Home > Bulgaria > The Cost of Relying on Ultra-nationalists: Bulgaria’s Socialist Government Sparks Diplomatic Scandal with France

The Cost of Relying on Ultra-nationalists: Bulgaria’s Socialist Government Sparks Diplomatic Scandal with France


The French Ambassador to Bulgaria Philppe Autier is a real friend of my country. He has worked tirelessly to promote our bilateral relations and to uphold the very principles of freedom and human rights at home. Bulgaria and France share much — we are NATO allies and partners in the European Union.

When their terms end and before leaving for home, ambassadors receive state awards for their work, but also in recognition for the country they represent. France has always supported Bulgaria’s European perspective and has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our nation in its struggle for democracy and freedom.

Before the collapse of Communism, back in January 1989 then French President Mitterrand invited 12 leading Bulgarian dissidents and intellectuals to a historic breakfast at the French Embassy. It was only through Western media then that people heard of this meeting. In our modern history this breakfast meeting will always be recognised as a turning point in the development of Bulgaria’s then democratic movement. It was a show of solidarity that the people of Bulgaria will never forget.

Years later it was President Sarkozy who was instrumental in the release of a number of Bulgarian female nurses wrongly convicted and imprisoned by the brutal Gaddafi regime in Libya. They had spent eight years in prison and no Bulgarian government had been able to secure their release alone. Again, they owe their freedom to the solidarity that is a key building block of today’s Europe.

Real friends are those who stand by you in times of difficulty and do not shy away from speaking the truth. Most recently French and German ambassadors Autier and Hoepfner made a joint statement calling on Bulgaria’s political leaders to end their links to oligarchs and reminded everyone that “being part of the EU is a civilisational choice. The oligarchic model [of government] has no place in [Europe], in Bulgaria or elsewhere…

Instead of reflecting on the statement by the two countries that have been Europe’s driving force for more than half a century, the current government reprimanded the ambassadors. The leader of ultra-nationalist Ataka immediately called for punishments and asked the Foreign Minister to stop “this unacceptable pressure and interference in [our] internal affairs…

Today, Foreign Minister Vigenin’s decision not to nominate Ambassador Otie for a state award is a direct response to the ultra-nationalist’s calls for “punishments”. It is a callous and dangerous act that undermines the international standing of free and democratic Bulgaria. It also shows quite clearly who supports the current Socialist government — the red oligarchs and ultra-nationalists.

All this is rather sad, because solidarity is and will remain a cornerstone of Europe. It is not just about paying or spending EU funding, it is also about supporting civil society and upholding a political system that is based on the values and standards of Europe.

Ambassador Autier’s active stand shows his true friendship and he truly deserves the highest state award that can be bestowed on a foreign diplomat. Foreign Minister Vigenin’s decision is a cowardly and offensive act of a government that day-by-day is losing friends in Europe and in the international democratic community.

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