Bulgarian government pledges support for Bessarabian Bulgarians in the Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine seems to have had an adverse effect, since the fourth mobilization wave in Ukraine started on January 20.
For instance, the mobilization call-up orders met a strong rebuff in the Bessarabian Bulgarian settlements in Southern Ukraine, in the district of Odessa. Dozens of ethnic Bulgarians were killed and hundreds refused to get involved in the armed conflict, reported BTV by referring to reports from Bessarabian Bulgarian organizations.
According to Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs about 6000 ethnic Bulgarians live in the conflict region. Besides, the statistics also reveal that around 200 000 Bessarabian Bulgarians live in Moldova and Ukraine today.
Bessarabian Bulgarians in Ukraine refuse to be mobilized by the Ukrainian state and are looking for support by the Bulgarian government.
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov stated that the Bessarabian Bulgarians are mostly welcome in Bulgaria. Furthermore, the political elite and NGOs in Bulgaria stressed that humanitarian aid to the fellow nationals in Ukraine should be organized as soon as possible. Hence, the Bulgarian authorities issued fast-track visas to ethnic Bulgarians in conflict regions.
However, observers pointed out that the military mobilization of the Bessarabian Bulgarians by the Ukrainian state is not prohibited in legal terms because they are citizens of the Ukrainian state. Finally, the Bulgarian authorities announced that a coordination center will be set up in order to maintain a constant contact between Bulgaria and ethnic Bulgarians in the conflict region. Thus, Bulgaria’s actions are a matter of solidarity, providing support for Ukraine’s ethnic Bulgarians affected by the conflict.
‘Lukov March’, or what they are marching for?
Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova has banned the torchlight procession in honour of Bulgarian army general Hristo Lukov - known for his pro-Nazi stance during the WWII. Fandukova said that she had issued the ban after taking account of the Bulgarian security authorities that the planned procession posed a threat to public order.
Despite the ban the so-called ‘Lukov March’ took place on 14th of February. The procession is organized annually by the far-right Bulgarian National Union. It has taken place in Sofia since 2003 in honour of General Lukov, who was killed by communists in February 1943.
Furthermore, the organizers have denied claims that the events are a demonstration of neo-Nazi political attitudes, arguing that they wanted to honour the memory of a Bulgarian hero. However, there had been many calls for the procession to be forbidden. Most political parties, the Shalom organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, as well as representatives from Israel, Russia and the USA expressed their concerns about the ‘Lukov March’.
Finally, historians qualify Lukov as a highly controversial person when it comes to his activities. On the eve of WWII Lukov was War Minister and, until his death, leader of the far-right Union of Bulgarian National Legions, a strongly pro-Nazi organization.
‘A way out of the maze’? The latest EU Commission report on justice and home affairs in Bulgaria
The annual report of the European Commission on the improvements in Justice and Home Affairs in Bulgaria was published in January.
The report is a part of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), put in place when the country became a member state of the EU in 2007. The EU Commission assumed the country should further accelerate the much-needed reforms to ensure independence, accountability, integrity and efficiency of the judicial system and the fight against corruption and organized crime. In short, Bulgaria`s progress 'has been slow'.
As a matter of a fact, the EU Commission has been reporting now for more than seven years when it comes to the efficiency of this instrument of the EU post-accession policy. In their assessment of dominance, the previous reports have been based on a very similar background. Therefore, critics pointed out that it must be examined whether the CVM is an essential instrument to foster successful reforms or a clear EU policy of sanctions.
Hence, the monitoring mechanism has practical self-help means at hand. Key to this is the statements of the Bulgarian authorities claiming that the CVM is ‘a way out of the maze’, a ‘problem-solving’ policy that ‘accounts for the reforms – internally (toward the society) as well as externally (among the institutions)’.
However, the self-help approach of the EU Commission will not last forever, only until the next report. That is way the continuation of the mechanism for the unforeseeable future is not sufficient to justify its efficiency as a cooperation instrument of the EU post-accession policy toward Bulgaria.