Bulgaria’s foreign minister Kristian Vigenin was set to visit Kyiv and Odessa on March 4, saying ahead of his departure that he wanted his visit to signal that Bulgaria’s bilateral relations with Ukraine will depend on how those now in power act towards minorities, especially the Bulgarian community there.
Vigenin, a former MEP who hold the foreign ministry portfolio in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, several days ago issued a statement objecting to the new government’s abolition of language rights for recognised ethnic minorities.
That decision, apparently directed against the Russian minority in Ukraine, annoyed other countries with ethnic minorities.
Vigenin, speaking after a special meeting on March 3 of European Union foreign ministers, said that in Kyiv, he would meet Ukraine’s acting president Alexander Turchynov, prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, foreign minister Andrei Deshtitsa and Udar party leader Vitali Klitschko.
He also would meet representatives of organisations of Bulgarians in Ukraine, Vigenin said.
He said that it was important for dialogue with the Ukrainian government to continue and for Bulgaria to emphasise its specific interests in its relations with Ukraine, notably the large Bulgarian community there.
According to a foreign ministry statement, at the suggestion of Vigenin the EU foreign ministers’ council conclusions included a reference to Ukraine needing to ensure full protection of minorities in accordance with its international commitments.
At the EU foreign ministers meeting, it was agreed that Russia’s actions were a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The bloc’s response will be discussed at a special meeting of the European Council of heads of state and government on March 6.
Bulgaria’s interior minister Tsvetlin Yovchev, speaking after attending a scheduled meeting on March 3 of EU justice and home affairs ministers, said that escalating tension in Ukraine represented a threat to Bulgaria’s national security.
Yovchev said that eventual difficulties with strategic supplies, including nuclear fuel, for Bulgaria through Ukraine were possible, Bulgarian National Radio reported.
Yovchev refrained from making long-term prognoses on developments in Ukraine, noting that processes there are “multidirectional,” but said that in the short run the most serious threat for Bulgaria is an eventual disruption of gas deliveries.
On March 3, vice president Margarita Popova also referred to the Bulgarian community in Ukraine, saying that Bulgaria should be prepared to receive the representatives of the Bulgarian community in that country should they want to come to Bulgaria.
(Photo of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, by Jurij Skoblenko via flickr.com)