Bulgaria opposes immediate EU sanctions on Russia

  

The Bulgarian foreign minister, Kristian Vigenin, has been instructed by his ruling Socialist party “not to haste with harsh measures” against Russia following the Crimea referendum, as EU ministers gather in Brussels in an attempt to impose sanctions on Moscow.

Vigenin, who was an MEP before he took the job of foreign minister last May, was harshly criticised by his fellow socialists for having declared that Bulgaria would not recognise the Crimean referendum and for having visited Ukraine and meeting with the country’s new leaders. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is the leading partner of the country’s minority government.

BSP leader Sergei Stanishev, who is also the president of the Party of European Socialists, said that Bulgaria “should not be among the hawks in the European Union” towards Russia.

“Besides the common position of the European countries we have our national interests," said Stanishev in comments reported by the daily Standart. "First, they reflect the fact that we have between 250 and 300 thousand ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine. We are close geographically to the region. In case of destabilisation we would be the first to suffer," he said.

The BSP leader also remarked that that Bulgaria depended on energy supplies from Russia and of the income brought by Russian tourists.

“All this must be taken into account when forming the Bulgarian national position and behavior in this matter," said Stanishev.

Bulgarian socialists appear to be supportive of Russia’s intervention in Crimea. Alexander Simov, a journalist from the Socialist daily Duma who was sent to Crimea as an observer, said yesterday he believed that the referendum vote was legitimate.

"I am going to watch the whole process. To see ... that it is a legal referendum," he said. "So I think it is going to be very legal," Simov said, as quoted by the Voice of America. Simov’s name appears on the list of the BSP candidates for the European elections.

Square brackets

The news from Sofia puts in doubt the EU's ability to finalise a deal on sanctions against Russia as foreign ministers meet in Brussels today. Unanimity among the 28 EU member states is needed for taking a decision.

According to the draft meeting conclusions, seen by EurActiv, the most important element of the document is in square brackets, meaning it has not been agreed by ambassadors before the ministers' arrival.

The respective text reads: “The Council recalls the statement of the EU Heads of State and Government of 6 March which set out that negotiations between Ukraine and Russia needed to start within a few days, including through multilateral mechanisms, and produce results within a limited timeframe.

"[In light of the developments of last week, and in the absence of any such results, the Council has decided to introduce additional measures, including travel restrictions and an asset freeze against persons responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, including actions on the future status of any part of the territory which are contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution, and persons, and entities associated with them. The Council has furthermore decided to cancel the EU-Russia Summit scheduled to take place in Sochi in June this year.]”

According to press articles, Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi said on Thursday that if the European Union put in place the third phase of sanctions against Russia, a “long economic war” could ensue, with grave impacts on Hungary.

Asked whether this would mean that Hungary would oppose sanctions at today’s meeting, a Hungarian diplomat reminded EurActiv that his country, together with the Visegrad group, had likened the events in Crimea to the 1956 crackdown by the Soviet army of the Budapest uprising and of the 1968 invasion by the Warsaw Pact of Czechoslovakia.

The Visegrad or V4 group consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Timeline: 
  • 17 March: EU ministers meet in Brussels to decide sanctions on Russia;
  • 20-21 March: EU leaders hold regular Spring Summit in Brussels, Ukraine may sign political chapters of EU Association Agreement. 
  • 20 March: Russian parliament expected to ratify Crimea’s annexation. 
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Comments

Dirck's picture

First of all, Europe can only be effective in the Ukrainian crisis if it acts united, a country-by-country approach plays nicely into Putin's hand;
Second, it is quite synical if Ukraine, where people have been demonstrating for months and gave their lives for so called European values, is now reminded by the Bulgarian socialists that these values are inferior to concerns about the supply of Russian gas and Russian tourists;
Third, Crimea used to attract 4.5 million tourists from Ukraine per year, they will likely go elsewhere now. Bulgaria would by a logical alternative, provided it upholds European values with the same courage as the Ukrainians did!

Finally, Bulgaria was in the 19th and most of the 20th century a client state of Russia, did nothing change?

Dirck's picture

First of all, Europe can only be effective in the Ukrainian crisis if it acts united, a country-by-country approach plays nicely into Putin's hand;
Second, it is quite synical if Ukraine, where people have been demonstrating for months and gave their lives for so called European values, is now reminded by the Bulgarian socialists that these values are inferior to concerns about the supply of Russian gas and Russian tourists;
Third, Crimea used to attract 4.5 million tourists from Ukraine per year, they will likely go elsewhere now. Bulgaria would by a logical alternative, provided it upholds European values with the same courage as the Ukrainians did!

Finally, Bulgaria was in the 19th and most of the 20th century a client state of Russia, did nothing change?

Kostas's picture

Stanishev is an embarrassment and should resign from the PES's leadership now. Schulz president of the Commission = Russia's corrupt Bulgarian stooge pulling the strings in Europe. Vote PPE, people, and don't let the Kremlin-dominated socialists anywhere near power.

des's picture

to Drick: "Bulgaria was in the 19th and most of the 20th century a client state of Russia, did nothing change?"

It must be very uplifting to make short sharp points on matter of policy. Ignorance certianly helps.

Lets us go one by one. Bulgaria was established in 1878. It ceased all diplomatic relations with Russia in 1887. It sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary in WWI. It did everything possible to stay neutral in WWII and joined Germany only when the Wehrmacht was on the opposite side of the Danube.

The client policy started in 1947 after the crashing of traditional democtactic parties. After that, the Bulgarian Communist Party (now Bulgarian Socialist Party) did indeed act as a Bulgarian branch of KPSS.
After 1989 the internal struggle with the Bulgarian Socialists was and still remains a fight for independence from Russia.

Now why should the leader of this party, Mr. Stanishev, be the current head of the European Socialist Party today is beyond me. But that should be a question of another not so Eastern type of clientelle.

vikra's picture

It is shameful that narrow interests of certain countries block joint action of EU towards Russian expansionism. Even more shameful is that is coming from the Bulgaria, country which gravely suffered under communist regime orchestrated by Russia.

jo's picture

Alexander said: So I think it is going to be very legal

There is no such thing as very legal. It is either legal or it is not legal.

Muflon's picture

Calm down people, we never been suffering more than now with this EU United States...mirage, and yes it was big mistake to change our good relation with Russia... with this manipulated - centralised Brussels error... Most of the Germans don´t want sanctions over Russia...and I am sure most of the Bulgarians too... The vote is legal, and I am sure that there won´t be any ethnic problems in Crimea after the referendum!

bob's picture

Great, once again under the socialist led goverment Bulgaria makes another conflict decision. I just hope PES remembers that and so EC.

flying dutch's picture

I'm not surprised the Bulgarian-russian Vigenin and Stanishev are in favor of their other motherland, but what about the other countries? As far as i understand only Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the Baltic states have backed the economic sanctions.

Dave Thomas's picture

I am sitting here in Kiev, wondering whether I should send my family out of the country because Putin may invade the Ukrainian mainland and bomb Kiev. Ukrainians are getting more and more worried with every day. The Europeans, their values for which Ukrainians died for, are proving to be a MASSIVE disappointment. So, they aren't giving visas to a few Russians and Crimeans and freezing their assets? It appears that the people that they targetted don't visit the EU and don't have any financial assets there. It really does appear that the EU chose these people carefully so that none of them have any EU visas or financial assets in the EU. This way, Russia won't be too upset. And so, what was Putin's response? He laughed and recognized Crimea as being independent!!!
The EU and USA have the means to stop Russia. Britain and the USA (along with Russia!) gave Ukraine security guarantees in exchange for Ukraine getting rid of nuclear weapons. It will be their fault when hundreds and even thousands of Ukrainians start dying after Russia invades. Yesterday, a Crimean Tatars man was found dead. He was handcuffed with tape wrapped around is mouth and had obviously been beaten. The Crimean Tatars suffered greatly under the Russians throughout their history. They won't suffer again. This time they will fight. They already have young men returning to Crimea from Syria where they were fighting. Expect the war to begin there. The EU and US can prevent the war now or they'll be fighting in it later.

Roberta's picture

Personally, I think that the Crimea referendum was legal. The voice of the people is what matters. EU is behaving cowardly and short-sightedly by opposing a democratic country like Russia and standing behind a neo-nazzi imposed clique like the one that has seized power in Kiev.

Roberta's picture

In addition, I personally think, that Bulgaria has its own national interests as well, just like every other EU member state. There is a minority of Bulgarians living in Ukraine nd Bulgaria is concerned about their fate.

flying dutch's picture

Yeah right, Roberta! The bulgarian sicialists are concerned olny about the rubles communig from their kremlin bosses.

Dave Thomas's picture

Dear Roberta, you either are very ignorant of what is going on in Ukraine or very stupid. Do you really think that 96.6% of Crimeans voted in favour of joining Russia? And that 84% of Crimeans voted in the referendum? The numbers don't add up at all. Crimean Tatars make up 13-14% of the population of Crimea. It is well known that only a handful of them voted and those that did only did so because they work in the public sector and were forced to vote by the government or lose their jobs. Now since Russians only make up 58% of the population and not all of them want to join Russia (my nanny is from Crimea and NONE of her 5 family members voted) and certainly the Ukrainians living in Crimea are NOT in favour of joining Russia, it means that the numbers don't add up. But even if all the Ukrainians and Russians went to vote, it would mean that their children and infants also voted! But the real eye opener is that in the Crimea's largest city - Sevastopol - 123% of the population voted in favour of joining Russia!!!! Yes, this vote was a complete farce!! Calling it rigged would be a massive understatement! People who are not even citizens of Ukraine and don't live in Crimea were voting. Furthermore, people who voted in one polling station could easily go and vote in another polling station. That's why the voter turnout and results were so ridiculously high. Therefore, regardless of the fact that this referendum was called only when the parliament was occupied by Russian troops and held under the occupation of Russian troops, and never mind that there is no legal basis for holding such a referendum either in Ukrainian, Crimean or international law, this referendum was TOTAL FARCE!!!

As for your allegations of a "neo-nazzi imposed clique ". I live in Ukraine and can tell you that Russia Today, along with all the other Russian TV channels and news sources are in overdrive with their Kremlin propaganda and lies. It is not a coincidence that one of their anchorpersons quite in protest over the Kremlin lies and another also - live on TV - criticised Putin's invasion and occupation of Ukraine. Russia is doing everything to convince the world that there are "fascists", "nazis" and "anti-Semites" in power in Ukraine right now. They are lying through their teeth and don't even admit that it is their army that has invaded and is occupying Crimea. It really is unbelievable! Of course only total idiots are falling for this.
If there really were all these "neo-Nazis" running around Ukraine, the Jewish community would have something to say about it. As for what the Jewish community in Ukraine thinks about Putin's lies, here is a link from major Jewish community leaders in Ukraine. It's a letter to Putin denying anti-Semitism in Ukraine and criticizing him for his lies and invasion of Ukraine: http://eajc.org/page32/news43672.html
And here is a link to the Israeli embassy in Kiev with a report about the "neo-Nazi" Right Sector leader - Dmytro Yarosh - and his meeting with the Israeli Ambassador. Yarosh ensures the Ambassador that his groups is not anti-Semitic and is tolerant among other things. It's in Russian and Ukrainian but you can use Google Translate to translate it: http://embassies.gov.il/kiev/NewsAndEvents/Pages/DinElYaroshMeeting27Feb...
Can you imagine any real "neo-nazis" meeting with the Israeli ambassador? No, and that's because they are not neo-Nazis!

Melissa's picture

Stanishev was a Russian citizen up until 1996 when he gave up his Russian citizenship to enter Bulgarian politics. Additionally, his father was one of the communist leaders in Bulgaria before 1989. Stanishev can't help supporting Russia. Same goes for the socialist party in Bulgaria.
When BSP no longer governs the country, Bulgaria's position will get normalized.

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