After a vituperative debate, Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on October 7 to reject a proposal by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to call for the phased lifting of sanctions against Russia because of the situation in Ukraine.
Part of the acrimony in the debate was, in effect, a row between the BSP and far-right minority party Ataka, one of the two smallest parties in Parliament, about which was more Russophile.
The BSP wanted Parliament to back the preparation of a plan for the gradual lifting of sanctions against Russia and the presentation of the plan to European Union foreign ministers. The EU imposed sanctions on Russia after that country’s illegal annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
The socialists also wanted the immediate repeal of the EU travel ban on members of Russia’s parliament, the Duma.
BSP leader Mihail Mikov told the National Assembly that the issue had become more relevant as leading European politicians had described sanctions as inefficient and as an obstacle to improving dialogue, and as harmful to the possible inclusion of Russia in solving the problems in Syria.
According to the BSP, the EU sanctions against Russia have had serious consequences for the economy of Bulgaria, including a reduction in Russia tourists visiting Bulgaria by 40 per cent and 100 million euro direct damage to the economy.
Volen Siderov, leader of Ataka, insisted that it was his party that first had proposed lifting sanctions against Russia.
Addressing himself to the BSP, he said that that party’s prime minister Plamen Oresharski (who sat in the prime minister’s chair during the 2013/14 BSP-Movement for Rights and Freedoms ruling axis) had supported sanctions against Russia.
Siderov added that Mikov, when Speaker of the now-departed 42nd National Assembly, had not allowed a visit by the Duma’s Sergey Naryshkin. The Ataka leader also attacked Kristian Vigenin, holder of the foreign affairs portfolio in the “Oresharski” cabinet.
In the October 7 debate, Vigenin, now a second-rank MP, called for the lifting of the travel ban on members of the Duma, saying that it was an obstacle to dialogue.
Independent MP Velizar Enchev said that the policy of majority party GERB towards Russia was shaped not by GERB leader and Prime Minister Boiko Borissov or the political leadership of that party, but the country’s “anti-Russian” policy was formed by Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev and Reformist Bloc parliamentary group co-leader Radan Kanev.
Reformist Bloc MP Martin Dimitrov said that the debate was avoiding the most important question, which was why there were sanctions against Russia. He said that there had been Russian aggression in Crimea, and if Bulgaria now opposed EU sanctions, it would take on the role of a Trojan Horse, as some saw it having.
Foreign affairs committee chairperson Gemma Grozdanova (GERB) said that Bulgaria always had had a moderate stance on sanctions. Once it was clear what was happening regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the EU and the European Council would review the sanctions against Russia, she said.
“During discussions on restrictive measures against Russia at all levels, in Brussels, during the meetings, Bulgaria has always had a moderate and balanced position towards sanctions against the Russian Federation, but it takes into account both the national interest and the interest of the EU as a whole,” Grozdanova said.
(Photo: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)