Futures Studies in the European Ex-socialist Countries


Alexander Tomov


Till 1990 there was ideologization of science, dominated by the governing Bulgarian Communistic Party, so there were no direct participants in the future research processes. In 1986 Alexander Tomov received an invitation and took part in a World Futures Studies Federation’s congress for the first time. Since 1987 young Bulgarian scholars began to attend the Federation’s seminars.

In 1990 for the first time, there was a meeting of the Bulgarian futurists. The idea for “21st Century” Foundation - Centre for Strategic Studies was born then together with the Bulgarian Future Society, which is in fact the foundation’s board of trustees and a group of younger scholars from the Sofia University and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The 21st Century Foundation still continues making future research programmes. It is a collective member of the WFSF.

During those years, for the first time, futuristic researches were made in the field of the national security. In 1992 the Foundation developed a strategy for the development of the national security, in accord with the events on the Balkans, Yugoslavia’s disintegration and the occurrence of new countries, based on the concept for different degree of cooperation between the Balkan states in the area of defence.

The membership in NATO was looked as strategic, but stakes were laid on initial membership in other blocks and organizations for partnership, including the possibility for regional partnerships in various fields including the field of security as well, following the example of the Scandinavian countries. It was then that the development in line of the Pugwash movement began. Till 1996, the 21st Century Foundation developed economy analyses, which viewed the development of Bulgarian economy in the context of the restructuring of the property.

In Bulgaria there was not any interest in the futures studies under those years. Although the 21st Century Foundation and BFS developed various concepts in the social, the economic and the political field. A great number of these concepts were published in Bulgarian and international science magazines. A great part of the concepts are synthesized in Alexander Tomov’s book (“The Fourth Civilization”).

The biggest change, which is observed in the Bulgarian society during the period of transition to democracy, is that some persons who take part in the country government are connected with the futurists in Bulgaria. Members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees used to be prime ministers, vice prime ministers, ministers, bank directors and experts.

Unfortunately, this process stopped in 1996, when the Bulgarian Socialistic Party, the BCP’s successor, took the power. It gradually removed people, connected to the futures studies, from the power. The process did not stop then; it continued to the present days throughout the government of the UDF. It is due to the governing’s lack of interest in these research programmes and the lack of a whole strategy and a concept for Bulgaria’s development in future. The reform in Bulgaria is parcelled and its directions are dominated by various groups’ interest, connected to the governing political party.

In spite of it, the 21st Century Foundation research programmes in the fields of geopolitics macro-economy and the restructuring of the property produced an impact on the transition in the country, when some of the members of the Foundation and some person from the circle near - it took part in the government. In an inner plan the Foundation develops research programmes in the fields of the social stratification, the development of poverty and corruption, which mark the major problems, which the country will face in the process of transition.

Nowadays the position of the future researches in Bulgaria can be restored due to the opportunity for the executing a new policy in the country, based on the consent between various political forces. A reform in the BFS and involvement of new young scholars in it is on the way. The main problem of the transition is the brain leaking from Bulgaria, which hits hard the research programmes. The moving of the centre of the research programmes of worldwide significance from Europe to Australia brings a serious problem, too.

Due to the total decline in the education there are no bigger opportunities for reviving the future research programmes in the country.

At the moment the situation in Bulgaria is not changed in a positive direction. The opportunities for development, for finding a job and for science research programmes are limited. The country does not finance such research programmes, there are not any science magazines. The development of science is limited and it is carried out only in the universities, but the young scholars working there are trying to work other jobs out of them, because of the law payment. The youth as a whole is trying to emigrate. A smaller part led by the idea of educating themselves in west universities, and the bigger - by the idea of finding work in the West-European countries. In general, they are not concerned about their future. The reasons, on one hand, are linked to the economic crisis in the country, which went for too long compared to the society’s expectations. The society is not hoping anymore that it will come to an end and therefore a huge part of the Bulgarians are determined to do without a great number of things in order to afford themselves to send their children abroad with the hope of their realization there. The success in the minds of Bulgarians is closely linked to the emigrating.

The futures studies are not taught as a single scientific field or as a single subject at university level. They are incorporated into other subjects, taught by members of 21st Century Foundation.

According to the Bulgarian futurists, futures studies should not be taught separately, but incorporated into other subjects. They claim that futures studies are applicable in any science fields, though they may find limited application in places.

In contrast to the futures studies worldwide, which are still abstract, the futures studies in Bulgaria are trying to regard practical issues. Therefore, the developed research programmes induced the country government and its policy in geopolitical plan. This refers to the prognoses in the economic field, too.

An interesting fact for the WFSF can be the cycle theory, which was developed in Bulgarian conditions as a methodology. The creation of methodology for evaluation the processes specialized a great number of Bulgarian futurists in the field of creating prognoses and analyses.

The Foundation intends to continue its research programmes and to develop a methodology for a niche research of the labour market, the need for experts in different fields and regions, not only in the country but also in Europe. The observations show, that there are specialists only in certain fields pulled out of the country, namely: computer experts, physicists and dentists.

  1. Future of the futures research programmes in Bulgaria

There should be created a triune formula, which will involve the 21st Century Foundation, BFS, and scholars from the universities in order to continue the work of the futures research programmes. They should use the methodology of the research programmes, by considering each decision suggestion from probability theory’s point of view, evaluating it and depending on its evaluation, it can be either put into practice or not.

The comparative analysis of Bulgaria and some countries, members of the European Union, can be taken for one of the basic elements. The awareness of all the problems, linked to the acceptance of the correspondent country as a full right member of the European Union can formulate a full idea about the directions which needs reformations. On this basis a number of research programmes can be developed for the positive and the negative aspects of the transition from associate to full membership. Practically this means to take a look at Bulgaria’s problems and to determine the potential risks for the country, on the basis of the European economy. Such a strategic analysis can be of use both to Bulgaria and the European Union itself and to the global economy as well.

In Bulgaria, the field of politics has the greatest opportunity to develop the futures studies research programmes.

Being a centre for strategic studies, the 21st Century Foundation can develop a methodology, which can give us the parameters of the change. Bulgaria needs clear studies, not only on the intentions for democracy development but also on the country’s stabilization. At the moment, due to the events on the Balkans, Bulgaria is regarded an island of stability. This role, however, can advance in different directions, depending on the perspectives, which are offered from global point of view.

In spite of the temptations, in the 10-year period of its democratic development, Bulgaria did not become a member of any Balkan axes. This was an auspicious policy, because in the epoch of globalization the good-neighbour relationships mean fewer borders, fewer armies and more exchange of goods, capitals and services. More free movement of people.

The Bulgarian society faces a number of geopolitical dangers. The first is to slow down the process of European integration, in spite of the given hopes from the Niece’s decisions. This slowing down would not be a consequence from processes, going in Bulgaria, but from processes abroad. Processes on the Balkans as a whole. This way regardless of its policy Bulgaria can be left apart from the common European processes. Therefore the only solution is that, Bulgaria should stand for the individual approach, because, if we adopt or search for another approach, it will mean to accept the braking of the approach concept, adopted in Helsinki. But this approach is uniform, an individual speed depending on the criteria fulfilment. And if in Europe there are politicians who step back from these criteria, we must remind them that this is not consecutive and of principle from the point of view of the philosophy and the European unity. The second danger comes from the desire of some politicians to replace the European integration and the European Union with the Stability Treaty. This politically is unacceptable for Bulgaria and for the European Union itself. Bulgaria must understand that this is a geo-political and geo-strategic matter of principal. The regional integration is not an alternative but a must and this should be clearly understood by both the Bulgarian and the West-European politicians. Visas are a bridge that will not allow it happen. The abolition of visas is the bridge, along which this could not happen. For, if such a thing happens, even for 4-5 years, this can lead to catastrophic consequences for the competitiveness of the Bulgarian goods, the Bulgarian factories, funds and the Bulgarians themselves. Each delay means a risk for Bulgaria’s stability and security. Thirdly, it hardly needs reminding that there is a thesis for the division of the Balkans, they are divided in Eastern and Western and Europe does not want the Eastern part to become a part of Europe. A thesis, which says - yes, but only for the catholic Balkans now, the orthodox later. The Bulgarian people and the Bulgarian government must not accept such a thesis - a concept for the division of the Balkans and political priorities, akin to those from Helsinki. Although this thesis looks impossible it has its place in the European space and can always become a part of the European Union’s policy.

The forth danger is connected to the possible change and substitution of the criteria from Helsinki. Practically this means that new political expediencies will be introduced or that Europe will shift from the concept of uniform criteria to the concept of political expediency in the determining of geopolitical priorities. This, too, cannot be acceptable for Bulgaria and no price is that high that it can be accepted and paid. The Bulgarian people do not accept such a philosophy. And this must be announced and heard today in the beginning of the new millennium.

Yes, we are poor. Yes, we did make lots of mistakes, we do have lots of problems but we deserve our part. With the consecutive work of many governments, with the national consent on the European integration, with the point that that there is hardly any Bulgarian, a party or a clique, which are against it.

And this distinguishes us from many other European countries.

The fifth danger is association to the new situation on the Balkans. When we are in search of our identity, we should not do it at the expense of Yugoslavia, Romania, Macedonia or anyone else. Moreover the stability treaty is not just a concept for regional partnership, but it is a strategic programme for the development of the Balkan region, based on the mutual cooperation and the defence of the Balkan Countries’ interests. But while respecting our neighbours we must stand for our own interests at the same time. The new situation on the Balkans craves not only for new approaches, but also new decisions and new political activity.

And finally, there is an existing danger that the following of such a line of interior policy, explained and approved by the demands of the West-European countries and, which would not lead to the expected results, can create anti European attitude in the country.

The philosophy of the Bulgarian policy must not be: ”to get accepted in order to get better”, but “to get better all by ourselves in order to get accepted”.

This is the right way.

Yes, Bulgaria has to solve lots of problems but it should not whip itself for it on the contrary. Bulgaria must aim to become a part of the European political space. To become an European border, for a long time, for a real long time. In the Balkan conditions, or in much worse conditions.

For the only thing that the country lost in the last decade of the previous century is the security - the national security of the country. Not because it is endangered, of course, but because it is still not strategically associated to the main structure for defence in Europe-NATO. The question of our national security is connected to the political stability of the country in the inner plan. The increasing level of unemployment leads to strengthening of the insecurity, to strengthening of the radicalization and can destroy the balance in the country. The west-Europe, however, is not interested to become a peacemaker in the Balkans. To the contrary the economic stability, in fact, means foreign-political stability.

That is why Bulgaria is going to face not a debate on its national security, but a debate on the agreement of the national messages. For when the inner contradictions are fewer the price of the country is growing higher and its national security is rising. When the country is divided into pro and contra cliques its price is falling down and it grows weaker. This includes the military and the inner security areas, too.

If Bulgaria formulates and announces clear messages, it will not need any membership in one or another military and political block. For the country’s inner stability will become the basis of her foreign-political security.

This doesn’t not mean that the country should not take a clear position about NATO and the other regional and European organizations for security and partnership. Bulgaria however, demonstrates separation and lack of consent more than 10 years.

In its relations to Russia Bulgaria is interested in practical confirmation of permanent political dialogue, in settling of a long-term and mutual contract basis for the development of the mutual trade connections, providing vast access of the Bulgarian products to the Russian markets.

We must not create new borders but abolish the old ones.

We are convinced that the executing of such policy is realistic and it corresponds to the interests of our people.

2.1. In the economic sphere

The Bulgarian government must develop a detailed programme both in national and branch level. The development of such a programme cannot be done without the involvement of leading futurist experts. Bulgaria must be involved in the executing of all the all European policies and to harmonize its legislation with the EU’s legislation in order to give its share to the increasing of the stability of the South-Eastern Europe.

The 21st Century Foundation is perfectly aware of the fact that the country’s economy is not at its highest level, which means that the country does not have clear economic priorities and a clear national economy policy linked to them. The population of Bulgaria has a low income. Our place in Europe’s statistic data by this index is one but the last. Bulgarian products lack current and strategic competitive power. Practically there is no niche strategy and no niches, in which it is known that Bulgaria is a competitive in the European markets.

2.2. In the health care sphere

In the health care sphere projects can be developed for the development of the biotechnologies, the prevention and the healing with natural resources. The development of the rural and health tourism, based on the Bulgaria’s richness of mineral basins and spas which can contribute to its multidirectional participation in the European and global system for protecting human health. The prevention in the transition period and economic crisis is quite a challenge to the Bulgarian society. This impels the development of different strategies for the development of both the health care and the opportunities, which Bulgaria’s geography position and mineral resources provide. On the other hand the health care system in Bulgaria needs reformation, the market approach itself cannot guarantee people’s health. The country must find a way to continue its participation in the people health care process. Various concepts can be developed in the direction for development of the health care system, the primary health care and the hospitalization.

2.3. In the educational sphere

Concepts for reforms in the structure of the secondary education can be developed, due to the computerization of the educational methods and the introduction of new educational techniques.

The access to the mass communication devices in the face of the Internet will give the chance to the Bulgarian society not to become left behind the global tendencies in the educational sphere.

In the university education sphere a new role of the teacher is being outlined. Teachers must reveal new parts of the science, to offer methodology and, of course, to discover and support the students’ talents.

In this aspect the practicing of various knowledge of the futures studies can assist the processes of integration of the Bulgarian education to the global levels.

2.4. In the social sphere

Keeping in mind the fact that the level of unemployment in Bulgaria is very high there is a need of development and putting into practice of various social practices for providing work load, guaranteeing of part time payment, providing an alternative approaches for qualification and pre-qualification. Until now there were no research programmes in the dimension of the social segregation, the possibilities for its deepening or overcoming as well as the social stage for the forming of middle class. A new social policy is needed which will guarantee the social-political stability of the different layers of the population.

There is still no strategy for turning the Bulgarians in actual owners of property with which they can operate under the form of shares or share-parts. The long-term segregation of the society of extremely rich and wretc.hed poor will practically endanger the stability policy in the region and will endanger the global economy interests.

2.5. In the technology sphere

It is widely known that countries and peoples, which do not possess communication technologies and cannot freely use them practically will be left out of the current of the global economic and political development and will become the backyard not only of Europe but also of the world. We cannot depend only on the good will of the well-developed countries and to expect to be given technologies by them, we must alone turn into an integral part of the global information society. The communication is the culture of tomorrow. In order to succeed we are in need not only of equal participation in the global political and economical processes but also of real presence in the global policy. Opportunities for this can always be found, let the country not swing from the one extremity to the other in its foreign-political orientation, but to execute a consecutive and balanced foreign policy.

2.6. In the environment

The 21st Century Foundation developed projects in this sphere, which were financed in line of the future research programmes and European funds. Bulgaria has many opportunities for development of different niche strategies for development of the ecological and environment protection tourism.

The motifs for such development are linked to the global danger of destroying the environmental balance on one hand and the chance to keep different oases in the frames of the global world. They can become the places where various new technologies will be developed.

In the end, it can be stated that the Bulgarian futurists will get much fully integrated in the global futures studies community. The economic and political crisis in the country, the lack of financing of the science puts obstacles in the way of this integration. The opportunity for political stabilization, which outlined itself under the last years gives a chance for such a development. Otherwise organizations such as 21st Century Foundation and BFS can become the only institutions which are occupied in such activities. The problems with the financing of such projects compels our organizations to devise ways for a great number of foreign investment. A thing that is extremely hard to do and moreover hinders and even limits their work in determine directions. We hope that the WFSF will assist the organizations, which deal with such research programs in the East-European countries. Due the fact that these countries are under transition from centralized to democratic society and they lack well-developed civil societies, these organizations are still seeking the directions of their own researches in the sphere of the inner country problems. This does not allow a full positioning of these researches in the WFSF’s activities.