How do European countries and Romania view Bulgaria after the April 2021 parliamentary elections?

Sorin Ioniţă (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

Interviews of the Bulgarian National Radio with the Romanian political scientist Sorin Ioniţă and with the Bulgarian foreign policy analyst Lyubomir Kyuchukov about the changing balance between technocrats and populists in the Bulgarian politics, about the possible effect of the elections on the Bulgarian-Macedonian relations and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Vladimir Mitev

In its edition of 12 April 2021, the program “Something More” on the program “Horizon” on the Bulgarian National Radio sought an answer to the question of what Bulgarian politics looks like when viewed from the outside. There were two comments on the issue: of the Romanian political scientist Sorin Ioniţă (in a conversation with Vladimir Mitev) and of the Bulgarian foreign policy expert Lyubomir Kyuchukov (in a conversation with Georgi Markov).

Both talks were devoted on the one hand to Bulgarian domestic policy and the external view of it, and on the other hand to the effect of the elections on the European path of North Macedonia. According to Sorin Ioniţă it will be unblocked soon, as the forces supporting Trump and Orban retreated in the elections, and new parties established themselves. Among them, Ioniţă paid special attention to Democratic Bulgaria, which he compared to Romania’s ”civic party” of Save Romania Union. Ioniţă described GERB as a party that has no ideology, but is oriented towards taking and exercising power. He thinks it is good that Romania and Bulgaria are voting against the Trump model of charismatic populists. And no matter how much we complain about the “imperfect” policies in these two countries, they are a source of stability for the Western Balkans and their accession to the EU is a huge realisation.

However, Lyubomir Kyuchukov, one of Bulgaria’s leading foreign policy analysts, does not expect relations with North Macedonia to improve rapidly. According to him, each government will be limited in its behavior by the adopted framework position of the Bulgarian parliament, which sets red lines from which Sofia cannot back down in the dialogue with Skopje. Kyuchukov is of the opinion that the postponement of the resolution of the Bulgarian-Macedonian dispute is to the detriment of Bulgaria, because over time the Macedonians don’t come close to the Bulgarian position in it.

As for the Bulgarian domestic policy, Kyuchukov recalled that the GERB government in coalition with VMRO intensified a negative trend from the point of view of Western Europe – the rise of populist and nationalist tendencies. The rule of law, anti-corruption and freedom of speech are topics on which the European Commission and the European Parliament have repeatedly criticized the current Bulgarian government. Therefore, we should not have illusions that it GERB is the only party that has “the knowledge, experience and contacts to communicate with the European institutions”. Kyuchukov reminded that GERB is the party that introduced the term “ladybug” in the political language (which means the political appointment of incomeptent people as decision takers in public administration), so the thesis about the exceptional expertise of this formation is a myth.

The former ambassador to Britain also commented on the tension between Russia and Ukraine, saying that the EU’s role in this conflict would be crucial and that it should be a moderator seeking a peaceful solution, not a force taking a party. According to Kyuchukov, it is important at the moment to stop the escalation and start a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, and for the EU to support this process. Otherwise, there is a danger that both countries and Europe will be involved in a military conflict.

The whole two interviews can be heard here with subtitles in English:

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