Turkey offensive in Syria and the refugees flow used as a threat, the debate inside the EU on the Albania and North Macedonia process of joining the Union and Brexit were the main topics covered by anti-Western speech in Bulgaria in October. The EU and the US ended up equally damaged: weak powers unable to manage defiant leaders like Erdogan and, sometimes, even worse, working cynically together with autocratic regimes for access to natural resources and political gain.
Syria, Bulgaria’s neighbour
Turkey offensive in Syria was one of the most covered and discussed topic by Bulgarian October media.
“Trump abandoned Syria to the Turks in exchange for his reelection”, according to the Washingtin Examiner, quoted by Focus-news.net, that adds: “This is Washington at its worst – a friend who’ll break a promise at any moment”.
Focus-news.net also republishes the Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda headline: “US surrenders the Kurds to Erdogan”.
Jerusalem Post is also cited by Focus-news.net: “Until recently, there were people in Israel who argued that the country should not take any action against the Iranian nuclear threatening, because if the knife goes to the bone, Jerusalem could rely on Washington to do the job. But the US troops leaving Syria and actions carried out by the Americans in the last ten years (both Democrats and Republicans) have shown that this view is not based on reality.”
Pogled.info chose to quote Die Welt which wrote that “Trump’s betraying Syrian Kurds could lead to allies mistrust the US”. And, the newspaper notes, that could result in total lack of the US reliability to intervene in the eventuality of a Russian attack against Eastern European countries.
24chasa.bg published the German Defense Minister, Annegret Crump-Karenbauer, who criticized Turkey and the US after the Turkish offensive in Northern Syria took place. She said that „the US turned its back on those who fought for them against ISIS in Syria”.
According to pogled.info, “Russian S-400 missile system purchased by Turkey helped Erdogan to pull the Americans out of Syria”, yet no proof was provided by the media outlet.
Speaking of missing proofs: pogled.info also claimed that, in fact, the Pentagon stimulated the Turkish offensive in Syria so that, somehow, Kurds would have been turned against Damascus and, in the process, the conflict would get so serious that it’d be impossible for the Sochi Russian – Turkish deal to last.”
However, Russia diplomacy was quite busy on the matter. Russian MFA, Sergey Lavrov, for instance, claimed that “US policy in Syria is about to set ablaze the entire region”, 24 Chasa noted.
Club Z, though, published an analysis by Mohammed Halaf which basically said that Russia has nothing but gain out of the Turkey offensive.
Only EU seemed to be taken by surprise. Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki, for example, urged EU to stop funding Turkey and said to Federica Mogherini that “Erdogan is nothing but a dictator who does not care about Kurds” and wondered what EU’s response to that would be.
But there’s no optimism on display, Bozhidar Chekov wrote for Fakti.bg: “EU’s leadership stumbles and lacks vision, the result is only silence on their part”.
The EU – Turkey row over refugees entered its third month in October. Ahlam Chemlali, an expert in refugee matters, said in an interview for baricada.org that “Our European institutions reward authoritarian and autocratic regimes and outsource security work to secret services and smuggling networks that detain migrants and subject them to torture, abuse and violence”.
MEP Sergey Lagodinsky gave his blunt thoughts when asked by BNR: “EU doesn’t have the efficiency to address the Turkish military intervention”.
An analysis published by investor.bg lets no room for optimism: “EU showed once more that it is too weak for the Turkish refugee issue”.
So it was no surprise when the Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, used blackmail diplomacy again (quoted by BNR again and again: “EU should learn that regarding Turkey as an invader would only result in Turkey opening its gates for refugees to get to Europe”.
A threat that could get damn serious and refugees to be allowed to storm the continent, security expert Jordan Bozhilov explained in an interview for BTV: “Erdogan will try to put pressure on the EU to pay the price for the operation in Syria”.
Getting out of the EU, as complicated as getting in
The debate inside the EU on the Albania and North Macedonia process of joining the Union was extensively covered in Bulgarian media as there is a traditional historic relationship that Sofia has with Skopje.
At stake is the survival of the cabinet, Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev claimed, unless a date for the Brussels – Skopje negotiations is set, according to Club Z.
Not enough for the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who only offered North Macedonia and Albania a special partnership status instead of full EU membership.
Investor.bg republished an article posted by Financial Times which says that “Macron’s veto against the EU enlargement is a historical mistake”.
Of the same opinion is Antony Galabov, political science professor, who believes (according to an interview given to focus-news.net) that EU’s repeating a mistake that has been done before with Bulgaria which had to pay a high price.
On the same page is the US that expressed its disappointment via a State Department press release (covered by fakti.bg) which also said that Washington sees both Albania and North Macedonia in the EU.
Deutsche Welle’s Berndt Rigert pointed out that “Macron’s inexplicable veto resulted in a double crisis of confidence – one in the Balkans and the other one in Brussels. How much is EU’s promise worth given that the two countries’ reforms and efforts led to nothing?”, an analysis also published by investor.bg.
Whereas now we know that EU granted another extension, at the beginning of October PM Boris Johnson was pretty confident he would deliver Brexit at the end of the month therefore no delay had been requested, 24 Chasa wrote.
In October, journalist Maria Spirova explained, in an interview for BNR, that “Boris Johnson wants either a no-deal Brexit or a big compromise on EU’s part”.
MEP Jeffrey van Orden was also interviewed by the Bulgarian National Radio and gave his comments on Brexit: “Brussels is not flexible when negotiating and doesn’t seem to be willing to negotiate. But the thing is that another referendum would only show that UK citizens want out of the EU”.
Journalist Veselin Paunov, also for BNR, expressed his belief that “the British people are tired of being optimistic with regard to Brexit. What people want is that London deals with it in its own terms and doesn’t let in the hands of bureacurats in Brussels”.
In October, the authors of this report examined 19 Bulgarian media outlets, the most relevant in terms of readership.
Most of the articles (25) were provided by pogled.info.
Focus-news.net is ranked second (17 articles).
On the third place – bnr.bg (16 articles).
26 of the collected articles could be classified as “neutral”. 7 of those are news, the other 19 – analyses.
91 articles are labeled “biased” (42 of them are news, 49 are analyses).
It is worth mentioning that pogled.info published almost entirely biased anti-US analyses.
* The authors of this analysis/study divided the media articles into two categories (news and analysis), each classified as biased or neutral. A geographical criterion was also used to link the media articles to the EU and the US. According to this study, a piece of news is nothing more but a short article covering a fact or a statement whereas an “analysis” may be a column, an investigative piece or any other type of article that is based on several facts and statements that are premises for the conclusion that the author of the article wishes to make public. The neutral characteristic is attributed to those news and analyses that use actual quotes (and not made up or out of context ones), rely on fact checking and logical syllogisms, provide side relevant data (context) in order for the public to get the bigger picture. News and analyses are labelled as biased when, on the contrary, the journalist’s work is not compliant with all of the above: quotes are partial and/or manipulated/manipulative, there’s no vetting process, neutral context is not added (and when there’s some context provided, facts are selected to match the conclusion – which, in this sort of cases, is pre-set – and not the other way round).
Based on this report: