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

03/09/2013 Leave a comment

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.

New Socialist Government Wants to Restart Controversial, Outdated and Expensive Belene Nuclear Project

30/05/2013 1 comment
Socialist leader Stanishev and PM Oresharski form unstable government with the support of xenophobic and nationalist Ataka

Socialist leader Stanishev and PM Oresharski form unstable government with the support of ultra-nationalist party Ataka

In February the Bulgarian Parliament voted by a crushing majority of 114 to 40 to cancel the controversial project to build a second nuclear power station at Belene with Russian technology. This decision should have been taken years ago. The project is outdated and expensive and this has been proven over and over again. It has already cost too much financially and politically to the Bulgarian tax payer. There is much speculation that over the last 30 years it has generated corruption, mismanagement and dependencies.

In March last year the Government put and to the project. This was endorsed by Parliament, but the opposition challenged it in a failed referendum. Those who argued that the Borisov government and the GERB centre-right majority in Parliament would not end this project were once again proven wrong today.

Bulgaria needs to invest in innovation, SMEs that create jobs and support a middle class. The country needs a modern energy infrastructure that is up to the highest standards of safety and is integrated into the European grid. Last but not least it needs to break away from the shackles of energy dependence, diversify and invest in energy efficiency.

Soon after this decision the Socialist opposition, in collaboration with those who had benefitted from the corruption that Belene had fed for decades, brought down the Government and early elections were called. Yesterday they formed a weak and unstable government that relies on the support of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and a xenophobic and ultra-nationalist party called Ataka. In its first statement the new government declared is that it wants to restart the Belene project… During the election much was said about growth, jobs and prosperity. Today the truth however has emerged. The Bulgarian Socialist Party has no idea how to move the country forward, its leadership is interested only in Belene. One ought to ask why? The answer is not that complicated. For more than three decades Belene has bled the Bulgarian treasury and economy. Billions were spent on a project that is outdated and defunct. Many of those who whisper in their ears made money out of this project. But there is another reason. Ultra-nationalist Ataka openly declared that they want the project restarted. Today PM Oresharski is paying the price for that one vote that got his government elected. Welcome to the coalition politics. When you sell your soul to the devil, he will come to collect it.

The people of Bulgaria will quickly see through this plot and should not allow it to materialise. My country has the potential to be a hub of innovation and growth in a region of economic turmoil. Why? Because its finances are stable, its credit ratings increased through the crisis, and the Bulgarian people are prone to innovation and enterprise. However that can happen only if they are left to their own devices. That should be the main priority of any government, no matter what side of the political spectre it comes from.

This post is based on an earlier entry, which I wrote when Parliament voted to end the controversial project.