Thank you for your thoughtful letter and invitation to your country. I had planned to come this week but because I need to be in Brussels for an important European Council meeting I sadly cannot come. However, in my place I have asked my colleague MEP Paul Nuttall, the deputy leader of the UK Independence Party, to go in my stead. He shall be in Bulgaria on a fact-finding mission from Wednesday to Friday this week.
I am pleased my comments have helped create a debate in Bulgaria, a proud country with many well-educated people and much to celebrate.
You are right to love your country Bulgaria, as I love mine, the United Kingdom.
I love my country, but it does not mean I hate yours. I know many fantastic Bulgarians and I have no desire to dislike or disparage the wonderful people of Bulgaria.
Indeed, I have been delighted to welcome Bulgarian MEP Slavi Binev into our political group in the European Parliament where I am a member.
It is great for you that you have been able to come to the UK and avail yourself of a free university education and free healthcare funded by the British taxpayer. Am I right to presume that your family are wealthy by Bulgarian standards so they can afford to pay your living expenses abroad for a long number of years?
I am sure you will agree that many Bulgarians have chosen or been forced by hard circumstances to leave the country they love and never return to live there, so you are quite exceptional in that you can choose to return to your homeland and be once again with your family and friends.
After the entry of a number of European countries to the EU in 2004, over one million have come to live (and many to work) in Britain. As you can imagine and no doubt witnessed the large influx of people over a short period of time has caused severe strain on our tax-funded healthcare system, on our social welfare system, and caused a huge demand for more housing.
Many British people are justly uneasy about the character and culture of their cities, towns and villages being radically changed without them being asked or without giving their consent.
Please be assured that the UK Independence Party is completely opposed to all forms of racism and sectarianism. But this matter of mass immigration has nothing to do with race or religion, it simple economics. The UK cannot afford to accommodate every person who wishes to come. Polish is now the second most commonly spoken language in the UK.
I am sure Bulgarians love their country. How would your people feel if at the accession of, let's say, Turkey to the EU in the near future, one million Turkish migrants came to live in Bulgaria? Would the people of Bulgaria really be happy about that? Would you really be happy, that without your consent, one million migrants took advantage of your welfare and healthcare system at the expense of the Bulgarian taxpayer? I think not.
If I simplify things and mistakenly say the monthly pension in Bulgaria is 100 euros or 138 euros, it matters very little in the large scheme of things. When compared to many western parts of Europe, Bulgaria is a much poorer country. This is not an insult, as you suggest, but a fact. (We shall look at the reasons why Bulgaria is poor later.)
When there are open borders and large divergences in wealth and opportunities between two countries there is usually largescale emigration. That is a simple fact and has certainly been the British experience post 2004. The naive or misleading politicians who said it would not happen before 2004 have been proved completely wrong.
In your letter you pass very quickly over very important issues. You wrote: "I understand our problems with our government, our law system, our education and healthcare systems."
I salute the Bulgarian people for throwing off the shackles of the oppressive Communist system and taking a new constitution in 1991. I say this as a good friend of Bulgarian people who wish their country to be prosperous and free.
I have been informed by Mr Binev that many "former Communists" still occupy top positions in your political system.
It is not I, but the European Commission which has frequently criticised Bulgarian politicians for their corruption.
Franz-Herman Bruener, director-general of the EU's anti-fraud agency, Olaf, warned in a report that "influential forces within the Bulgarian government and or state agencies do not have an interest in seeing the punishment of anyone in the criminal gangs." (New York Times 15/10/ 2008)
The European Commission progress report on Bulgaria (18/7/2012) underlined the lack of convincing results on Sofia's efforts to stop high-level corruption and organised crime.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers