In a special address on the final day of campaigning in Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections, President Rossen Plevneliev has urged Bulgarians to turn out to vote on May 25.
Fifteen parties, six coalitions and three independent candidates have been campaigning officially for the past month to win Bulgaria’s 17 seats in the European Parliament.
Plevneliev said that 10 years after the “euphoria of the ‘big bang'” – a reference to the 2004 expansion of the European Union – and six years after the worst financial financial and economic crisis in Europe after World War 2, “more governments of member states are confronted with severe and complex problems that give rise to skepticism and disappointment”.
The European elections, like all democratic elections, were a chance for a fresh start, with the opportunity not only for new people to get into politics, but to appropriately arrange the priorities in the common European project, he said.
“We, the politicians, are still in debt to European voters, because we do not sufficiently inform our fellow citizens and sometimes are tempted by the possibility that it is easier, through the decisions of European institutions, to justify the errors of national policies.”
But, Plevneliev said, “elections always remind us that Euroscepticism, anti-European rhetoric and apathy are a great threat not only to European integration, but also to democracy at national level”.
More than ever, the EU today needed an “extra dose of trust” to respond to populism and nationalism.
He said that the EU was facing a new phase of integration, which needed the trust and support of its citizens.
“Therefore, these elections are important. They will set the trend not only for the next five years, but also for a longer period.”
The underlying idea of European unity and unity is unique, Plevneliev said.
“It is highly inspiring today as an example to all the world. The European Union gave the peoples of Europe a common space for living and working, a common market and an opportunity to have a strong voice and influence on the global stage .
“The European Union is the best of everything Europe has tested and experienced in past centuries,” Plevneliev said.
“Let the time of isolated states, Iron Curtains and political repression remain forever in the past. Let us never forget where we were 15 years ago, when at a time of strong organised crime groups, bank failures, queues for visas, petrol, milk and bread , we launched our road to European integration.”
Today Bulgaria was part of the modern world, with a small but open economy, part of the huge common European market in which good education , consistent work and ideas can succeed, Plevneliev said.
He said tht Bulgaria’s membership in the European Union had brought freedom and prospects for people.
The benefits to Bulgaria of European integration were visible and would significantly increase.
“It depends on us how we use the European Union – as a development tool or as a convenient excuse for national failures.”
Plevneliev said, “on Sunday, we will vote for Bulgarian representatives in the European Parliament – the most democratic European institution. Its legitimacy depends on each citizen of the Union. Only if we are active, we can make the EU institutions more open and democratic, so that people can believe in a European perspective and feel involved in European politics.”
The EU was not foreign to Bulgaria, “it is our family,” Plevneliev said.
Decisions taken in Sofia, as well as those in Brussels and Strasbourg , have a direct impact on our lives. It is therefore important for the country’s voice to be heard, to have a clear national positions on the European agenda and for elected Bulgarian MEPs to stand together, he said.
Bulgarian regions and municipalities, small and medium enterprises and farmers increasingly would feel the benefits of European programmes, Plevneliev said.
The potential of Bulgaria as part of the Cohesion and Agricultural Policy was exceptional.
“Only political passivity, inefficient institutions and lack of priorities and ambitions can condemn us to backwardness and decline.”
Citizens should vote and require from politicians clear and simple solutions that will work for sustainable growth and modernisation of the Bulgarian economy, he said.
For seven years, Bulgarian politicians had explained the EU by talking about EU funds.
“I’m sure the real, big help that the Bulgarian people expect from Europe is not just financial or economic. We must look to the EU not as a donor, not as a source of funds, but as to what we want to be – an economic, political and cultural community that believes in its mission, its principles and values, working for peace for democracy and the rule of law worldwide,” Plevneliev said.
The economic crisis had affected many families in Bulgaria and Europe, he said.
Many had succumbed to skepticism because they lost their jobs. Many young people who completed their education had difficulties in finding their first job. “Alienation and apathy , pessimism , however, will not solve these problems. It takes effort and willingness to change.”
Addressin himself to Bulgaria’s young people, Plevneliev underlined opportunities such as labour market mobility, the removal of restrictions and the possibility to feel part of the European knowledge society.
“But it is our responsibility to find young people the opportunity to achieve here in Bulgaria, to create their families and build their future here in this country. That is why I urge them to cast their ballots. Together with their parents, who throughout their lives sought to provide for you and themselves a European perspective.
“Generations of Bulgarians who lived behind the Iron Curtain, dreamed and suffered for that membership. Our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, our Revival and spiritual leaders, wanted their children to be free and feel themselves to be Europeans. So let us choose to continue on the path of European development for more freedom, order and opportunities for everyone, which symbolises our European Union,” Plevneliev said.
Everyone’s vote was important, he said.