Why is Bulgaria’s Foreign Policy Absent from the Current Election Campaign
Foreign policy is absent from this election campaign. Moreover, voters practically do not ask candidates for this topic except for relations with North Macedonia.
Representatives of "Democratic Bulgaria", "We continue the Change", GERB, "BSP for Bulgaria" and "Stand up BG! We are coming!" agreed with this conclusion in probably the only public conversation so far about Bulgaria's international and European policy. It was organized by the European Council on Foreign Relations with the participation of Stefan Tafrov, Daniel Lorer, Ekaterina Zaharieva, Krum Zarkov and Maria Capon.
"In this third campaign, there seems to be more talk about politics, but the truth is that the foreign one remains out of the scope of most of the debates and meetings.
"People ask me mainly about relations with North Macedonia, and when it comes to the European Union, it's about what Brussels makes us do, which is extremely simplifying and gives the wrong impression of what the EU is, what Brussels is, who are the decision-making bodies", shared the former foreign minister Ekaterina Zaharieva.
From Ruse, where he is a candidate for MP, Stefan Tafov added: "Every day I meet with people in the center of Ruse and no one asks about foreign policy, at most once every 5 days someone says something about North Macedonia. What revives the interest is when I say that Ruse is part of a large Euroregion, which includes Bucharest, with all the opportunities that the Romanian capital provides for the Bulgarian city, cross-border European cooperation, for example. We need to revive this interest from below.
He added: "We have a deep-rooted understanding that foreign and European policy is something we need. That's why people are not interested in this topic before the elections. The reasons are in the government in recent years and in the populists who blame Brussels. "
Maria Capone confirmed that Europe is present in its meetings with voters, but for them this is the subject of certificates. According to her, the reason is that for years politicians and populists have been telling Bulgarians that everything bad comes from Brussels, everything good comes from their party.
Daniel Lorer, the newest of the five politicians, believes that European issues are completely absent from political dialogue and voter consciousness. "Our feeling as Europeans is quite marginal. That is why it is important for us for Europe to return to the map of Bulgaria and for Bulgarians to start having an opinion on regional, European or global issues that the EU will have to solve soon," he added.
Hristo Ivanov, co-chair of Democratic Bulgaria, spoke to Bulgaria on Saturday for Darik Radio. According to him this whole time Bulgaria has been trying to frame itself as a mediator but in reality we are just servicing staff for bigger brothers which may proves risky in the long run. For him for the last 30 years the greatest achievement is the membership in the European Union and NATO, as well as the emancipation of the Bulgarian society from the Russian influence, no matter how underdeveloped this process still is.
"A foreign policy is as strong as the institutions and the ruling class, society must realize its interests. We must grow as a country, to be full European members. At the moment, our main problem is our ultimate institutional and political immaturity," he said on show “The Week."
The conversation focused on four topics that, according to the ECHR, could form the basis of Bulgaria's foreign policy and security strategy - a document that Bulgaria has not had in recent years, but which could be drafted in the next parliament. The participants practically demonstrated that there is a consensus on them in a critical mass of parties with chances to enter the new National Assembly.
1. Rule of Law
The first such point of consensus is that in the dispute between Poland and the European Commission on the rule of European law, Bulgaria must definitely take the side of Brussels. Addressing the current rulers in Warsaw and Budapest, the European Union should use including a freeze on those countries, participants said.
"We have a double interest in preserving the principle of the supremacy of European law over national law, because the struggle in Bulgaria for the rule of law is based on European law. Democratic Bulgaria will insist that the next government take a clear position on this issue." said Tafrov. "We have no doubt in this dispute - Bulgaria must stand on the side of European law, compliance with which we have committed all EU member states. Poland can not question this order - the foundation of Europe," he added. .
Ekaterina Zaharieva reminded: "All countries have applied and agreed with the part which is European and which is national law, and in Poland the membership has been approved by referendum." Patience is needed (in this dispute), but it must also be shown that it is running out, she added, pointing out that talks had already begun in 2015 to launch a procedure to withdraw Warsaw's vote in the EU, which was triggered a year later. "I am sorry, but I see no choice in the current situation other than the suspension of EU funds (under the Recovery Plan) for Poland," she said.
According to Krum Zarkov, "it is important for us to participate in this debate, which is not only between the EC and Poland, but between all countries." He added: "The rule of law directly affects Bulgarian citizens and Bulgarians expect concrete help from the European Commission to tackle their chronic problem with corruption."
2. The Green Deal
The second consensus point is on the role of the European Green Deal. An impressive 85% of Bulgarians believe that climate change and global warming are an extremely important issue, and there is agreement between the parties on the role of the Green Deal. But people say en masse that they do not know what the Bulgarian position is about it and should be better informed.
"Most Bulgarians do not know about the Green Deal, because it was presented by some as a scarecrow, by others as a panacea, and it is neither one nor the other. The Green Deal is the means to overcome the real challenge, which no one can deny "Global warming. We must make it clear that there are funds and opportunities in the EU, and it will depend on the next Bulgarian government how much they will be used," Krum Zarkov said.
According to Stefan Tafrov, the current government has not prepared a plan for the Green Deal, there is no strategic thinking. "There are ideas, there is no plan," he said.
"Some political forces are playing with populist topics like the mine issue. It is very important that we tell the truth. The green deal is a great opportunity," Maria Capone said. According to her, the climate issue and the deal are not mentioned in the region of Stara Zagora, where there are coal mines that Bulgaria must close.
"I am glad that we are of the opinion that the Green Deal is unalterable. The transition must be smooth, fair and guarantee Europe's energy security," said Ekaterina Zaharieva.
3. North Macedonia
The candidates from the five parties agree on the European integration of North Macedonia, but relations with Bulgaria should not be built on hatred.
"The new government will have to enter into those talks that will show our European and international partners that we know how to get out of the situation," Krum Zarkov said.
"I call on my colleagues from the various political forces to understand that Bulgaria does not challenge the right of the citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia to identify themselves as they see fit and to call their language as they see fit. This challenge is used by certain marginal parties in Bulgaria as well as from anti-Bulgarian circles in Skopje to attack Bulgaria," Stefan Tafrov said.
Ekaterina Zaharieva insisted that there was no Bulgarian veto, but a temporary disagreement with the negotiating framework. There is a way and it is not complicated to start negotiations - if they accept the 5 points proposed for this framework. But we should not close our eyes to what is happening in North Macedonia and the anti-Bulgarian speech, which has become one of the factors in the last local elections, she added. According to her, the desire to have a result by the end of the year comes from the fact that in the first half of the year the French presidency of the Council of the EU begins and presidential elections are coming, and Paris does not want to deal with enlargement.
4. The Euro Zone
There is a serious consensus on the positive effect for Bulgaria of the adoption of the single currency. In public speaking, there is a tendency to unnecessarily instill fear about a possible rise in prices when adopting the euro, it was said in the conversation. "We owe it to the Bulgarian citizens to lead this campaign calmly and together - regardless of who is from which direction of the spectrum," said Maria Capone.
"Thanks to the currency board, we already have a fixed exchange rate against the euro, but we do not have a representative at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. When we join, we will be around the table where monetary policy is determined," said Stefan Tafrov.
"We are all united here that the euro is of great economic benefit to Bulgaria. There is no fiscal and monetary risk, as we are in a currency board situation. Again, there is a need for active communication with society," said Daniel Lorer.
"It seems to be being forgotten that with the signing of the Treaty of Accession to the European Union, we have made this commitment. The constant decline in this issue creates conditions for various conspiracies took it down on its own, but the euro could be an instrument for Bulgaria," Krum Zarkov said.
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