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 the head of ECFR’s Wider Europe programme and a senior policy fellow at ECFR. She is the co-founder of Sofia Platform, a venue for dialogue between members of NGOs, the media, and politics from Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. From 2010 to 2013 she was the spokesperson for the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the political cabinet of Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov.She has been the head of the Bulgarian office of the European Council for Foreign Relations since 2003, as well as programme director for Foreign Policy Studies at the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia. Between 2004 and 2006 she was secretary of the International Commission on the Balkans, chaired by former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato. She has been a supervising editor for Foreign Policy – Bulgaria magazine since its launch in 2005.