Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Business Should Sing

Adelina Marini, October 19, 2011

I was thinking until recently that there had to be a way the city I live in to be organised better and that this should start from the mayor downwards. Alas, although it is extremely important who a mayor is - as a personality and a professional - it is as important people themselves to want to change something in the environment they live in. And not just to want but to take part in such a change. I was deliberating on these things because of the local elections that will take place on October 23rd in Bulgaria, because of which in May I had a meeting with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland's capital city.

While waiting for Gerry Breen to come to us for the interview, we were listening to a male voice singing opera somewhere in the Mansion House (the residence of the Lord Mayor). We were wondering with my cameraman who was singing in the building while the mayor obviously had a lot of work since he was getting late for our appointment. In a moment the room entered the lord mayor singing that particular song, radiating some kind of special grandeur, typical for self-confident people or people who are in full harmony with themselves and the world around them. His behaviour was extremely informal, open and all barriers just disappeared.

Alas, he had come to tell us that he would be late a little more and again singing he disappeared somewhere in the old Victorian building. After a few more moments, while we were exploring the portraits on the walls of rigorous mayors of the former occupational power (Britain), the lord mayor reappeared again singing, holding a cup of coffee that was bought probably somewhere from the nearby cafeterias. He again apologised and we moved straight on to the conversation. Unfortunately we were not prepared to film the two "singing incidents" but as you will see from our conversation, the lord mayor obviously likes singing, probably because a song is harmony. And why not sing since a day after the end of the historic visit of Queen Elisabeth II in Dublin, the lord mayor had deserved the right for a relief. The organisation of this visit, full of fears of bomb attacks and riots went by precisely as a song. To such an extent that people felt proud to be Irish.

Although we are in an election campaign and we are on our way to elect our mayors, this interview is in no way an example for future mayors. Nor it is a behaviour guideline. From everything the Dublin Lord Mayor told me, it became clear to me that what he was achieving was due mainly to his personality. His powers are much more limited than the Bulgarian mayors', for instance. He is even not being elected directly! However, this did not prevent him, while performing his public function, to own a business of his own, from which he drew his ideas how a city should be managed. What impresses when talking to him is that he has a sharp mind, he wants things to happen and knows how this should happen. For him the public administration is a symbol of inefficiency, a lot of holidays and is over-paid.

In the end of the day this mayor will not be good for the taste of the left-wing voters. However, he would be cheered by all those who think that everything can be achieved with efforts and who believe that no one owes them anything. Gerry Breen's views for public procurement might cause a serious eye-brows raising in Bulgaria and even outrage but obviously mentality everywhere is different. The Dublin mayor thinks corporate management would be suitable for city halls too.

Unfortunately many of the problems that I don't like in my home country the Irish have resolved successfully but such solutions in Bulgaria are impossible. It seems that the Irish have achieved these good results because of the European Union and the EU funds. By the way, such a success has been scored by the Poles too. Maybe we have joined the EU too late, as the mayor suggested. Or maybe our interests are not to achieve something but to keep the status quo. To always rely on someone else to do the job instead of us. This is something that sounded familiar to the Dublin mayor who, aside from responding to all the questions was curious how is the situation in Bulgaria. A bit relieving his words sounded that time was needed, especially after a communist past with planning economy. A type of economy he fights in every possible way in his capacity of a mayor.

I wanted to have such an interview with Gerry Breen that could help me bring best practises in Sofia. Instead, I got a terrific conversation with a free-minded man, full of faith in the future. Our interview with him was on the last day of our stay in the Irish capital, in which I liked everything I long for in Sofia - clean streets, order with parking, no street holes at all, well organised and clean public transport, creative signs warning dog owners against fouling.

Drinking alcohol in public is also forbidden. The latter impressed me a lot, especially against the background of the Sofia loose morals, where when you go out for a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon you are left with the impression that there is a reward for all those who drink beer - young, elderly, children, teenagers - everyone is drinking lots of beer, while toddlers and kids are watching and learning. In Dublin this is not allowed precisely because of the responsibility for the future.

From my conversations in this gorgeous city with various people I understand that 20-30 years ago they would not have been proud with it. They would have probably looked very much like the Sofians - dissatisfied, gloomy. It is a fact though, that one of the main reasons work to be going on is public pressure. Probably we are still not mature enough to exercise such a pressure. Because a good mayor does not exist - what exists is a well developed society that elects a good mayor. A passive society gets some mayor, some government, some parliament. A change is needed, a change in mentality but also a song the business.