Rudimentary Laws Ad Hoc
- Mr. Danailov, do you find it possible to prepare a national strategy for the development of culture in a feasible period of time?
- In the last 12 years not a single government could offer a long-term, viable program for cultural development. I am acquainted with the pre election programs of each government. All of them contain a lot of good wishes, common talk and no concrete measures - they match each other like two drops of water. Last year, during the election campaign I raised particular questions in the debates among different political parties: whether a permanent percentage of the Gross National Product could be assigned to culture, whether it is possible to adopt preferential measures for those who invest in or support culture; what the behaviour of the International Monetary Fund would be, since we always use the IMF as an excuse. I often heard that these are not obstacles. Some of the economists of the present government acknowledged it too. But today the state still has no idea what to do with Bulgarian culture. That's why I welcome the call of the non-governmental organisations that gathered during the last the Round Table1. They suggest creating a strategy or a programme for the development of culture for the next 2-3, even 10 years, so that it could be valid for each new government. Of course, some details in such a programme could undergo changes. Unfortunately, the present government does not recognize culture as a priority for Bulgaria. Again and again we witness ad hoc working.
Arguments arise on some petty private priorities or some undersized tax relief issues. Where is the corrective stakeholder coming out of the blue? That's when the civil society organisations emerge. For example the National Civil Society Forum of Culture2. We, at the Parliamentary Committee on Culture need such support. And we look out for it. When there is a vision for the future, prospective legislation will be designed in line with it. Besides that, transparency in expenditure is demanded. Budgeting for culture is also approached in quite a bureaucratic manner. For example, according to me, National Cultural Institutes should acquire status of First Level Operators with State Budgetary Funding. The subsidies of the National Arts Centres have been cut too. This funding was meant to finance projects, and 100 000 leva - which represents something for us, is not just a small amount of money. And more, there are a number of rudimentary laws, laws, which are inapplicable. My question is: Where is the set of implementation rules of the Protection and Development of Culture Act? There is no such a thing. We recognise the same situation with the Authors' Rights Law. So, some people did not do what they were supposed to. The remains of the old mentality are still present, such as the requirement to select the directors of state cultural institutes only on competition basis. I would not comment on the quality of these competitions which I find to be a show. These kind of competitions in cultural sector are a pseudo-democratic piece of fiction. I find them ultimately damaging. They bear conflicts and communities are afflicted.

- Are you optimistic about Bulgarian culture as one of the few feasible fields of consensus?
- Yes, at least I'm satisfied with the activities of the Parliamentary Committee where the 16 of us work together. Four political entities are represented in the Committee and there has been no contrariety for the 8 months of our work. We work on behalf of culture trying not to politicise the issues. Yet we do not feel confident that we have achieved enough. On the other hand courageous people are needed to do the job. When you constantly conform to the superior, when you are intimidated to be forced out of office, the quality of work declines... Problems come not from the people of culture as much as from the bureaucrats in it. That's sad. It is sad to watch how human energy fades away in space just like that, as if it is evaporation... Yet time goes by, it can't wait. No matter how patient and tolerant people of culture are, for all these years, the Bulgarian spiritual life could not remain unaffected.

Nikola Vandov

Prof. Stefan Danailov is among the most famous Bulgarian theatre and cinema actors. For many years now he performs on the stage of the "Ivan Vazov" National Theatre. He is artistic tutor of a class in acting at the "Krustyo Sarafov" National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts. Since June 2001 he is a Member of Parliament and Chair of the Commisiion on Culture to the National Assembly.
A conversation with
Prof. Stefan Danailov

1 "The Role of Civil Society in Shaping the Cultural Policy of Bulgaria" Round Table took place on February 25 2002 at the National Assembly. The Third National Round Table was organised by the National Civil Society Forum of Culture together with the Technological Park "Culture" Project (a Policies for Culture financed action project) and in co-operation with the Parliamentary Commission for Culture to the National Assembly.

2 The National Civil Society Forum of Culture was established in the middle of February 2002. It unites more than 50 civil society organisations (including artists' unions) in the field of the arts, cultural and historical heritage, tourism etc.