Bulgarian PM Petkov’s party inches closer to Renew membership

Bulgarian PM Kiril Petkov speaks to journalists ahead of the EU summit on 30 May 2022. [Georgi Gotev]

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov attended a pre-summit meeting of the liberal ALDE political party in Brussels on Monday (30 May), heralding the future European political affiliation of his party ‘We continue the change’.

‘We continue the change’, a new anti-graft political force in Bulgaria, was the surprise winner of the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria on 14 November. On 13 December, Petkov formed a four-way coalition government, ending months of political crisis.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Petkov said it was “a pleasure to sit at the same table” with politicians such as French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Belgium’s Alexander de Croo and Luxemburg’s Xavier Bettel, and hear them say that they would like his party to become part of their family.

Asked if there were any conditions regarding the candidacy, Petkov said he had raised only one condition – that declarations about zero tolerance with respect to corruption be enforced not only at the European “but also at the local level”.

“There should be a new standard for European political families, so we should not keep our eyes closed to local corruption, pretending at the Brussels level that everything is OK”, he said.

It was a veiled reference to the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a Bulgarian party that is a member of ALDE and the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament.

DPS is currently in opposition in Bulgaria and one of its lawmakers in the Bulgarian parliament, wealthy businessman Delyan Peevski, was sanctioned last June by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the US Magnitsky Act.

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“I am very glad that both Rutte and Macron said: yes, this is the new Europe, Europe of rule of law, Europe without corruption”, Petkov said.

Asked when his party will join ALDE, Petkov said that “what took place today was a very warm invitation” and the next step would be a discussion on ALDE membership within his party.

He declined to say whether a condition for ‘We continue the change’ to enter ALDE would be if DPS left.

“I would ask the question differently: What should DPS do to align with this new standard, how would they defend people from the Magnitsky list to be in their leadership, sitting on the first rank of the National Assembly,” he said.

Petkov said the issue concerned not only DPS and ALDE but the functioning of the European political families in general.

“I like the European politicians around the table of Renew. I could say the same about the EPP (conservative European People’s Party) politicians. If they see the example of Renew, they will probably also question a party such as GERB,” he said, referring to the party of former Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov, which is a member of the EPP.

Borissov lost power last year after a series of controversial incidents, including leaked photos from his bedroom with a handgun on his nightstand, with other photos showing drawers full of bundles of €500 notes and gold bars.

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The leader of the European People’s Party, Donald Tusk, said the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had “confessed” to him about a scandal with leaked photos allegedly revealing his hidden wealth. Tusk revealed no details but said that what he had heard sounded like “a crime movie”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox]

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