European and foreign policy implications of Bulgaria’s election

The EU has dodged a bullet in the Bulgarian elections with the victory of former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party.  For much of the campaign it looked like this small country on the southern fringe of Europe could become another disruptive force in a transforming EU.

Kornelia Ninova, the leader of the Bulgarian Socialists (BSP) who had been expected by some to win the election, ran her campaign on a pro-Russia platform, threatening to overturn the consensus on EU sanctions. “Foreign policy will be oriented to improve and develop relations with Russia, including taking concrete initiatives and steps for the removal of sanctions on the European Union to Russia,” she was quoted as saying.  Her party also distanced itself from the traditional narrative on Bulgaria’s transition away from communism, claiming “Democracy took a lot away from us”.

It seems that this murky mixture of pro-Russian attitude and nostalgia ultimately scared off some of the voters and eventually led to BSP losing by five per cent to GERB.

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Vessela Tcherneva

Vessela Tcherneva is deputy director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and head of ECFR’s Sofia office. Her topics of focus include EU foreign policy and the Western Balkans and Black Sea region. Between January and July 2022, she held the position of Foreign Policy Advisor to the Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. From 2010 to 2013, she was the spokesperson for the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov’s political cabinet. Previously, she was secretary of the International Commission on the Balkans, chaired by former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and former German President Richard von Weizsäcker; supervising editor of the Foreign Policy Bulgaria magazine; and political officer at the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington, DC. Tcherneva holds an MA in Political Science from the Rhienische Friedrich-Wilhelm Universität in Bonn.