Bulgarian parliament almost rejected the EU sanctions against Russia

Bulgarian parliament [Dnevnik]

A fragile majority in the Bulgarian parliament rejected yesterday (7 October) a motion for abandoning the EU sanctions against Russia in the context of the Ukrainian crisis, Dnevnik, the EURACTIV partner in Bulgaria reported.

The motion to “reconsider” the Bulgarian position in support of EU sanctions was tabled by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which is the largest opposition force. Until recently BSP was headed by Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists. He was succeeded by Mihail Mikov.

The motion was rejected by 52 votes against 47, with 31 abstentions. The Bulgarian parliament counts 240 MPs, but 121 votes are enough for a vote to be valid. 

Apart from the socialists, the forces in Parliament supportive of the motion were two nationalist parties, Ataka and the Patriotic Front, as well as ABV, a centre-left party led by the former President Georgi Parvanov.

The Patriotic Front as well as ABV are supportive of the government of Boyko Borissov. His force GERB (Citizens for a European Development of Bulgaria), as well as the Reformist Blok, both of whom are affiliated to the European People’s Party (EPP), as well as the mainly ethnic Turkish DPS (Movement of Rights and Freedoms), ALDE-affiliated, voted against or abstained.

The stakes of the vote have been high. EU sanctions are adopted with the unanimity of all member states, and if Bulgaria’s parliament would have rejected the sanction, this would have inflicted a major blow on EU’s position vis-à-vis Russia.

Mikov said the sanctions had proven to be ineffective, that they had caused harm t Bulgaria and that they shoul be rejected.

Ataka leader Volen Siderov agreed with the motion, but slammed BSP for having backed the sanctions when this force was on power, during the cabinet of Plamen Oresharski (2013-2014).

“You cannot, when you are on power, to conduct a Russophobe policy, and now to pose as Russophiles”, Siderov told the socialists.

Mikov fought back, reminding that the previous day Siderov had proposed Bulgaria to join the Russia-led anti-terrorist coalition in Syria, proposed by Putin. The socialist leader said that such idea would only drag Bulgaria, who has only two fighter jets capable of flying, into war.

MP Dzhema Grozdanova from the GERB party reminded that Bulgaria had always had a moderate position during discussions in the EU framework regarding the Russia sanctions. She said that it was expected that the sanctions to be reconsidered in the case the EU Council decides that the Minsk agreements have been implemented.

MP Martin Dimitrov from the Reformist Blok said the discussion avoided the most important issue – why were the sanctions decided in the first place. “In the 21st century the borders of Ukraine have been changed with the use of force. There was a Russian aggression against Crimea. If Bulgaria would now oppose the EU sanctions, we would be playing the role of a Trojan horse”, he said.

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