Outgoing Bulgarian president warns Russia trying to ‘destroy’ EU

Rossen Plevneliev in Strasbourg. [Youtube]

Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev yesterday (8 June) warned that Russia was out to “destroy” the European Union, as the Ukraine crisis ushered in an era of “Cold Peace”.

Plevneliev told the European Parliament that the Ukraine crisis showed that Russia “does not support the principles of international order.”

“The Kremlin is opposing us and trying to destabilise the EU… It is trying to destroy and bring down the foundations of the European Union which are unity, solidarity and rule of law,” he told the assembly in the French city of Strasbourg.

Bulgaria was behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War stand-off between the Soviet Union and the West, but after the fall of Communism, it charted its own course and joined the EU in 2007.

Plevneliev said he hoped there would be no new Cold War but that Russian actions in Ukraine had brought about “a time of Cold Peace” where no one wants war but where there was still conflict and confrontation.

He also warned against accepting Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, and especially its annexation of Crimea, as a done deal in the pursuit of other interests with Moscow.

“If the West allows this, it will be a historic shame,” Plevneliev said, adding: “For me, for us, Crimea is Ukraine and Ukraine is Europe!”

Russophiles and Russophobes

Plevneliev recently announced he will not run for president in the elections due in October. He invoked “personal reasons”, but in fact he stands very little chance to be re-elected, as polls give him a poor rating. A businessman by background, he was not a household name when he was elected in 2011, as candidate of the ruling party GERB of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (EPP affiliated).

During his term in office, Plevneliev has alienated many Bulgarians as a result of his hawkish anti-Russian rhetoric. Bulgaria was freed from the Ottoman rule as a consequence of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 and is one of the most pro-Russian countries in the EU. However, Bulgaria also has a long tradition of its political elite being divided between “Russophiles” and “Russophobes.”

Over the last couple of years, Borissov has taken distance from Plevneliev. It remains unclear who the main contenders in the presidential election would be. A candidate of GERB normally should have very strong chances, but the centre-left hopes to bank on the protest vote.

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