Anti-American and anti-European media propaganda in Bulgaria is driven mainly by cash income from Russia related sources. It is expected to be stronger in the future than in the past year due to forthcoming elections in Bulgaria – for the European Parliament in 2019, local elections in 2020 and parliamentary elections – in 2021. Although anti-European and anti-American media outlets have been rather moderate in the last year, there were moments of increased anti-Western activity especially due to the fact that Bulgaria had the chairmanship over the EU Council from January to June 2018. It is for this reason that most of the media directed their criticism to anti-EU topics. The negative articles regarding the United States were mostly about president Donald Trump. It is interesting that they have abounded not so much in the traditional anti-American media in Bulgaria but in those known for their pro-American position. The reason for this phenomenon is that this circle of media in Bulgaria has traditionally been generously funded by US sources linked to the Democratic Party and supporting liberal values. One of the most debated topics during the monitoring period was Bulgaria’s candidacy to enter the eurozone, as well as the possible consequences of the adoption of the Euro as official currency. A lot of media in the country have favored anti-EU moods by publishing interviews, analyses and comments by Bulgarian and foreign politicians and experts who do not support this step. Generally, the articles on this topic display the accession into the Eurozone as something positive. Still, this would not bring the expected benefits to Bulgaria – as Bulgaria’s EU membership for Bulgarians has had mainly negative consequences. This is the main thesis that a group of media (who present themselves as right-handed) develop constantly in different variations. And they impose the same conclusion – although, in general, the EU membership is something good, for Bulgaria it is mostly negative because of the bad policy of the government in office and specifically of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Of course, attacking the EU is not the same thing with attacking the ruling party GERB and the government, these criticisms overlapping only happens when the government and Borisov are criticized while following the rules of EU. For example, this was the problem with the plague among ruminants in Southeastern Bulgaria, which was used both to provoke anti-immigrant hysteria (and anti-EU in connection with that) and anti-European propaganda about the agriculture rules of EU. The same thing happened with the conclusion of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the EU Council and the moods in the EU and in Bulgaria afterwards. Bulgaria’s president Rumen Radev, who was elected and supported by the oppositional Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), says that the government is using the successful Bulgarian chairmanship of the EU Council for internal political purposes and that the leaders in the EU gave a positive review only because this is a standard compliment.
An opinion was expressed by the “Democratic Bulgaria” party (which is a union of the right political structures, critical of the ruling party GERB and not represented in the Bulgarian parliament) that the chairmanship was used as personal PR for the prime minister Boyko Borisov and that Bulgaria can’t rely on its successful development in the EU. In August, the topic was frequently noticed in the “Capital” media circle (Capital, Dnevnik, MediaPool, ClubZ, etc.), as well as in the state radio – the Bulgarian National Radio, which identified the topic as important for the country and did not miss to instigate anti-European attitude among Bulgarians through it.
Quotes on the topic from the former Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofianski are published often in the media. Sofianski claims that the country’s not able to enter the Eurozone at the moment. Interviews with Sofianski were published in Bulgarian media in July and August. He believes that the country could not enter the Eurozone because of the low level of the pensions but no logical explanation is given for the claim. In general, Sofianski’s behavior is antigovernment (perhaps in order to resurrect his own political vision, which has been covered with negativity for years). Sofianski and the circle around him are mostly known as people related to strong corruption, so his anti-European rants are taken seriously by society.
Another topic on which the media successfully imposed an anti-European tone is the migration and EU refugee policy. As an external border of the EU, Bulgaria is a country responsible for stopping illegal migrants and preventing their entry into Central Europe. In August, the country’s media also paid serious attention to the migrant crisis in Europe and to the disagreement between European leaders about the refugees.
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov expressed an opinion opposite to the EU’s decision that member states of the union should accept refugees. Borisov opposed the decision of Brussels and this casts doubts about Bulgaria’s good relations with the EU as well as about Europe’s ability to cope with the refugee crisis – this is the main focus of the media, which constantly criticize both the government and the politicians in the EU.
Bulgarian experts and politicians debate about these issues in the media and most of them believe that there is a growing tension in Europe about refugees and the EU isn’t able to deal with the situation. On the other hand, the United States are being presented as one of the main sources of tension in Syria and in the countries which are the main sources for the migration to Europe. Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy also noted 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.