“Waiting room” Is a Humiliating Term, We Don't Need the Euro at the Moment
The moment I find out how much weight our words carry, I will say whether I am for the board or for the Eurozone
Mr Zaimov, we will talk about collisions in the EU, but we’ll start with the emotions around the euro. You are the first head of the Currency Board in our country, so let's talk about the changes in the BNB Law which are said to help us enter the euro area waiting room. What kind of space is this "waiting room"?
We - Bulgarians have a tendency to humiliate ourselves. Words of gratitude and appreciation are written on the largest monument in Sofia for the fact that we were declared war and were humiliated. Waiting room is a humiliating term because it goes about something completely different: this is a period of time during which the country concerned is partnering with the European institutions, in this case, the European Central Bank and is involved in the management of the process, including the exchange rate.
There were times when this process was completed very quickly, while we are about to spend years in this financial "purgatory".
This indicates a level of trust that seems to be missing in our case. From my point of view, this is not purgatory, it is a Bulgarian choice that is not very clear at the moment.
Not clear? Then why are we going without direction?
As a matter of fact, the direction of the European Union itself is not clear either.
Consider some of the world's authorities. Steve Hanke wants to protect us from the euro and thinks that extending the Currency Board is more appropriate. Kenneth Rogoff is even more extreme and declares the euro the biggest academic mistake in history.
I’m answering Rogoff: even if an academic error has occurred, it works and is a pledge for the future of the EU. I’m answering Professor Hanke: Yes, Mr Hanke, the Currency Board is a good system and I do not see why we should accept the euro at the moment. I share the skepticism of both of them against the euro, but I believe it will work. That's the difference between us - they are both Americans. We are not hampered by the currency board because we do not yet know what we want and what we expect to receive from the EU.
How do you explain then Professor Hanke's position?
He has no confidence in the Bulgarian administration and I think that each of us can say why. The question is, has anyone ever trusted the Bulgarian administration?
The amendment to the BNB law has raised many doubts – it was not well explained, it was not sufficiently debated. How do you read this change in the law?
The very nature of the Bulgarian authorities is that the majority of their members are used to be told what to do. In this case, there is a European regulation on the creation of the euro, which is obsolete. But even assuming it is good, it is completely inappropriate for the Bulgarian case. BG should structure its own behaviour and response to the regulation, rather than refer to any of the European politicians or bankers. A priori, I trust both politicians and bankers, but we must do some work that has hitherto been swept under the rug.
Renegotiating the exchange rate of the lev has been talked about but we are still in a currency board.
This is a natural reaction of people who do not understand, but also do not see serious preparation in our country. They say to themselves, there is something weird here, this is the so-called complotism, or conspiracy theory. This is the logic of the existence of religions - you don't understanda certain thing , but someone somewhere decides instead of you.
Does this mean there is a degree of incompetence in government actions?
I can't tell if it's incompetence. But if we use a euphemism, we are talking about insufficient administrative capacity. Because there is a solution...
What vision and position should the negotiator have at this key moment?
First, a team should be formed which, under the leadership of the Minister of Finance, the Head of the Currency Board and the BNB Governor,has to build up this view. There are such people.
Shall we understand that you plead for an extension of the board instead of a rapid entry into the euro?
The answer to this question is related to the answers to other, much more important questions. The main problem is our understanding of the EU and our contribution. I will give a specific example. The enlargement of the Union, for which we insist, is a great contribution to our diplomacy. And it is met with resistance, including by the French president. Shall we retreat or not? This way we can find out how much weight our words carry in Europe. The moment I see the answer to that question, I will instantly say whether I am for the board or for the Euro.
We are talking about Europe and the European institutions, but there is strong pressure from the east - China, Russia.
For me personally, this is imaginary. We cannot help but realize the closeness of many Bulgarians to Russian culture, Orthodoxy and politics. The so-called pressure from the east is a phantasmagoria.
But the pressure is not on us only! Russia pushed through Germany with Nord Stream 2 and the US does not like it at all ...
Our project-of Europeans and of mankind in general-is not whether there will be any gas pipe somewhere. The real question today is what we do with gas in general. The question is in the Green Deal: are there fewer bees and why; are there any earthquakes that arouse suspicion; is there a rise in temperatures ... It would be unreasonable to claim that these factors do not exist. So the issue of gas pipelines is of tertiary importance.
Politically, what is the most realistic option for Europe's future?
There is a great accumulation of fear, everywhere. But it must by no means stop societies from thinking about humanity as a whole. Self-awareness has a long horizon in time. Despite the differences, I am convinced of the common values. And our future lies in Europe. The future of civilization - too!
Five years later, what will Europe and the EU be like - the short term?
The short term is beyond my knowledge. But Europe's position in the world depends on events and conceptual changes independent of it.
First, what action will humanity take on the biosphere or will it continue to behave like an architect who is not interested in urban planning?
Second, how do we manage technology because many have been conceived only within the framework of human life and then have to be replaced? Many people today explain the world through what they have experienced themselves. This also applies to Mr. Rogoff. We continue to give way to our greed. This will not happen in the future.
And third, who and when will respond to the absurd macroeconomic situation at the moment: since 2008, base money in the world has tripled, but no one explains what it is responding to and what is really happening.
Do catastrophic scenarios go round and round in your mind?
No, because every disaster is a very positive thing.
That is - to look at catastrophes with hope and optimism?
The interview is led by Emil Yanev