Kristian Vigenin, foreign minister in the current Bulgarian Socialist Party government, came under fire from his own senior fellow party members at a closed meeting in the Borovets resort for going his own way on the Ukraine issue, media reports said.
Vigenin was criticised for putting at risk votes from the BSP’s Russophile electorate, the reports said.
The visit by Vigenin to Ukraine, where he met senior members of the post-Yanukovych government and met members of the Bulgarian minority community, sparked criticism from various quarters in Bulgarian politics.
He has been defended by Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the BSP cabinet, who repeatedly has said that Vigenin made the trip to Ukraine with his permission.
In Parliament on March 14, far-right ultra-nationalist Ataka leader Volen Siderov – whose party has sent a number of its members of Parliament to back up the widely-rejected Crimean referendum on accession to Russia – called for Vigenin’s resignation over his visit to Ukraine and his “legitimisation” of the new government of that country.
At the forum in Borovets on March 15, the BSP adopted a declaration on Ukraine, after many days of a lack of stated clarity on the party’s position.
Vigenin, speaking after the meeting, told local media that the declaration provided “a very good framework” for the party.
He said that in a dynamic environment, a cabinet minister could not sit and wait for co-ordinated decisions.
On March 18, there would be a meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, that would have to make decisions and Bulgaria’s position had been agreed with the president and the prime minister.
To a large extent, this position fitted in with the position adopted on March 15 by the BSP, according to Vigenin.
The main topic on which there were no differences were the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, he said.
He admitted that among the ranks of the BSP, “different opinions” had been heard about the position to be taken by Bulgaria.
Local media reports said that a draft declaration that had been proposed by the BSP Blagoevgrad had been rejected because it was completely Russophile.
Vigenin was reported to have told the closed-doors discussion that his visit to Ukraine had not been covered properly. He had been there to protect the interests of the Bulgarian minority, and was prepared to tour BSP structures to explain his actions.
BSP leader Sergei Stanishev, speaking after the March 15 discussions in Borovets, said that the threat of sanctions may not be the solution.
He said a new Cold War and mutual economic sanctions would damage Bulgaria the most, with consequences for the country’s economy, energy and tourism.
Stanishev said that the “serious and dangerous crisis: in Ukraine was the result of errors built up over the year.
The BSP believed that comprehensive and thorough dialogue, on the basis of the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, would lead to stability in Ukraine.
He said that 250 000 ethnic Bulgarians lived in Ukraine and it was Bulgaria’s duty to ensure that their rights were maintained.
The text approved by the BSP meeting in Borovets said that the party was following with great concern the developments in Ukraine and expressed strong concern about the complex and tense situation in the country.
The declaration gave priority to achieving lasting stability in Ukraine and the prevention of new violence, and also prioritised the settlement of outstanding issues.
It emphasised the importance of ensuring the territorial integrity of Ukraine and a policy of inclusion for the entire population and not confrontation.
The declaration said that the BSP did not accept the application of double standards in international relations and support from external forces for extremist groups in Ukraine.
The BSP expressed concern about the inclusion in the Government of Ukraine and the management of the representatives of a fascist and people who had accumulated wealth in a questionable manner.
The party expressed concern about the increasing military activity in the region, particularly on the Crimean Peninsula.
The declaration noted that the deterioration of economic relations between the EU and Russia would have only a negative effect on both sides, and smooth provision of energy supply is crucial for the security of Europe.
It added that the consequences for Bulgaria from the worsening situation in Ukraine and for the Bulgarian community there would be more severe for Bulgaria than in many other EU countries .
The declaration recognised “the responsibility of all factors, foreign and domestic, to prevent an approach and actions typical of the Cold War”.
There was one issue on which the BSP declaration was notably silent – that of the illegality of the Crimean referendum on March 16 on secession from Ukraine and accession to Russia.
Also on March 15, the ruling axis approach to Ukraine came under fire from Boiko Borissov, leader of centre-right opposition party GERB.
Borissov said that the Bulgarian government’s unclear position, the fact that it is hesitant and inactive, would put Bulgaria in a situation where it will suffer the most damage from the situation in Ukraine.
(Photo of Vigenin: mfa.bg)