The Hysterical Anti-EU Rhetoric In Bulgaria Is Irrational
Last week's official start of the campaign for the European Parliament elections in Bulgaria, opened the floodgates of hysterical anti-EU rhetoric.
The bleating populists, of which there is no shortage in Bulgaria, are attempting to convince the public that the EU is a very bad thing and that people should vote to send them in the European Parliament, so they can destroy “the enemy” from within.
What in the past few months was just a trickle, threatens to become a tidal wave of “patriotic” blabber, which will drown out all reasonable debate and constructive criticism of the EU.
The loudest of them all is the controversial nationalist leader of Ataka, Volen Siderov, who abandoned all pretense of patriotism and became openly pro-Russian. He claims that the EU brings to Bulgaria “europederasty” (sic!), “gay marriages”, “colonialism” and tries to uproot the traditional high morality of Orthodox Christianity and impose “their values”. This is why he wants to sit in the European Parliament.
This is the same Volen Siderov who was stripped of his immunity as MP and accused of hooliganism after earlier this year he made a scandal on a flight to Varna and hit a police officer at the Varna airport. This very same Siderov who, along with supporters, physically attacked Muslims during their Friday prayer in Sofia in 2011.
This very same Siderov who on Friday launched his campaign for the European elections in … Moscow. There he received an order Star of the Fatherland for his contribution to the relations between Bulgaria and Russia and promised that whenever he becomes a prime minister of Bulgaria, the country will leave NATO and EU and will return to “full relations with Russia, whom we consider a brother nation”.
Fortunately, so far the public opinion polls, however untrustworthy they are, don't give Siderov the slightest chance of becoming an MEP. This is not very comforting, considering that Siderov and his cohorts have an entire month and the funds to spread their anti-European and pro-Russian propaganda not only through their free newspaper and cable TV channel, but through billboards and paid publications and broadcasts in the affluent national media.
Then there is the journalist-turned-politician Nikolai Barekov who plays on the socialist nostalgia and promises that Bulgaria would again become “people's republic” and claims that the “EU owes Bulgaria much more and must give it to us”. He also wants to be in the European Parliament, but only “until the early elections for Parliament in Bulgaria”. Fortunately, or not, he hasn't spoken directly against the EU, but the fact that he considers the Union just a piggy bank and blatantly lies to and misleads his potential voters, is alarming enough. What is more alarming, however, is that if polls are to be believed, Barekov has a fairly good chance of entering the European Parliament.
Last, but not least, there is the current government, supported by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Turkish ethnic party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which increasingly acts as if Bulgaria is not an EU member. It is alarming that Government and Parliament tend to ignore EU law and pretend that the regulations and recommendations do not apply to Bulgaria and it can do whatever it pleases, especially regarding the South Stream pipeline.
Both BSP and MRF have enough representatives in the European Parliament and will continue to do so. The two parties do not use anti-EU rhetoric, but the actions of their ministers speak for themselves.
If polls from the beginning of this year are to be believed, about half of Bulgarians still think highly of the EU and see more benefits than negatives, though there is also a healthy amount of criticism.
Apparently the EU is far from perfect and certainly has its problems and downsides, but in the end of the day the EU membership has brought only benefits to Bulgaria and the people see them.
According to a survey of the Alpha Research agency from 2014, among the major benefits brought by the EU are travelling opportunities, better employment opportunities, increased competitiveness of Bulgarian companies, better consumer protection, better environmental protection, improvement of infrastructure and support for Bulgaria's agriculture.
The same survey finds that 32% of respondents think that Bulgaria's EU membership has brought more benefits, 51% think situation hasn't changed much and only 17% think that Bulgaria incurred losses.
Clearly the hysterical anti-EU propaganda is pandering to the sentiments of those 17%, but it is too loud and too persistent in its attempts to convince the majority that they are a minority and that the EU is something that it actually is not.
Not to mention that it is rather irrational to run for Member of the European Parliament if you want to withdraw your country from the EU.