Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has urged Eastern Europe to show more solidarity in the refugee crisis. What are his motives for the pro-European stance?
“The state has collapsed. So now the street urchin from Bankya has returned to straighten up this place,” is how Boiko Borissov had outlined the situation in his country and the tasks ahead of him before he began his second term. The Bulgarian prime minister sometimes has a strange way of cultivating his image.
Boiko acts like he’s your buddy. That is the identity that Borissov has built his government’s philosophy on. It sounds quite likeable and it actually is, although it also entails political views that are not completely unproblematic. The whole idea is that strong people rule the streets; they tell the weak ones what to do and the weak ones obey.
On an international level, Borissov knows where to find the strong ones – in Brussels, in Berlin (Borissov has a photo of Merkel on his desk), in Washington and in the Vatican. In a conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Borissov proudly told him, “Three popes have patted me on the head!” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also gained notoriety for having kissed Borisov on the forehead.
Juncker calls him “my golden boy.” And indeed, Borisov has achieved model student status among central and eastern European leaders.
His state finances are legit and Bulgaria has accepted mandatory quotas for the allocation of refugees throughout Europe, unlike the Visegrad Group consisting of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Borisov has even urged other central and eastern European countries to show more solidarity in refugee matters.
At the same time, Bulgaria is busy building fortifications on its border with Turkey and Greece. The Bulgarian police force cracks down on illegal migrants. The infamous “refugee hunters”, volunteer vigilantes, track down newcomers and have gained a great deal of support among the general public. In a very short time, Borisov issued two completely different statements on the armed vigilante group. First, he thanked the “patriots” who “help the state.” Later, he revealed that he would not tolerate any paramilitary groups that break the law. Many Bulgarians liked the first statement; the second one found EU approval.
Borisov also supports EU sanctions against Moscow, even though the Bulgarian population is extremely pro-Russian. He even rejected the Russian pipeline project South Stream, which would have been lucrative for Bulgaria, to please Brussels. To show his appreciation for Borissov’s decision, Juncker had a paper napkin framed and hung in his cabinet. On the napkin, Borisov had drawn the South Stream route.
“The big bosses out there have to decide things like that, not us,” said Borisov recently with regard to the refugee crisis. The assessment is demonstrative, but by no means unfounded: Little Bulgaria is among the biggest net recipients of EU funding, so it is understandable that the head of government salutes Brussels and Washington, and allows his forehead to be kissed by other leaders.
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