Only 7 leva (3.50 euros) to travel the hundred kilometers that separate Sofia from Vratsa. In Bulgaria, the antediluvian train that connects the capital to the poorest region of the whole European Union (EU), the North-West, is a good barometer of the inflation that is currently raging, at nearly 18% in the economy of this Balkan country, reputed to be the smallest in the whole of the EU. “It’s the cheapest means of transport, even the bus costs more”boasts the controller, passing, this Monday, September 12, between the bays filled with travelers ready to pile up more than two hours in cars so old that some of their exterior doors no longer close.
On the threadbare seats, the discussions quickly drift around inflation, the major concern of the 6.5 million Bulgarians in view of the legislative elections which are organized on Sunday 2 October. “I used to travel by car to see my children, but I can’t afford it anymore. Even the bus has become too expensive”assures Tihomir Marimov, a skinny 70-year-old retiree, who has just spent a few nights in the capital.
In Bulgaria, the train remains the only means of transport whose price does not increase. And it is for this reason that Milka Tancheva, 75, chose this option to go to a cure on the Black Sea, 500 kilometers away. “With our pensioner discounts, the night train trip only cost me 35 leva, by car it would be 200 leva just in tolls, and the price of fuel has gone up”complains this former engineer, who travels tight between her suitcases.
“Everyone has left and all the factories have closed”
“And all this is happening when we already live in the poorest region of Bulgaria, the poorest in Europe, where everyone has left and all the factories have closed”, adds this nostalgic for communism, taking up an antiphon currently particularly widespread throughout central and eastern Europe. Even though they earn less than in the West, Eastern Europeans are worried about facing much higher inflation.
A study published Monday, September 19 by Eurostat made the “one” of the Bulgarian press: over one year, the price of bread has increased by 30% in Bulgaria, while France, much richer, has not experienced an increase “only” by just over 8%. The EU average is +18%.
This record inflation is thus hitting households already in great difficulty. In the North-West region, the gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant does not exceed 5,800 euros, or barely 32% of the European average.
You have 66.67% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.