Sure. But you’re saying that’s I mean, that’s happened to you before. It happened to my colleagues…

Also it’s happened before. If you are working with, I don’t know, with the part of society that is not so very well educated about how the press works.

I think that a lot of the mentality has its roots in the communist era. Back when our parents didn’t really have access to a lot of food. A lot of services. And if you knew someone that had access to that, if you had good connections, if you could trade them something, then you would be privileged. Even in a society of poverty and of limited access to anything. So I think part of our mentality today is rooted in that people still think it’s good to solve something, to have a connection here and there. But I also see in my work and also just in my private life that my generation is, I think, doing a good job in trying to have a fair life, to live a fair life and are not accepting this kind of system and this kind of thoughts.

That’s interesting. And so that’s that’s a decision, as it were. I’ve taken it individually and corporately.

We are part of the European Union. Many people have traveled, have lived abroad. They saw the democratic way of acting. They now know that this is not fair. The hospital shouldn’t treat you this way. The policeman shouldn’t treat you this way. And many actually in my newspaper, we do have cases where people come to us and tell us this, could you write about this? Because this is not fair. This has happened to me. This is against my rights. So I think people are becoming more aware of the fact that we don’t have to be a mob of people. We can be a society.

I agree with you. That’s why I’m saying that it’s decreasing. But the perspective it’s changing is not coming. The corruption is not coming anymore from the bottom to the top. It’s coming from the top to the bottom. Because in my investigation, when I was in the forest school, there were students that finished University of Forest and they wanted to go in the system and in Romsilva and they asked for them from them. €40,000, for example, to be in a small district.

€40,000 euro.

So it’s coming from the top. And the percent, the amount of money it’s increasing because of the government.

Do you people agree with that?

Yes. Yes.

I think a lot of corruption is tolerated by authorities, if not perpetuated by the authorities.

But suppose a much worse situation. It’s much worse.

If this was happening, say you were in a local paper, a local website or whatever, and you learned that this was happening, not just one instance, but several instances. Would you write about it?

Yeah. So if you can prove it, if you can have an objective view because we were talking about SLAPPs and the lawsuits in my editorial office, we have a lawyer which works with us and we do have some, some lawsuits also 1 or 2 SLAPPs recently, but we got out of them okay, because they were not really serious. But yeah, I think when we have to write, when we write a kind of story, we have to have some kind of proof because it’s a serious accusation. So yes, you have to have your back.

Anybody else want to come in?

Can I make a comment? If the conclusion is that it is coming still from the top, then surely what Kovesi was doing was attacking the top and which was the right thing to do. I know ultimately, you know, she was thrown out and then stories came afterwards that, you know, they’d been using the secret services to gather information on the people that they were taking to the DNA. But the principal was right and I think they should do it again. The problem is that now the people they’re putting in the DNA, usually most of them are corrupt in the justice system, which is corrupt, you know, the court of appeals and so on. There are so many people in there who have really bad news. And that’s the problem because they’re talking about a new person coming in with DNA, whether it’s some very nasty stories about the candidates that are up for this position. In fact, one of our investigative journalists, Diana, did this case on on where a girl who was who was raped by her uncle was was the no charges actually stuck against the uncle. The case was dismissed, if I recall, because they said that the girl had cooperated. The 13-year old girl had cooperated with her uncle. And the judge who made that judgement is one of the candidates now for the to be the prosecutor in the DNA.

Transgenerational trauma in Romanian movies

The one before the other. Does anybody mean, it seems that there is a kind of an optimistic story here, which is good. It’s still but not so much at the bottom or at the top and that things are a bit better, although they may be getting worse. Anybody want to disagree with that? Vladimir, can you comment on what we’ve been talking about?

I have just a short comment. And basically I think Romanian movies… cultural issues are also related to corruption… It’s not only economic but also cultural issues. So in Romanian movies from recent times I see a lot of problematization of the so-called transgenerational trauma or something like that, which basically means that the corruption of parents is somehow transferred to the children. And maybe the public knows the movie Baccalaureate. I don’t know how it would be in English. Maybe an examination or high school examination. And also the movie Metronome, which is a more recent one. I think both of them deal exactly with this issue. How certain children are unprepared, innocent. Of course, whenever such a thing happens, something happens, some kind of incident. And as a result of that, they’re faced with this choice of subscribing to the advice of their parents to somehow choose a corrupt way or somehow try to resist or try to make something on their own. And I think that is something I very much enjoy about Romanian movies. The fact that this problem of transfer of corruption in generation is conscientious. If I can say, by movie directors. I haven’t seen such a situation in Bulgarian cinema. Maybe, Of course, once again, I’m not know anything, but I don’t see this problem of transgenerational trauma to be understood in Bulgaria as much as I see in Romania.

Is that right? Is that a major theme of Romanian movies?

Yes. Yes. 

Movies come to mind when you put it like that. What do they do? They portray a scene of corruption of some kind and…

Or maybe there are dramatic moments in which a parent comes up with a solution that is not so orthodox and it’s bribing someone to get out of the trouble or yeah, just. Putting it in the bigger picture, in a bigger story. Or a small gesture, maybe.

So it’s a major theme or at least it’s a theme which comes up several times in movies in general?

It’s to a profession that you drive a doctor or you need to achieve.

That’s seen as a bad thing? It’s not.

It’s understood and it’s recognized as a bad thing by our generation. It’s like this culture of exchanging favors for getting what you should have already…

What? Of what you have, right?

Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. The Russian story of “blat”. Yeah. It’s the same here. Partly. But “blat” is not just bribery. It can be bribery. It can be an exchange of services, exchange of services like that.

One exchange of services can be perfect. You do me a favor. I can do you a favor. Yeah. They make “blat”. “Blat” means that they agree.

And it’s used mostly for football.

Yes. Yes, they make “blat” . They were supposed to like it beforehand. They spoke to the case, which was settled before even starting. When you say yes.

It’s the only way my team can win. Tottenham Hotspur. Hey, that’s private grief.

There will be a time in Romania when corruption and football were very linked, like a lot of football managers like I don’t know, Becali and from Rapid Copos they were all linked and all were linked with corruption scandals. 

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