In Sandanski, a town of 40,000 inhabitants in southern Bulgaria just 20 kilometers from the Greek border, life has taken on a Greek dimension. There are inscriptions on shop fronts and billboards in Greek, Greek specialties in restaurants and the Greek language audible in street conversations. For the poor Bulgarian north, Sandanski is the «Kolonaki» of Bulgaria as their compatriots earn a much higher income there than in Sofia or further north, as a result of the Greek corporate presence and the thousands of Greek visitors that come to shop at weekends. Greek investment in southern Bulgaria has created a «eurozone» as a result of transactions with Greece. But there are Greek companies throughout Bulgaria – overall, 400 that employ from 30,000 to 50,000 workers. Bulgarians trust Greek investors, who were the first to arrive after the fall of the Eastern bloc. More than the money, Bulgarians also value Greece’s support for their country’s EU entry. Apart from the factories and small industries opened up by Greeks in Bulgaria, Greeks have also started buying property and constructing houses in villages near Sofia and other towns. They have hastened to invest in this sector, since Bulgaria’s entry into the EU in 2007 will likely send prices soaring. A large number of Bulgarians in the south also speak Greek and Greek songs can be heard everywhere, exerting a strong influence on the country’s music. Well-known Bulgarian philhellenes have translated Greek writers and Greek literature and language is taught at the universities of Sofia and Plovdiv. Last year 250,000 Greeks visited Bulgarian tourist resorts and markets and as many Bulgarians came to Greece as seasonal workers.

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