Anti-Western political attitudes in Bulgaria, motivated by internal conflicts and traditional love for Russia

Many of Bulgaria’s leading politicians have a clear position – supporting the European Union (EU) and the United States. This position is a consequence of the general pro-European adjustment of the Bulgarian society and the good attitude of the majority of the Bulgarians to the United States and the Euro-Atlantic values. Among Bulgarian politicians, this line of conduct is most strongly supported by the ruling party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria), due to their strong connection to the main EU leaders.

For this reason, opposition MPs and other Bulgarian politicians who criticize the ruling party are, in the same time,  indirectly critical of EU policies related to the situation in the country.

On one hand, it should not be forgotten that a large part of the Bulgarian society has a positive attitude towards Russia. The reason for this is that Russia liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. This is used, on the other hand, by some Bulgarian politicians to push Russian interests (mainly for commercial purposes).

Examples for this kind of parties are the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party and the nationalist party “Ataka”, whose leader, Volen Siderov, is known as a Russophile who often criticizes the EU and the United States. His position has been blunted lately because his party became a coalition partner in the last government of GERB. In general, the anti-European and pro-Russian position of Siderov is mainly directed by his commercial interests.

Another bright example of a politician who is using an anti-European stance in his behavior is the president of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, who is currently the most important opposition politician in Bulgaria, along with the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Kornelia Ninova. Radev was supported during the presidential campaign in November 2016 by the opposition party of the BSP and personally by its leader, Cornelia Ninova. Radev defeated the GERB candidate with a strong lead at the elections and, since then, the presidential institution has declared war on the government.

After the end of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the EU Council, along with the positive comments on the country’s performance, the president Radev has spoken less than laudatory regarding both the government in Bulgaria and the EU. He argued that the good words of the EU for Bulgaria were just a standard compliment and he added that Brussels just can’t afford another tone.

In September, Radev continued to maintain his anti-European position. He criticizes the EU and believes that the alliance can only be successful if it represents the success of all its states. The president even hints that many people believe that the decisions and policies in the EU are conducted by a narrow circle of people. In general, his words spread mistrust in the EU institution.

The current BSP leader, Kornelia Ninova, is also aiming for that goal. On one hand, her behavior is related to the leading moods of her party, especially among the poorest Bulgarians – the majority of them have a pro-Russian and anti-European/anti-US attitude. On the other hand, Kornelia Ninova is anti-European because the former leader of BSP and her personal political enemy, Sergey Stanishev, is the leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES). For this reason, Kornelia Ninova is often criticizing European policies, even when they are imposed by PES, in which BSP is a member.

Another politician, who is an example of strong anti-EU rhetoric, is former Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofianski. The topic, which he often commented on and through which he manages to express his negative attitude towards the EU, is the forthcoming entry of Bulgaria into the Eurozone and the adoption of the Euro as the official currency in the country.

Stefan Sofianski
Stefan Sofianski

Sofianski, who is a right-wing politician, is basically not against Bulgaria’s entry into the Eurozone, but he believes that Bulgaria will be condemned to eternal poverty if it adopts the Euro before being well prepared for this step. In August, Sofianski continued to make statements that addressed the country’s inability to enter the Eurozone at the moment.

Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy also took the view that the EU has an absolutely wrong position on the issue of migration. He highlighted that if Brussels did not come up with a major plan it would not be able to cope with the influx of illegal Africans over the next 30 years. Passy is known as the strong supporter of the US and he criticizes positions of the EU when they are in conflict with the positions of the US.

Perhaps the most commented topic in the media in Bulgaria in August is the economic policy of US President Donald Trump and his sanctions against other countries. Because of its aggressive approach to the EU in most media, anti-American comments and analyses are noticed.

Analysts describe Trump’s actions as propaganda while highlighting the inability of European media to deal with it. Analyst Boyan Chukov, who is also a politician, argues that Trump attacks other countries powerfully and concerns the issue of freedom of speech in the United States.