Bulgaria’s politicians hold mixed views on impact from Greek crisis

Bulgaria will not be hard hit by the crisis in Greece because Bulgaria is not a euro zone member – and seeking to join the common currency would not be good for the country’s economy, according to Ivailo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Demographic and Social Policy.

Kalfin, the sole member of Bulgaria’s centre-right coalition cabinet from the socialist breakaway ABC, made the comments in an interview with Bulgarian National Television on July 7, two days after the “no” vote in Greece’s referendum and close to week after Bulgaria’s cabinet set up a co-ordination council on steps towards euro zone membership.

Kalfin said that the government in Sofia was monitoring the situation in Greece carefully because 200 000 Bulgarian were employed in that country and there was a risk of very large job losses.

He said that Bulgaria’s labour attaché was in “constant contact” with the Bulgarians in Greece.

Earlier, in a separate interview, Kalfin said that there were no indications that the Bulgarians working in Greece were preparing to return to Bulgaria.

But he said that even if they did, this would not be a problem, as their potential could be used in sectors where there were personnel shortages.

Kalfin told BNT that Bulgaria’s economy was far below the EU average, meaning that entry to the euro zone would not be good for the country’s economy.

He said that since the beginning of the crisis in Greece, many Greek companies had registered in Bulgaria.

Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski, of the centre-right Reformist Bloc minority partner in the cabinet, said on July 6 that Greece was an example of what could and did happen with countries that did not keep to strict financial discipline in the way that Bulgaria did.

Lukarski said that apart from the potential negative effect from the Greek situation on Bulgaria, for example in trade relations, it also showed Bulgaria as an island of financial and economic stability in the Balkans.

Radan Kanev, co-leader of the parliamentary group of the Reformist Bloc and leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria party, said that the outcome of the July 5 referendum in Greece was unfavourable for Bulgaria because it could mean acute destabilisation of a very important neighbour.

“The destabilisation of a country like Greece, which is of such an importance for us, is bad news in any respect. At the same time, we should be ready to avail ourselves of the situation in economic terms,” Kanev said, as quoted by news agency BTA.

The deputy head of the Reformist Bloc parliamentary group, Martin Dimitrov, in a television interview on July 7 likened Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to Zhan Videnov, the Bulgarian Socialist Party prime minister who in the 1990s presided over financial and economic collapse in Bulgaria.

“He bankrupted the country,” Dimitrov said, adding that it was it was leftist parties that allowed large deficits and when right-wing parties came to power, they needed to correct economic errors.

“The typical policy of the left is to spend much more than is earnt. The conclusion that we, Bulgarians, can draw from the crisis in Greece is that you should never allow extreme left formations to govern,” Dimitrov said.

(Photo of Kalfin: bsp.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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