Maxim Behar is in the show "Cross point" season 2 on Nova TV speaking to the host Mikhail Dyuzev on the topic, "The communications expert's point of view"

Maxim Behar talks to the host of "Cross point" on important topical issues for our country

Host: Hello Bulgaria, wherever you are, you are watching "Cross point" the show where the news gets its first commentary. We start the week which we expect to be sunnier and warmer, but also once again offer interesting political news. We'll be discussing the topics over the next few days with our new guests, here's who they are. This week's communications expert's perspective.

Maxim Behar is a journalist, diplomat, businessman and a PR expert at the highest level. He's the chairman of the World Communications Forum Council in Davos, chairman of the World Association of PR Agencies. Maxim Behar was one of the founders of the newspaper “Standard” in the early years of free press in the country. He is a member of the American Public Relations Society and Vice President of the Atlantic Club in our country. He is on the board of one of the most influential charities “For Our Children”. Between several destinations, Maxim Behar found the time to be with us on this week’s "Cross point".

Welcome, Mr. Behar.

Maxim: It's an honor and a pleasure.

Host: We have a joke between us. Between which and which destination do you find the time for "Cross point"?

Maxim: Between two destinations.

Host: Well, it's always two. Okay that's a diplomatic answer.

Maxim: Yes. I'm happy to be on Nova TV after maybe a year or a year and a half with you here. And I hope we'll do an interesting show with interesting points of view.

Host: We hope so too, thank you for being with us. The former prosecutor general, Ivan Geshev announced he has resigned from the judiciary and has declared a political career. This comes three days after he asked to be reinstated to his former position, namely prosecutor in the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office. Here is part of Ivan Geshev's statement.

Ivan Geshev: In recent months, before the eyes of the entire nation and the international community, the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Bulgaria has been subjected to unprecedented pressure and grossly illegal interference in the work of the judicial system. We even found ourselves in the paradoxical situation of having two chief prosecutors at one point before the decree on my dismissal was even promulgated. Clearly, fear is great, and the timetable of the deep state and the backstage affairs must be respected at the cost of everything. Today I speak for the last time as a magistrate, having complied with the law after 30 years of working for the people and resigned as a prosecutor. That is why today I speak to the Bulgarians in Bulgaria as I promised, with the clear understanding that political problems are solved by political means.

Host: At the same time the Union of Judges in Bulgaria came out with a strong position against the acting Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov. And called on the Supreme Judicial Council to elect in his place a person of undisputed reputation. And the procurator's collegium in the council released the deputies of the chief prosecutor. How big is the step between the judiciary and politics? Mr. Behar, how do you assess the move of Mr. Ivan Geshev?

Maxim: Let me get back to the step. In my opinion, it is not even necessary for someone to take a step, from the judiciary to go into politics, because there are many such examples. You know, I am not a specialist on the Geshev case, in the last 2-3 years in Bulgaria I see that everyone knows about football, women and Geshev. And everyone has a position whether to support him or not, this is ultimately a very sensitive topic that should only be commented on by magistrates who have inside knowledge. I agree that with the “KTB”, nothing happened in that case and in other cases, and we can judge the Attorney General for that, or we can assess him, as well as other prosecutors. But perhaps Ivan Geshev will look at politics, as there are assumptions from today with this attractive, heartfelt message, Levski, Botev, all this patriotic terminology. In Bulgaria there is still a lot of room for patriotic political formations that are not quite as populist as "Revival" or others that failed to enter parliament. Let him try, if he has done something somewhere there is a high judicial council, let the judicial authorities focus on him. He, as far as I understand, as of today is an ordinary citizen who can do with his career and life as he wants, let us see how it develops. In my opinion, the Attorney General and the prosecutors should be honorable, upstanding, disreputable people. It can't happen, or at least I don't think it will happen in our lifetime, after 30 years of these kinds of battles, metamorphoses, focuses between the various judicial positions, that we really have all messed up. And we're saying, "Wait a minute where are those pure and respectable people going to come from?" especially in the SJC. Let’s hope there are some, if there are the most important thing would be that we don't know the name of the Attorney General at all. And let him do his job, as it is in many countries of course. I was talking to a Spanish colleague recently and he is a very influential journalist who doesn’t know who the Attorney General was in his country. A lot must happen after those 30 years to get our little boutique democracy in order.

Host: You're watching and listening to "Cross point" our second topic. Forecasters predict that the critical flood period has passed. According to Prime Minister Denkov, restoring the damage will cost millions, and according to the mayors, once a crisis has passed then no preventive work is done. For example, clearing riverbeds, building dikes. Let's see a picture of the affected areas today. In most cases until now, after a disaster has passed, the affected areas are left without normal infrastructure for a long time, and aid to the people is delayed by bureaucratic obstacles. Will it take years to rebuild the affected areas this time too? Mr. Behar, is it a question of communication to make everything happen properly?

Maxim: I don't want to use metaphors, but since we're talking about floods, I would like to say that in all the 20-30 years that we've been watching it happen, it's all been "bare water." Mainly because none of us know how to react. You remember Mizia, the Asparuhovo district and many other disasters, earthquakes, and all. The so-called "Civil Protection", there are probably more. It is nowhere to be seen, there is no information anywhere, and we do not know what to do in the event of disasters. This is about basic communication. There should be a website that states what should be done in the event of floods, who to contact. I read a little while ago that my former colleague, Vanya Shalapatova, who is now Minister for Labour and Social Policy, said somewhere, “You are welcome to submit your benefit applications”. What applications, can you imagine a man whose house has sunk, he is sitting somewhere over his sunken car, and he is writing an application. All these municipal, state, welfare and whatever officials should be there. To talk to these victims and see what can be done to help them. Be it with money, shelter, advice, medicine, or doctors. No applications should be written, because it’s according to policy, when you write something you have to see who will stamp your endorsement and then who will approve it. Meaning there should be a very proactive policy on the part of the state. I will even say simulations should be done in the case of a flood. There are 3-4 super computers now in Bulgaria that are capable of simulating to great accuracy a major earthquake, flood and all such disasters to be displayed. Televisions, yours, national, radios. We need to be ready to be able to take measures and counter disasters that may happen to us. Years ago, I was in Israel in a town called Ashkelon, which was shelled by the Palestinians from Gaza. And so it happens, I was near a house which had its roof blown up by a rocket. We were about 30-40 meters away from it. Immediately every single resident of that town got a text message saying, "We are under attack. Hide underground.". We don't even have contact with each other, and what's left to not have advance preparation, what's left for us to be ready in case something happens. We need communication, understanding, a lot of hard work on the part of the state.

Host: Yes, you are talking about modern technology, not even that modern anymore. The people in the video as we saw were talking about sirens to warn them.

Maxim: And that's the most elementary thing. Every year on 2.06 we test them to see if they work.

Host: And today the former ecology minister Asen Lechev told BNRradio, "That the national warning system in such cases, where it has stumbled, to some reservoir where the sensors have to be installed, to some place that cannot be expropriated and so cannot be built.". And there is money allocated by European projects. And that was part of the announcement, is part of the problem down to bureaucracy?

Maxim: The whole state machinery in my opinion, should go there and talk to person by person. I'm sure the state and municipal officials are more than the victims. For every one victim, there will be three officials who will determine what damage has been done. They will immediately give them money; these are people in trouble. Okay, we have no communication, the system is not working, we get no early notifications. It’s a simple task to help these people in trouble. There must be a said procedure, a system by which all this is done, regardless of who the minister is and what government there is. It is not a question of accountability, it is a question of somebody having to sit down, for example Civil Protection. If there is a procedure and responsibilities for the people who must do their job, it should not matter what government there is.

Host: You touched on our next topic, which is whether our summer season is in jeopardy because of fake and unverified news, about the pollution of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Our third topic is the announcement of the Ministry of the Environment and Water today that satellite monitoring and modelling of water currents have so far given no cause for concern about the quality of the water on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. There is full monitoring of possible environmental damage in the Bulgarian water area following the destruction of the wall of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine. The spread of fake or unverified news puts the summer season in our country at risk. An adequate response from the institutions involved is required. However, how should this situation be communicated?

Maxim: We have been trembling for years about this time in May-June, whether the season will fail, whether enough tourists will come. This topic has two points that are very important. We have of course the Kakhovka dam that was blown up, there could be contamination. Experts say there is no contamination. I read all the time the information that my friend Ilia Popov, who is the Minister for the Environment and Water, publishes. He constantly publishes up-to-date information and news. I have no doubt that they are true. The other point is that Bulgaria has not had an adequate communication and advertising policy for years about what we have outside Bulgaria. From time to time someone runs an advertisement, but I do not wish to comment on that because I am quite critical. I am against us proactively explaining currently that the waters of the Black Sea are clean. We must present the people of Bulgaria first. Bulgaria is a country full of young, intelligent, well-mannered, well-educated, English-speaking, European people of whom we are all proud. 9 out of 10 foreigners who have come to Bulgaria, don't want to leave, or want to come back, we must promote that. Secondly, we need to get the resorts in order, beach concessions, umbrellas, prices, and everything else needs to be in order. And all of this must be well promoted abroad. There should be daily information about the cleanliness of our seawater. We need to know what is going on there because we have a blown-up dam. However, we have a war on our border with Ukraine. In my opinion, we should question every single piece of news that comes from Russia, we should literally review it from three or four sources. We should evaluate it to find out whether it is true or not, but the most important thing is to promote our dear sea, our people, and our wonderful cuisine. If we can - without kebabs and steaks because they have them in other places too. We need to have an intelligent, good, nice, and beautiful campaign. Above all, let's show the people of Bulgaria and then the tourists will come. I agree that Putin should stop the war, but that will not solve our problem with tourists in Bulgaria. There is also skepticism from the Chernobyl days of 1986, when the authorities said, "Nothing happened. Everything is OK, everything is fine," and suddenly we realized that was not the case. But there are other examples where they say there is no problem, but it happens not to be the case. Yes, skepticism is important, Putin is the man who needs to stop the war, but I personally don't believe it. But we as a country need to have a good communication policy to be able to attract foreign tourists. Because for Bulgarian tourists, who have decided to vacation on Sunny Beach or Golden Sands, St. Constantine, and Helena, only 1-2% will be worried. Romanian tourists are quite a big earner for our Black Sea coast, I think that they will not shy away either. However, tourists from UK, Germany, cheap expensive, women, alcoholic, that’s how we’ve decided to make our tourism.

Host: Thank you for the discussion. We will continue again tomorrow. Good evening.

You can watch the whole interview here.

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