Recently, I have received an email regarding the special issue of EuroScientist featuring the science in the countries of South Europe. Needless to say, that it is a pity to see that this scientific endeavour is going to waste after being built for so many years with the passion and resources of the South Europe nations. However, in my view, this is a symptom that things are changing. There is a slow and gradual shift in the way science is developing, and findings new ways of working. And the transition is not pleasant.
Unfortunately, there is also another big issue that Europe does not take into account at all. While the continent’s governments and the EU were so consumed by their own problems and the old EU member States were all attempting to resolve the debt crisis, the newly accepted EU member states with their relatively small shares in the EU budget have been largely neglected. As a result, they entered into a deep recession.
Guessing from the EU actions during the crisis, the EU has decided to support infrastructure projects, which are by far the most inappropriate in a crisis with a strong social emphasis. Why has the EU not taken the social aspect of the recession into account? It is disappointing that the EU has not taken into account the frightening figures from statistics. These demonstrate that the current situation is not simply plain wrong but utterly wrong in East Europe.
I would like to give you an example to illustrate my point. The South European countries have a good track record in attracting funding from the FP7 programme. It is worth pointing out that they have, however, not been subjected to the communist occupation. This means that scientists applying for FP7 funding from Eastern European countries do not compete on a level playing field. They still carry the communist legacy both in the economical and social life, which reduces their competitiveness. As citizens of EU we cannot change our history –we cannot change or alter what have been done by the preceding generations–but we want to be treated fairly. Unfortunately, there has been no special effort to boost the FP7 participation of the newly elected states, and redress the imbalance between scientists across Europe.
As the EU was tackling its own issues, in Bulgaria, legislative and financial restrictions have been imposed on science. Since 2009 we have been operating with an overall cut of 45% in government funding, which is still decreasing. The only justification for this top-down move reminiscent of the old communist system was its legislative basis. Fortunately, science in Bulgaria has survived. However, surviving such a brutal bloodshed is not easy, and it is not finished yet.
The situation in Bulgarian and Romanian research deserves to be shown with the rest of Europe. Only an independent scientific investigation not connected with either political powers and without any interests in the region, can expose the harsh reality of doing research in these countries.
An academic from Bulgaria
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