UK Ambassador: Sanctions on Russia Should Not Worry Bulgaria

Novinite Insider » DIPLOMATIC CHANNEL | April 28, 2014, Monday // 17:40| Views: | Comments: 25
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Bulgaria: UK Ambassador: Sanctions on Russia Should Not Worry Bulgaria British Ambassador to Bulgaria Jonathan Allen. Photo by BGNES

The UK Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Jonathan Allen commented on the situation in Ukraine and suggested Bulgaria's position should be more united with the rest of the EU.

This is what he wrote in his blog on the website of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Tsar Liberator faces the National Assembly. Newly cleaned, with touches of gold, the statue of the Tsar leading his troops in liberation of Bulgaria is impressive. But his watchful stance and position opposite parliament, the symbol of Bulgarian democracy, brings with it some ambiguity, brought into sharper focus by the situation in Ukraine.

The ambiguity has persisted through Bulgaria’s recent history. Russia was a liberating force in 1878. In 1944, as an ally of the UK, it removed the fascist government from power. But there followed 45 years of Communist repression. Bulgaria had perhaps the slowest and steadiest transition of any nation from the Communist period, meaning that many powerful people, with old loyalties, kept positions of influence. Some people retain a nostalgia for that period.

Many Bulgarians have strong cultural and personal links with Russia and the Russian people. Russians have long travelled to Bulgaria on holiday, and now invest in property here. There is a steady commercial relationship, which is significant but not overwhelming: Russia is the seventh biggest export destination for Bulgaria (with the first six slots all held by EU countries). But Russia holds many of the energy cards in Bulgaria. And I often hear and read that there are powerful Bulgarian businessmen, with economic interests and influence over politics, with Russian links.

All these factors that make up that ambiguity can be seen in the split of Bulgarian public opinion towards Russia, and in the internal divisions in some political parties. An interesting graph in a recent blog by Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel puts Bulgaria at the EU’s extreme, an unusual position for Bulgaria to find itself in.

Yet the situation in Ukraine is clear. Within days of President Yanukovich’s surprise decision to flee the capital in the face of protesters, Russia had deployed troops and occupied Crimea, organised a “referendum” carried out without any freedoms, and changed its own constitution to annex the territory. In other words, Russia took by force a part of a European country in less time than it takes to buy a house.

Russia showed disregard for the rule of law and an international rules-based system. Its pretext for action has been shown to be false. The UN, OSCE and Council of Europe (all organisations to which Russia belongs) found no evidence of any aggression towards Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine. It seems the pattern established in Crimea is being repeated in eastern Ukraine, with the Kremlin-controlled Russian TV preparing the propaganda ground to justify potential military intervention. There can be no pretence that eastern Ukraine is a part of Russia. It seems incredible that this can be happening in 21st century Europe.

As democracies, the members of the European Union (and those political parties which have European values) must stand united and vocal against Russian aggression. We must make clear that further escalation will not be tolerated and there will be economic and political consequences. We must work together to persuade Russia to stop its militarist approach and continue the diplomatic dialogue with the government of Ukraine. Russia, along with the other signatories of the Geneva agreement of 17 April must match words with deeds, and use their influence to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and reduce tension. The EU’s members must put together the right sanctions package to underpin our words. We must also take rapid steps to free our economies from dependence on Russian energy.

I do not believe Bulgaria should be worried by the consequences of sanctions. Bulgaria has legitimate concerns in particular sectors and should continue to ensure that its partners are aware of those, in a calm manner. Those concerns are understood and listened to closely. Decisions of this type need the agreement of all Member States, including Bulgaria.

But the debate over sanctions should not obscure the clear and unambiguous message that we, as democratic nations which believe in the rule of law, must send to the Russian government. Bulgaria and its Balkan neighbours would be vulnerable to an aggressive Russia that continues to act illegally in its own interests. Solidarity and resolve among EU and NATO nations, including Bulgaria.

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Tags: Ukraine, Russia, UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, UK, ambassador, Jonathan Allen
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» To the forumComments (25)
malak petko - 6 Jun 2014 // 15:43:01

The statistics is saying that the Bulgarian population decreases each day with 117 persons..... per day. It is a lot for a country of 7 000 000.
There is an old classic philosophy book that is saying ""Any system that is actually prohibiting normal human existence and reproduction will be denied and rejected"" such system can not exist for long.
So for 20 years we supplied the wold economy with the offspring of two generations. And now demographically we are dead. Thanks America for the "freedom and democracy"... but no thanks for the hypocrisy.

So whatever you say.. what ever the slogans are .!!!!!!...this open market colonial system has no future because it is killing the population on which it is based.
I am not asking for understanding from this great writer and thinker ... the Ambasador just commenting.

Stoyan Dimchev - 3 May 2014 // 15:05:10

Right... Bulgaria should believe everything that comes out of UK Ambassador's mouth but uncle Pencho from Vidin would prefer if the Ambassador puts his money where his mouth is. Just deposit five billion Euros in the Bulgarian National Bank and we will return it if sanctions don't hurt us. After all, we are all members of one big family. What a freaking idiot.

je suis anglais - 2 May 2014 // 10:03:43

I appreciate there are a number of inflammatory articles, and statements by our idiot politicians which you could use to back up "proof" that the whole of the UK hate bulgarians, but unfortunately it would be similar to me only using articles and statements written by Bolen Volen to prove something about Bulgaria. I read the new here, and notice that almost all of the articles used are from the Daily Mail - it is effectively the "Alfa TV" of england. full of bile, hatred, and generally utter bollocks.

The second point - it's a personal project of mine, and i apologise if i sounded arrogant, but Bulgaria has all of the natural resources it needs to become energy independent - plenty of shale gas, and lots of hydro, wind and sun - sadly oligarchs who wish to retain power and keep the country dependent on them use the media outlets they own to scaremonger that "renewables are incredibly expensive" and "fracking will poison the planet". Both are lies spread by people wanting to retain the current status quo. For instance - nobody ever mentions or includes cleanup costs at the end of the lifetime of a nuclear plant - so nuclear appears to be incredibly cheap. who has to pay in the end, 30, 40, 50 years later? the private company who ran the plant and made the profits? ha! of course not. they take their money and run, and the taxpayers foot the bill.

This is a small part of the third point - corrupt politicians run by corrupt oligarchs who also own the media means yes, to some extent the EU will eventually "nail you to the fate" of dependence on Russia, because people generally believe what they read and hear in the media. not only should Bulgarians continue to protest about the corrupt government, but if possible, protest about corrupt media, and read and listen to as much as they possibly can from outside sources such as independent internet sites, blogs, etc.

The EU isn't (and shouldn't) be there to "fix" Bulgaria - this needs to be done from the inside, and if it appears to be being done, there are plenty of funds available to then aid that. It's not however a bottomless pit of cash to throw at the poorest EU member whilst the funds that are sent are being stolen or squandered by corrupt or incompetent officials.

You call for "solidarity" - it's a 2-way process. If Bulgaria cleans up its corrupt government, then the EU side of things - funding to raise the standards of living closer to western european standards will arrive.

stoenv - 1 May 2014 // 17:16:17

On your first point:
1. I agree that there is no benefit system good enough in Bulgaria but this confirms one of my other points-you cannot compare Britain's level of development of democracy to Bulgaria's under-developed and distorted democracy.
2 I am not familiar for such a concerted hostility against English people living in Bulgaria as the one against any Bulgarians in the UK, supported by the UK government. I hope you are aware it evolved into what you say-no benefits only for a period of time only in March, after a lot of voices from outside that its proclaimed attitude is nationalist (remember Theresa May's police vans addressing the immigrants?) I also have a number of shocking statements from politicians and titles from newspaper from the early hostility addressed at Bulgaria and Bulgarians in general. If they were addressed at criminals and illegals-fine, but in January and February it was for all.

On your second point:
Well, It describes the same situation like what I do.I prefer to stick to mine. It is not cynical and arrogant. Perhaps the anti-Bulgarian hysteria in the UK slipped into similar style like yours-putting the blame on all bulgarians. A lot of superiority from your writing no doubt. Well done. I should only mention that while some developed countries in the EU engage into long term support substantially, others prefer to stir a mess and run away and then teach us lessons. My point was that the ambassadors of such countries should be aware of all aspects before they demand. They should not think they have a herd of sheep to convince or blame.

On your third point:
1. You try to say that Britain does not want to leave the EU.You are entitled to your opinion. There should be substantial opinion like yours in Britain, but it is less then 40% according to surveys. So I am afraid I have to stick to my opinion as yours is not supported by evidence.
2.You are angry at the level of corruption in Bulgaria. Well, I am angry too. You say that we will be dependent on Russia etc. and it seems to me you nail us to this fate. Unfortunately, Bulgaria may really be destined to live like this and this is the way it lives now.So, you want to say the same as your ambassador says- show your solidarity against Russia and be destined to live the way you deserve, including without fuel in the winter. That I do not like in your British position.It does not help. Thank you. This is the message I had for the honourable ambassador and I stick to it. I am, yet, able, to keep my hatred towards Putin and his puppets in Bulgaria. I only know from school that the needs for survival usually top the needs pyramid. And your ambassador does not want to notice this. I wish it did not exist, but this is reality and diplomats should not close their eyes to this just because making politics that way is easier.

je suis anglais - 1 May 2014 // 15:59:09

Stoenv - to address those points:

your first point - do you actually understand how foreigners are treated in Bulgaria? I can't claim a stotinki in benefits if i was out of work - if i get ill i have to pay for everything. so really, all the UK politicians who did kick up a fuss were asking was for a period of time after entering the UK, Bulgarians (and any other immigrants for that matter) didn't receive benefits for which they, nor any member of their family had ever contributed. It would still be a lot better for Bulgarians in the UK than for any foreigners here.

Your second point is valid to a point - it is cold here in the winter, and you are utterly bent over with your pants down begging for russian gas and oil, but a country that in 25 years has been totally unable to elect officials that could be able to shake off the pressure of russian paymasters and oligarchs can't start blaming the UK for their own stupidity.

Your third point - I don't think the UK wants to leave "the EU family" - most people are very happy with free movement and free trade. Simply many people don't wish for unelected beurocrats in brussels who are answerable to nobody, to be able to dictate how our country is run and our taxes are spent. Clearly this doesn't happen in Bulgaria, as EU directives are ignored, money is stolen, and the only control on the country is that of the same Russian backed oligarchy who laugh at the concept of actually listening to the EU. Yet Bulgarians are already becoming disillusioned.... why? because the stealing and criminality of their politicians doesn't benefit them, the EU money never gets to where it should go to help the country. Until you sort out your politics, you'll forever be at the mercy of mafia and puppets serving russian dictators.

stoenv - 1 May 2014 // 13:55:16

Dear Sir:
I do hate what Putin and the Russian politicians and generals are doing more than you. Rest assured.
It is very noble to appeal for solidarity among EU and NATO nations and quite reasonable as both, Britain and Bulgaria are in it together.
However, either intentionally or out of ignorance (the latter I do not admit) you prefer not to mention a few details:
1. We are not treated by the UK quite as equal (the immigration threat) and had to endure terrible insults from British politicians and this is a proof that the UK treats us as second-hand EU members, which division trend amounts to apartheid. Britain prefers to forget that thousands of UK citizens have settled in Bulgaria.Now, a few months after 01 Jan 2014 when it is clear the Bulgarian invasion on Britain did not happen, , why Britain does not say "sorry" officially to Bulgarians (in Bulgaria and the UK).

2.Earning Bulgaria's solidarity cannot happen just in a wink of a time. You, guys, who want to exist in a first class Europe, forget that leaving communism and building democracy is a whole process which takes time and this includes restructuring the economy, and this includes finding a solution of Bulgaria's nearly 100% dependence on Russian petrol and gas. So when you pronounce the first letter of the alphabet, you must be ready to go to the end of it.How is Bulgaria going to survive its cold winter of 2014/2015 and after this, if as a result of this demanded solidarity unpredictable Putin closes the tap? Why don't you lead and create a provisional second plan for the EU?
It is as simple as this.
Where was your solidarity during the last quarter of a century. Instead, Eastern Europe and Bulgaria were left in chaos, where former communists and KGB officers still rule. Why did you not lead by example, as Britain loves to do this when it is easy, to help us start at least the process of alternative supply with petrol and gas. This includes putting such pressure on communist and KGB elite in Bulgaria which will make it impossible for them to prosper. Who do you think is going to do this-the living below the poverty line Bulgarian people. Did you see the police resolve in Sofia during the recent protests. Well, this was them-communists and KGB officers keeping their power. Putin's people in Bulgaria are still there, alive and well and you suffer from them as much as ordinary poor Bulgarians, hopeless of any real democracy.

3.And lastly, how do we take your words in full trust when the UK is considering to leave this EU family, not without the support of the Conservative government.
So you are prepared to leave Bulgaria in the cold with calls for solidarity and then quit this solidarity family for UKl benefits? Because it is clear that you want to leave as otherwise Britain helps more than it wants.
I would like to read your opinion on the above as I also believe I am honest.

sa-sha - 1 May 2014 // 10:51:07

.....and about propaganda: being brainwashed by the totally controlled and "properly oriented" media, the modern Westerners have, alas, no smallest doubt in their rightness. Sad.

sa-sha - 1 May 2014 // 10:17:00

;-) Union Jack: Time to realize that WORLD and west ARE NOT synonyms.

Optimistic - 30 Apr 2014 // 15:54:56

When the illegal Kiev government came to power they appointed their oligarch friends as govenors in the Ukranian regions.

If the Ukraine joined the EU these oligarchs and their political backers would be the big winners, not the middle aged housewives with their shopping.

The West would view these as a burden, hence the Wests IMF desire to increase taxes and energy costs to eliminate the burden caused by poor Ukranians.

Thunderstorm - 30 Apr 2014 // 14:46:03

It is not difficult to win support by middle age ladies with shopping bags in such a poor country like the UA. It is enough to tell them that the "good soviet times" will return once they join Russia again. They do not know the West, all its splendour and countless advantages over the Soviet and Russian shit, so what to expect after them. And what regards some "sasha"'s barking on the Obama - your LiliPutin is nothing compared to the united West and his monkey Lavrov is just comical. The West does not need to bark at Russia, a simple soundless fart will be enough to rid it off the planet.

Optimistic - 30 Apr 2014 // 13:45:44

Union Jack the middle aged ladies with their shopping who stood in front of the tanks a few weeks ago.

They were Ukranians. So you claim they were operating under orders from Moscow.

That is a lie and an insult to the brave people in Eastern Ukraine who are standing up against the Facists from Western Ukraine.

Union Jack - 30 Apr 2014 // 13:30:34

Optimistic, I could care less about your opinion since you are nothing but a Russian troll on this forum and will lie without end and spread disinformation to justify the unjustifiable.

What I want is the rest of the forum participants who might not be very informed of the situation to know that there are plenty of pictures, recordings, videos that prove conclusively that the "protesters" in Eastern Ukraine are nothing but Putin special forces thugs ready to destabilise Ukraine in order to control the country.

Freedom always wins and the Ukrainian people will eventually prevail. Just like the evil Soviet empire collapsed, Putin's reign of terror over his neighbours and his destruction of his own country will end eventually as well. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Optimistic - 30 Apr 2014 // 13:08:22

To Union Jack about 2 weeks ago the BBC Online had an interview between one of its journalists and a masked gunman in eastern ukraine. The gunman showed the journalist his ukranian passport and convinced the journalist that he was Ukranian and that he wanted self determination for Eastern Ukraine.

This item has since been removed from the BBC website.

Consensus among Western media is that the photos circulated by the US claiming that the armed protestors in Eastern Ukraine have served elsewhere with Russia are inconsistent and a desperate attempt to stitch up Russia.

The US UK lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify invading it.

They are now lying about Russian involvement in Eastern Ukraine because the people of Eastern Ukraine are preventing the Western takeover.

Union Jack - 30 Apr 2014 // 12:37:10

"and not against Russia who dont control the protestors in Eastern Ukraine"

They've shown pictures of the same agents in Eastern Ukraine that participated in Crimea and earlier in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They have shown pictures of the weapons they carry issued by Russian special forces. Their accents are from Moscow and the NSA has recordings of the agents calling Moscow seeking instructions.

You and your people might buy the propaganda since it's shoved down your throats 24 hours a day by your state controlled TV. But not even a 5 year old in the free world would believe the BS that the thugs in Eastern Ukraine are not Russian controlled.

Optimistic - 30 Apr 2014 // 12:07:00

The deal was signed in Geneva less than 2 weeks ago.

Being practical the armed pro self determination protestors in Eastern Ukraine are not under Russian control so Russia cannot disarm them.

The illegal government in Kiev has not disarmed the right sector protesters in Kiev.

So the West should impose sanctions against the illegal Kiev government as they control the right sector gunmen and not against Russia who dont control the protestors in Eastern Ukraine.

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