Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on July 1 that he wanted to normalise relations with Russia, which was why he had told Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Borissov said that he wanted to “normalise, if it’s possible, of course, the extremely sharp position of Russia towards Bulgaria, as well as ours towards them, which is turning Russia into our worst enemy on the Balkans”.
In recent years, Bulgaria’s centre-right, pro-Western government has had a number of incidents of tension with Russia, including hostile statements from Kremlin figures against Bulgarian leaders including President Rossen Plevneliev.
Plevneliev, who will not seek a second term in presidential elections in Bulgaria in autumn 2016, has been openly critical of Russia, including in a recent speech to the European Parliament and in June 30 talks with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Plevneliev has underlined that Bulgaria will never accept Russia’s annexation of Ukraine.
Other Cabinet ministers who have shown a strong pro-Western orientation have included Mitov himself and Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev, who piloted the change of contract so that Poland, not Russia, repairs the ageing MiG-29 engines of the Bulgarian Air Force.
Bulgaria also has been caught up in controversy over purported plans by Turkey and Romania for a permanent naval presence in the Black Sea – with Bulgaria responding that it would take part in projects only within the aegis of Nato – and Bulgaria, in the Borissov years, has parted ways with Russian energy projects such as South Stream, which Russia announced was being abandoned.
Borissov said that Bulgaria should have a balanced policy, resolving issues with Russia on energy projects, and easing visa sanctions. He said that EU sanctions against Russia would not fall this year, but he hoped that at least they would be alleviated in the field of agriculture, because they were resulting in serious losses.
Responding to the leader of the pro-Russian minority party ABC, Georgi Purvanov, saying that Borissov should ask to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin, Borissov pointed out that protocol rules were that heads of states met heads of states and heads of governments met heads of government. Thus, as Prime Minister, Borissov would expect to meet Russia’s prime minister.
Reports from Sochi, where Mitov and Lavrov held talks, said that the Bulgarian Foreign Minister had emphasised that all energy projects on Bulgarian territory had to be implemented in accordance with European law.
Mitov and Lavrov discussed trade and economic relations and the activities of Nato in the Black Sea.
Mitov told Lavrov that the actions of Nato in the region did not threaten anyone, including Russia. Lavrov pointed out misunderstandings that arise in the otherwise friendly relations between Russia and Bulgaria, Bulgarian National Television reported.