Bulgarian far-right and nationalist politicians have continued verbal attacks on Greens MEP Ska Keller, even after the government distanced itself from an abusively-worded call by Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria for her to be expelled from the country.
The row has been an unedifying one as Bulgaria currently is the holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Keller, who visited Bulgaria to present a report by her Greens/European Free Alliance group on corruption and who took part in protests in Sofia against moves for extensive resort construction in Pirin National Park, earlier described Simeonov’s call for her expulsion as “shocking and inappropriate” for a deputy prime minister.
“I have been an active politician for many years and I never heard anything like this before, neither inside the European Union nor outside,” Keller said.
In a democracy it is important to respect critical opinions, she said.
“Obviously, the coalition partner in the Bulgarian government is very nervous about the Bulgarian people protesting against the government and standing up for their rights,” Keller said, referring to the fact that the United Patriots, minority partner in Boiko Borissov’s government, is known to strongly back the projects in Pirin.
On February 9, the Bulgarian government issued a statement that the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria’s position on Keller was “not the position of the Bulgarian government”.
“The government of the Republic of Bulgaria is always open to criticism and respects the right to free expression of personal opinion within the framework of the law,” the government statement said.
In Bulgarian society, freedom of speech, guaranteed by the constitution, is applied, according to the statement.
Subsequent to the statement, Bulgarian nationalist MEP Angel Dzhambazki described Keller in a television interview Keller as “a green extremist, a supporter of the Islamic invasion of Europe”.
Desislav Chukulov – four times a member of Parliament for Volen Siderov’s Ataka party and currently in a fifth term, as secretary of the United Patriots parliamentary group – said that Keller’s visit had been a “purely political action” aimed at strengthening the Greens in Bulgaria and in the European Parliament.
She hoped that Bulgaria would elect Greens MEPs, Chukulov said, referring to European Parliament elections expected in May 2019.
The way that Keller was received in Bulgaria should lead her to believe that she was not welcome, Chukulov said.
He dismissed the Pirin protests as “green racketeering”. Chukulov added that he believed that the protests were intended to bring down the government and force early elections in which the Greens would win seats in the National Assembly.
In a television interview on February 11, Ataka leader and United Patriots parliamentary group leader Siderov said that Simeonov was right to criticise Keller.
However, Siderov hinted that the wording of the NFSB statement had overdone it: “If you attack her with colourful expressions, she becomes a victim,” he said.
(Photo of Ska Keller: EQUO)