The burning of a European Union flag in Sofia at the Soviet Army monument on May 9, celebrated by Russia as Victory Day, was seized on by opponents of Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev, who had been at the same site the same day celebrating the same thing.
Some notes from The Sofia Globe’s election campaign notebook:
After photographs emerged of the flag-burning, Bulgarians opposed to the current government began a series of posts on the timeline of the Facebook page of the Party of European Socialists, of which Stanishev is leader, demanding a response whether the anti-EU, anti-Western slogans and symbolism of the Russophile group on May 9 represented the stance of Stanishev and PES.
A day after the flurry on Facebook began, the issue also was picked up by centre-right GERB, which condemned the “extremely disturbing incident” and said that so far there had been no reaction from the BSP or its MEP candidates.
GERB said that as leader of the BSP and PES, Stanishev should apologise for the disgraceful actions of the socialists. Media reports said that at the time that the EU flag-burning happened, Stanishev already had left.
The EU-flag burning issue emerged as German magazine Spiegel posted a story saying that German federal intelligence had written a report describing Bulgaria as becoming Russia’s bridgehead in the EU, and describing the BSP and Movement for Rights and Freedoms as loyal assistants of the Russian government.
For its part, the BSP highlighted Stanishev talking about another topic entirely. In a May 12 item on its website, the BSP quoted Stanishev as talking about “visible changes” and that “we will continue to defend a policy that helps businesses and creates jobs.”
Forty thousand new jobs had been created in the first three months of the year, according to Stanishev.
Posting on a visit the previous day to Stara Zagora by the BSP leader, the party website quoted him as saying, “Today is May 11and on that day my father would have been 90 years. I could not go to his grave to pay tribute to him because we are in the campaign. And I know that he would understand me because throughout his life, his generation were people who risked their lives because they were involved in the resistance, and afterwards built a modern Bulgaria, they were led by this cause and this idea, and it keeps us together”.