Reactions started pouring in after MEPs received a shocking video in which Angel Dzhambazki from the nationalist party VMRO (ECR-affiliated) is seen aggressing protesters during an anti-government demonstration in front of the VMRO headquarters in Sofia last week.
Dzhambazki has to assume responsibility for his deeds, said Ramona Strugariu, a Romanian MEP from the centrist Renew Europe group who took to Facebook on Thursday (26 November) to express her indignation.
On the video, Dzhambazki is seen throwing firecrackers at protesters and sprinkling them with water from a firehose from the sixth floor of the VMRO headquarters.
VMRO is the junior partner to Boyko Borissov’s GERB party, a part of the ruling coalition. Anti-government protests have been ongoing since August, although with lower intensity in the last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Facebook post, Strugariu wrote: “Mr Dzhambazki, I received images from Bulgaria where it appears that you were throwing explosive materials and you were water spraying protesters from the window. They were peaceful protesters, standing up for democracy, independent justice, rule of law, free media and a European country.
“Was it you, dear colleague? Was it you doing this?
“I publicly challenge you to answer my question. Because if it was you, I praise the independent media and people who revealed these images and I understand your vehemence against them. But such behaviour, dear colleague, if indeed it was you, does not belong to the European Union. Neither does it belong in the European Parliament. And you should be deeply ashamed of it. What a disgrace!”.
The video Strugariu mentions were emailed to all 705 MEPs by the so-called ‘Poisonous Trio’, which act as co-organisers of the anti-government protests in Sofia.
Last week Dzhambazki spoke to EURACTIV Bulgaria, denying that he threw firecrackers on activists. Тhe next day in an interview with bTV, Dzhambazki refused to answer when asked whether he threw firecrackers. The TV anchor asked the same question 12 times without obtaining an answer, and the interview became viral.
The MEP instead repeated that the important question was why the protesters tried to break into the VRMO party headquarters.
“We responded adequately to what they were doing in front of the building. They started throwing firecrackers in the first place. VMRO’s building is a historical cultural monument and we will not allow it to be vandalised,” Dzhambazki said.
Dzhambazki has earned a reputation in Bulgaria for his outrageous behaviour. Besides getting caught for drunk-driving and for attempting to board a plane to Brussels carrying a handgun, he was recently forced to apologise for making remarks about the ethnic origins of a couple of MEP colleagues.
Romanian MEP Strugariu, on the other hand, is among the MEPs who are the most involved in denouncing corruption in Bulgaria. She addressed protesters in Sofia several times and often raises the question of Bulgaria’s main problems – high level corruption, lack of free media and rule of law.
Speaking to EURACTIV on Thursday, Green MEP Daniel Freund expressed revulsion from the video, but stressed that the really important issues with Bulgaria was systemic corruption.
The European Parliament anti-corruption group discussed Bulgaria on Monday, including the threats by Borissov against Bulgarian MEP Elena Yoncheva (S&D), Freund said.
Regarding the aggression in Sofia, Freund said it was up to the Bulgarian authorities to investigate and if necessary, press charges.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]