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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.

Наказателната акция на правителството срещу френския посланик е политически безотговорно и опасно за България действие

03/09/2013 1 comment

Flag-Pins-Bulgaria-FranceПосланик Филип Отие, като изразител на политиката на Франция, но и като истински приятел на България, работи активно за развиване на двустранните ни отношения, за защита на принципите на свободата на човека и човешките права у нас. Отношенията между България и Франция не са от вчера – нашите две страни са съюзници в НАТО и партньори в ЕС. Френският посланик е личен представител на френския президент в България. Ако г-н Вигенин има проблем с политиката на Франция, то нека обясни на президента Оланд какво в действията на приятелска Франция той не харесва.

Връчването на орден на един посланик е не само признание за неговата работа, но и жест към държавата му. Франция винаги е подкрепяла европейската перспектива на България и винаги е била рамо до рамо с българския народ в борбата му за демокрация и свобода.

През далечната 1989 г. тогавашният френски президент Митеран покани 12 видни български дисиденти и интелектуалци на закуска във френското посолство в София. Тогава комунистическите медии в България мълчаха, а новината се разпространи единствено и само от западните радиостанции. Въпреки това, срещата остана ключов момент в зараждането на българското дисидентско движение. Това бе знак за солидарност с българския народ, който никога няма да бъде забравен.

Години по-късно президентът Саркози изигра ключова роля, за да могат българските медицински сестри, несправедливо осъдени от бруталния режим на Кадафи, да се върнат живи и здрави в България. Нещо, което нито едно българско правителство не успя да направи само. Освобождаването им бе резултат от същата тази солидарност, която е в основата на Европа днес.

Истинските приятели се проявяват в моменти на трудности, в моменти, в които трябва истина открито да бъде назована. Така беше и когато посланик Отие, съвместно с германския посланик Хофнер, направиха съвместно изявление, в което призоваха политическите лидери на страната да скъсат връзките си с олигархията и припомниха че принадлежността към Европейския съюз е цивилизационен избор. Моделът на олигархията няма място в него, нито в България, нито където и да е

Вместо да се замислят върху казаното от двете държави, които са мотора на европейската интеграция, българските власти заклеймиха посланието. Още тогава Атака поиска наказания и призова външния министър да предприеме мерки за спиране на този недопустим натиск и намеса във вътрешните работи….

Днес, г-н Вигенин изпълни тази наказателна акция, която Волен Сидеров поиска. Изпълни я по един недостоен, безотговорен и опасен за свободна и демократична България начин. Тези действия на външния министър показаха, кой крепи правителството на БСП и ДПС на власт — червената олигархия и ултранационалистите.

Всичко това е много жалко, защото солидарността между държавите и обществата е основен принцип в Европейския съюз. Тя не се изразява единствено в плащане и ползване на европейски фондове. Солидарността означава подкрепа в укрепването на гражданското общество, съдействие за създаване на политическа среда, отговаряща на европейските стандарти и ценности.

Активната позиция и истинското приятелство на посланик Филип Отие безспорно заслужават най-високото българско отличие – орден „Стара планина“, който иначе се връчва на всеки отпътуващ от страната ни посланик. Решението на външния министър да не направи предложение за награждаването на посланик Отие е дребнав и страхлив жест на едно правителство, заради което България губи все повече приятели в Европа и в демократичния свят.

Innovation and growth are key to economic revival in Europe

16/04/2012 Leave a comment

As we meet in London today, the European economy remains weak. Growth has stalled across the continent. Unemployment is high. After several years of crisis, our citizens and businesses are still uncertain whether the future offers prosperity or stagnation. William Hague and I outlined some ideas on how to bring growth back into the European economy and published them in The Telegraph. This is how it looks when you see it from Sofia and London…

As well as responding to the immediate debt crises, we believe that Europe must focus more on growth. We outline here a programme of reforms which Europe needs to undertake to remain competitive and confident.

Neither of our countries is in the euro, but it is in our national interest that the currency should succeed. We have a major stake in a stable and growing eurozone. A large share of our exports goes to this area and its volatility has a chilling effect on both economies.

As well as the fiscal compact, markets must be assured that the eurozone firewall is big enough; that Europe’s banks are being adequately recapitalised; and that the problems in countries like Greece have been properly dealt with.

At national level, the UK and Bulgaria are working hard to address the problem of government debt. We have put forward an aggressive set of plans to get our economies back on their feet. We are reforming our welfare and pension systems, restraining public sector pay, and streamlining our public administrations.

By taking bold decisions, we have shown it is possible to earn credibility in international markets.
Beneath the surface of the recent crises is a bigger and more important challenge for Europe. A fundamental shift in the global balance of economic power is under way – from West to East and from North to South.

This is about competitiveness. The European Commission’s 2012 Annual Growth Survey observed that “long before the current crisis, overall EU performance has been weaker than key competitors”.
The only long-term solution is to encourage and promote growth. In our meeting in London we are discussing a number of ways to do this: extending the single market, promoting free trade, reducing red tape and using the EU’s budget to promote innovation and competitiveness.

First, to complete the single market we must widen its remit to focus on the digital economy, on energy, low carbon development, defence, and further liberalisation of the services sector. One of the reasons major companies invest in Bulgaria and the UK is because they want access to the single market. But in some crucial areas, internal trade is still obstructed.

The single market has not kept up with the shift to services and changes in technology. Further liberalisation of services and the creation of a digital single market could bring over €800bn (£660bn) to the European economy.

Second, promoting free trade. The EU has had a good track record of promoting international trade but we must do more. We’d like to make 2012 the year of EU trade deals, by concluding negotiations with India, Canada and Singapore, launching negotiations with Japan by the summer, and injecting momentum into EU-US economic integration.

The deals currently on the table could add €90bn to EU GDP. Above all, we must reject the temptation to seek self-defeating protectionism in trade relations.

Third, reducing the burdens on businesses. The average cost of starting a business is higher in the EU than in our major competitors. It costs €644 to set up a business in the US compared with €2,285 in the EU. Big businesses say EU regulation is having a negative effect too.

We have made some advances in Europe on reducing regulatory burdens for small businesses. This is a step in the right direction, but we will push for a more ambitious EU programme to reduce overall burdens, specific measures to help small businesses and new sectoral targets to benefit industry.

Fourth, Europe needs to focus more on innovation and infrastructure for a modern economy. Connecting Europe’s energy grids is one milestone. In addition, we should make EU research and investment funds more flexible and simpler to use.

As President Rosen Plevneliev of Bulgaria said in his inauguration speech, innovation is at the heart of growth. Europe must create the best environment for entrepreneurs and innovators to turn their ideas into commercial projects, and thus create jobs.

Finally, we wish to stress the transformational power of EU enlargement. The process of accession has helped to entrench democracy, the rule of law and human rights across the continent. It has also increased investor confidence. We believe membership of the EU should be open to any European country that wants to join and meets the rigorous accession criteria.