Gas, grain, agriculture and more gas – these were among the themes as leaders and candidates of Bulgaria’s political parties in the country’s European Parliament elections crisscrossed the landscape on the campaign trail on May 8.
Some jottings from The Sofia Globe’s election campaign notebook:
Boiko Borissov, leader of centre-right party GERB, had the European Energy Union on his mind, two days after President Rossen Plevneliev spoke on his support for the idea, in turn getting a backlash from Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev who accused Plevneliev of trying to make political capital.
Sardonically, Borissov told reporters that GERB supported the idea of a European Energy Union “because brotherly Russia sells fraternal Bulgaria the most expensive gas in Europe. If there is an energy union, we will lower the price of gas”.
Bulgaria had huge gas resources, including huge deposits of shale gas, and “sooner or later” the technology for extracting shale gas would be such that it would not be dangerous for the environment, and Bulgaria would have more power than other countries in Europe, Borissov said.
Still on the energy theme, Borissov said that his party was “100 per cent for” the South Stream project, but the pipeline project would have to comply with European legislation.
GERB candidate and sitting MEP Maria Gabriel, meanwhile, was at Sitnyakovo market in the capital, telling people that Sofia was a symbol of the European development of Bulgaria.
European elections, she said, were important for the future of the city, given the things seen and used every day – the metro underground railway, the renovated boulevards and streets. European funds were helping the capital develop in the long term.
BSP list leader Stanishev, who also is leader of the EU-wide Party of European Socialists, was accompanied by a deputy minister of agriculture and the head of the parliamentary committee on agriculture to a meeting with the National Association of Grain Producers.
Stanishev emphasised that the government was continuing to work on the problems of grain in the country. “I understand your concerns,” Stanishev told the grain producers.
“The government is doing everything possible for the sector to develop. There is no question that we encountered a poor quality of administration after GERB was in government. But I believe that the government will take the necessary political decisions to improve the sector, such as more money for production.
He said that a priority in 2015 would be development of state aid, recovery of the excise duty on petrol and the provision of financial resources in the budget. The tax allowance for investment in agriculture would continue, Stanishev said.
Meglena Kouneva, list leader for the Reformist Bloc, bemoaned the fact that Bulgaria lagged behind in agriculture but said that Europe should provide more money for agriculture in the next programming period.
Visiting Silistra on the Danube, Kouneva said that Danube cities everywhere had a special contribution to the agricultural policy of Europe.
She said that the Reformist Bloc would work for Bulgaria becoming a founder of the European Energy Union. This would mean 30 per cent lower bills for consumers and industry, according to Kouneva.
A recent EC report had said that Bulgaria would achieve growth if its gas dependence on Russia was reduced, Kouneva said.
Krassimir Karakachanov, leader of nationalist party VMRO and a candidate for Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC), the party formed around former talk show host Nikolai Barekov, said that Bulgaria had missed some of the possibilities for diversification of energy supplies.
He spoke positively about South Stream, saying that during the time it was being built, it would provide 5000 jobs in construction in the poorest part of the country, north-western Bulgaria.
Bulgaria had two issues on which to seek agreement on the project, one being the gas transit fee and the other an agreement that the pipeline would transport Bulgarian gas if the country developed its fields.