Българите в HARDtalk на Би Би Си – корпус от транскрибирани интервюта на английски език с трима български политици
доц. д-р Елена Тарашева
Нов български университет
Програмата на Би Би Си Хардток представя интервюта по актуални теми с политици, хора на изкуството, граждански активисти и други интересни личности от целия свят. Създадена е през март 1997 г. и съществува до настоящия момент с няколко водещи: Тим Себастиан – основател и водещ до 2006 г. , Сара Монтегю, Зейнеб Бадауи и Стивън Сакър. Както предполага заглавието, въпросите са остри и безкомпромисни. Интервюиращите работят с екип, който подготвя темите и данни за гостите според традициите на журналистиката, основана на добре проверени факти. Независимостта се гарантира от статута на Би Би Си като обществена телевизия, без обвързаност с политически партии и организации.
В двадесет и шест годишната история на предаването са интервюирани петима българи: Росен Плевнелиев, Меглена Кунева, Даниел Митов, Кристалина Георгиева и Христо Грозев. Последните двама са интервюирани в качеството им съответно (1) на изпълнителен директор на Световната банка и (2) на разследващ журналист от агенция Белингкат.
Интервю с Росен Плевнелиев, март 2014 г.
Първото интервю е на Росен Плевнелиев, като президент на република България. То се провежда на 21.03.2014. в българското посолство в Лондон, на фона на националния флаг. Интервюираща е Зейнеб Бадауи (З.Б.). Основна тема е доколко България е в състояние да реагира със строги мерки към Русия по повод окупацията на Крим. Журналистката цитира цифри за зависимостта на България от руски нефт и притиска Плевнелиев, който споменава говорене в един глас и действия с твърда ръка, но нищо по-конкретно. Освен отношението към Русия, се повдига въпросът кога България ще даде възможност на своите граждани да работят и печелят без да напускат родината си и да търсят реализация в чужбина. Росен Плевнелиев говори на английски език, с което се избягва размиването на съдържанието в превод. Езикът му е адекватен и точен, с малко грешки, изпълнен с най-добрите формулировки на административно-управленския жаргон.Пълен текст на транскрипцията
RP: Thank you very much for inviting me!
ZB: Can the European Union really afford to get tough with Russia over Crimea?
RP: We have seen a major breach of international law. That leads to losing trust and when you are losing your trust in someone, you need to act.
ZB: And act in what way – tougher sanctions? Is that something you want to see the EU do – widen the circle of people who have got a travelling ban, the asset freezes?
RP: Well, I don’t think we think we should be fighting a war, and I don’t think we should be going back to the cold war. But we should show that in the 21st such things are just impossible – you cannot send your troops, you cannot occupy the territory of an independent state and you cannot organise a legal referendum in order to annex the territory of a third country in front of the global community. That’s completely impossible. We need to stand to our values and we need to act with a strong voice and clear actions.
ZB: That’s the difficulty, though, isn’t it, Mr President, to act with one clear strong voice. The EU is not really getting tough with Russia, is it? I mean, so far the sanctions against Moscow have been described as pathetic by the former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.
RP: Hahaha. You see, we are just at the beginning of a very long process. The game has changed and it has changed for a very long time. We have seen an aggressive and nationalistic Russia. Well, the answer is asymmetric but it’s steady and clear for the democratic world. We need to have a new policy towards Russia.
ZB: The Head of the Socialist Party in Bulgaria which backs the current technocratic government Sergei Stanishev says: “Do not expect Bulgaria to be among the hawks in the European Union. Our country has no interest in sanctions against Russia which would be most harmful to several eastern European countries, including Bulgaria”. Is he right?
RP: Yes, they will, madam. But what we have heard is the chef of the European Socialists, Mr Stanishev and the chef of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. And what we have heard was basically “we don’t want to fight with the European Union, and we don’t want to fight with Russia”.
ZB: But he is saying more than that. I know that he is not from you party. You are from the GERB party, aren’t you?
RP: Which is Citizens for European development of Bulgaria.
ZB: But just on that point made by the head of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, is he right that Bulgaria in particular cannot afford to have tough sanctions against Russia. Your gas supply is 85% from Russia.
RP: Economics is one, and calculations and Excel sheets with some numbers, the other one is who you are and what do you represent, what are your values. And I represent as directly elected president from Bulgarian People a nation which is the most pro-european nation in the world. A nation with a vibrant civil society that wants democracy and the rule of law and this is telling me that we should work and we should support and we should be fighting for a strong European Union that stands against anyone who is blowing the international rule of law.
ZB: So, you want tougher sanctions, then. Wider trade economic sanctions, bringing Putin’s inner circle on the individuals list banned from travel. And in that way you want to see more robust sanctions. Yes or no?
RP: I want to see a strong Bulgaria committed to its values of democratic and European development and I want to see a strong European Union that is standing to support the society of Ukraine, to support the peaceful democratic development. And I have to tell you very clearly: Crimea is and will be Ukraine. And Ukraine is and will be Europe.
ZB: Bulgaria during the Soviet era was one of the countries that was closest to the Soviet Union at the time. You say you want to be good EU citizens how do you do that as well as managing your relationship with Russia, which, of course, is very important to you?
RP: That’s clear, but you have moments of history and sometimes you don’t. We do face today a moment of history for us, for our choice, for our society and for Europe and for the world. What do you think if we have tomorrow Russian minorities in many other countries? We do have them in Estonia and Lithuania; we do have a lot of Russian tourists who are buying apartments in Bulgaria. It could be possible that they call upon Moscow and Moscow will send troops in another countries? Is that possible? We need to act and it’s not just about numbers.
ZB: I know that you have this condemnation in the United Nations, the European Union and the United States. The fact of the matter is that it’s very difficult to act against Russia, isn’t it? Particularly for your part of the European Union. Just look at the difference between the United States and the European Union with the economic trade and financial ties. Russia-American trade is about 30 billion dollars a year and the United States only exports about 90 million dollars worth of goods to Russia. Russia and the European Union, not just the energy, the deep ties that come for about 400 billion dollars a year. So United States can afford to get tough with Russia on sanctions. But not the European Union. You are going to suffer.
RP: Well, Madam! Again, we can be looking at the numbers and the numbers between the European Union and Russia are huge until now. From what we see, we need a new Russian policy that is long-term oriented what we need to do is to work devotedly to diversify and to make sure that our dependencies will be reduced.
ZB: That’s not gonna happen overnight, you get your gas through a pipe through Russia, a pipeline that runs though Ukraine, you’ve suffered in the past yourselves. This isn’t going to happen overnight. But let me put this to you: the acting Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is moving from a political one to a military one. Do you see it that way too?
RP: I don’t want to see it that way. I hope there will be no war there. That’s very dangerous. The European Union because of that is sentenced to have a strong voice and a clear policy that is consistent and that is going to affect and that is going to work. If there is no trust, then investors cannot trust them any more, they might start pulling their money out. If here is no trust, the markets are not trusting any more, that might be a problem. If there is no trust the banks are not going to operate with us because we don’t know and don’t trust. So the European Union is adapting to a new reality. But let me give an example for Bulgaria – what are we going to do? For example, in my country – and that will be a process affecting the whole region. Yes, we depend on one type of pipe and one gas, but we want to change that. We will be building very quickly gas interconnectors with Romania, with Greece, with Turkey. We created ..
ZB: But that will be in the future years… and this crisis is now.
RP: But will build that…
ZB: Staying with this military issue that Arseniy Yatsenyuk has raised, Bulgaria, a member of NATO, as well as of the EU, has taken part recently in military training exercises on the Black Sea. Do you envisage any possibility of NATO perhaps asserting itself in these waters to try to warn Russia off from any future escalation in this conflict, in this crisis?
RP: What we need today in South-east Europe definitely is more NATO. And we will be very active by working with our allies to secure our partnership
ZB: More NATO – that’s really gonna upset the Russians, that is one of the reasons why they are concerned about Ukraine. And they are saying you know, Ukraine is a former member of the Soviet Union and so on, becoming a member of the EU and – my Goodness – also become a member of NATO. I mean, President Putin has said in a speech this week that he doesn’t feel that the West in particular understands Russia’s mentality, understands Russia’s national interests; he likened the situation in Crimea to German reunification. Does he have a point that perhaps the Russians are misunderstood by the Americans, by the EU?
RP: Let me give you another point which is very complementary to what you just asked. Do you remember in 1993 when Ukraine was a nuclear armed force? And then three big powers secured and put their signatures in a special agreement in Budapest to secure and guarantee…
ZB: That was in 1994. OK.
RP: Let me ask you a question. What do you think about India? What do you think about Pakistan? How do you feel about some other nuclear armed countries? Are they going to work in the future for reducing the nuclear threat on this planet? If we have the example of Ukraine, where actually an agreement was signed and completely breeched.
ZB: So, you’ve made that clear then. I want to look at Bulgaria, because you are the President of Bulgaria. You do have some powers, limited powers, although it is to some extent a ceremonial role, but frankly, you have been a politician in the past, you were a Cabinet Minister under the government of Boyko Borissov until 2011 and politicians are very unpopular in Bulgaria, aren’t they? Your ratings are very, very low, even yours as a President…
RP: Hahaha. Absolutely.
ZB: 62% disapprove of what you are doing. Why such a bad reputation for politicians?
RP: I don’t want to go into numbers. The numbers for me are a bit, slight better than for others. Hahaha.
ZB: Well, your party, the Gerb, and also the Socialist Party have about 80% saying you’re not doing a good job.
RP: You are absolutely right that civil society today demands much more from Bulgarian politicians generally and civil society does not trust so much their Bulgarian political elite and that’s unfortunate. But that’s the truth and there was a wave of protest in 2013. We have seen in my own country, which I have seen as a state man and a head of state very positively. Because the Bulgarian civil society sent a very clear message – we would like to see effective institutions that turn to people and small and medium-sized enterprises, we would like to see our state moving into more efficiency, transparency and predictability and actually, politicians again delayed some of the major reforms and that leads to reducing of the trust of people but you can restore that in a very simple way: do not promise everything, but what you promise, please deliver!
ZB: People have been waiting for a long time and part of the protests you mentioned have been taking place against successive Bulgarian governments because of poverty – Bulgaria IS the poorest country in the EU and according to the World Bank, in 2011 GDP per inhabitant is 55% below the European average. Politicians in Bulgaria have failed the people.
ZB: Successive politicians, including the government you served in.
RP: Yes. We need to work hard with civil society in order to improve and I am sure that Bulgaria is on the right track. And we see some of the first results. You cannot change today or tomorrow, but we are on the right track. What is the problem – and that brings also low trust to the politicians – is that every new government is coming by saying: “Well, I am shifting priorities and changing everything, because I am smart and I want to do many things”
ZB: You’ve also got corruption.
RP: Absolutely! Yes!
ZB: Which is a big issue. I believe 82% of the Bulgarians say there is a corruption in national public institutions and that high-level corruption cases are not pursued vigorously enough. Let me just tell you what the EU commission’s spokesman Mark Grey told us in Brussels in January. He says what we’ve seen in Bulgaria over the last seven years are steps forward in terms of organisation putting laws in place but we’ve also seen the lack of putting people to justice and putting people who have committed crimes behind bars! And that’s what the EU is saying now. So corruption is still a very live issue that you have failed to tackle properly.
RP: And we are addressing it very clearly and if you look at the numbers too, for example, what the European court of auditors issued with its statistics at the end of 2013, you will see the improvement. That Bulgaria is much more effectively and transparently running European money, we see them coming to the country, we see reforms, and, of course, we that the severe mechanism, the so-called co-operation verification mechanism at the European Union is an effective tool to improve and to reform. It’s not going to happen today or tomorrow. But we do have an improvement. But if you look at the world statistics of Gallup, I think it was published two weeks ago, you will see corruption as a major problem for people all over the world.
ZB: But particularly in Bulgaria, you score consistently right at the bottom rankings in the European Union – why is that the case? Why are you so corrupt? Is it because of the poverty in Bulgaria, in Bulgaria you’ve got high unemployment, you’ve got people who leave Bulgaria because they want to find better opportunities elsewhere … What is it about Bulgaria that has put it in this plight.
RP: The decision and the effective tool how you fight corruption is very simple to me. And I am pushing it from day one after becoming Bulgarian President and that is open government policies. When you run public money, there is nothing to hide. And I think that we should stick to this plan. In 2015 you will see a different Bulgaria.
ZB: But at the moment you’ve got countries in the EU – France, the Netherlands, Germany saying: “We don’t want Bulgaria to become part of the visa-free travel Schengen agreement which you have asked to join, because they say: “mmm, we are not sure you can manage your borders, we are still worried about the corruption”. That’s a big problem for you, is it not?
RP: We will see Bulgaria very soon in a two-phase plan into the Schengen area because we, for a long period of time are working based on all the restrictions and all the rules of the Schengen area and all the requirements have been met and I am definitely sure about that. But Madam, you see..
ZB: Are you saying that the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabuce said in September last year that Bulgaria is unable to secure its own borders with its non-EU members – you’ve got a border with Turkey, for instance. And should be barred from entering the Schengen zone if there’s no big change we are not in favour of this, there is a lot of work to be done, cause you’re sounding very optimistic.
RP: The numbers are showing a very different situation on the ground. The numbers show that we are keeping the borders with non-european countries – for example, Turkey, Serbia and others – in a much better shape than many other European countries. And we would like that this would be acknowledged too.
ZB: You say that but let me just give you an example. As I said you have a border with Turkey, Turkey has a border with Syria and the influx of refugees from Syria coming into Bulgaria via Turkey has gone up like for 1000. You’ve now got something like nearly 9 000.
RP: We do have 10 000 in Bulgaria.
ZB: OK 10 000. There you are! And the number’s gone up.
RP: But we have hundreds of thousands through other European member states borders. So if you look at the numbers again, we are performing much better than many other European states, being on the front line of the non-EU states.
ZB: The issue of Syrian refugees in Bulgaria is related to this issue which is the way that they have been treated in Bulgaria. And you know that the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees has said you are not treating these refugees very well. It is said that they are kept in deplorable reception conditions and asylum seekers, not just the Syrians in Bulgaria, routinely lack access to basic services, such as food and healthcare, lengthy delays in registration, they are deprived of their basic rights and at risk of arbitrary detention. That is not a very good face you are showing.
RP: Absolutely. You are right and we read that report very carefully because of the first days and weeks of this wave of refugees from Syria coming into Bulgaria, those were the facts and that was the truth, but it has improved again. We were surprised at the beginning by having usually 20 to 30 refugees a month, and then we had something like one thousand, two thousand a month. And that was a wave and we were not prepared, but if you look at the latest report which was issued just a week ago, the same institution with their signature is writing about improvement.
ZB: But in your messages: we are improving, we are managing our borders better, we still think we should join the Schengen visa free travel zone, but the way that foreigners are treated in Bulgaria raises a rather awkward issue for you, particularly when the Bulgarian government criticises the way that the Bulgarian citizens are treated in other countries in the European Union. Where in some of the popular media reports of them are just coming in to enjoy the benefits and you complain about that, and yet, you do see rather ugly signs of anti-foreigner actions in your own country
RP: Ya, yah.
ZB: We’ve seen a mosque attacked which you have condemned, we’ve seen attacks on Asians and Africans – just a dozen this past winter. That should really worry you tremendously.
RP: What is worrying me is that those things happen before elections, so that they will be politically used in order to make someone important, someone who is playing with people’s fears, someone who is showing its nationalistic approach, which to me is not a patriotic approach and I am coming to the point that the President of France De Gaul said something very important for Europe today and also for Russia. He said that patriots are those who love their country, nationalists are those who hate the different.
ZB: Well, that’s exactly what is happening. I just tell you Daniela Michailova of Equal Opportunities Initiative – that’s an NGO in the Bulgarian capital Sofia – says: “Nationalism is on the rise in Bulgaria”
RP: I absolutely agree with this.
ZB: Why is this?
RP: I am truly surprised how quickly that happens, because a year, or two years ago we did not face such a situation in Bulgaria, because the Bulgarian people are very tolerant people. We are so proud that we represent a tolerant nation that was the only one that has saved in 1943 its entire Jewish population and now we have in the latest months or a year a negative development by having a nationalist on the rise. It’s not just Bulgaria, it’s many other European countries. We see them on the march in the European Union. So how do you fight them – is with modern patriotism, not with nationalism. That means the devotion of everyone of us to stand to our values, to work day and night, to be tolerant and not to play with people’s fears. But we see the same scenario all over Europe.
ZB: But you accept that until you sort this problem out, it is going to undermine your comments and those of the Bulgarian government when they say look, we think that Bulgarian citizens in the European Union are being unfairly targeted by people saying ‘we don’t want those migrant workers coming in’.
RP: What we see in Europe is a campaign that was based on the same way we see nationalists in Bulgaria. They target Syrian refugees in the same way as we have seen some organised campaigns against Bulgarian, Romanian, Slovakian, for example minorities in different countries. And coming back to the facts, the numbers that tell for themselves. Recently I was in Germany and in Germany I was told that they have a problem with Bulgarian Roma, Bulgarian people but the facts show that Bulgarian citizens in Germany on average are unemployed 7.4%. The Germans in Germany are unemployed 7.7%. That is telling me that the Bulgarians in Germany run better and perform better than the Germans in Germany.
ZB: But you have
RP: Based on education and employment.
ZB: But you do have a problem. The OECD, for instance, have said that there is a rapid decline in Bulgaria’s population. About a third of that is because of international emigration, looking at the figures from 2001 to 2011. When are you, Mr President, going to see a future for all your own people to stay in their own country and enjoy peace and prosperity?
RP: In the next years I am sure that the wave of Bulgarians moving back to my country will be coming. I talk to them wherever they go in the world. We have a contact and as a President the first thing I do now in Great Britain, I talk to them. I was in Qatar last week. I encourage them
You think that people from Britain are going to go and settle for a better life there?
We see signs of that already. When I was in Germany we just had 400 engineers moving back to Bulgaria because of a new Lufthansa plant in Bulgaria. What I am saying is that an objective process that has happened in all the other European countries and we are now right in the middle of this process, but we are moving in the right direction, improving the conditions on the ground – democracy, infrastructure, rule of law and they will be coming back.
President of Bulgaria Rossen Plevneliev, thank you for coming to Hardtalk.
Thank you, Madam, I was honoured.
Интервю с Меглена Кунева, март 2016 г.
През март 2016 година в Хардток е интервюирана Меглена Кунева. Стивън Сакър я представя като бивш еврокомисар, добре познат в Брюксел, а към онзи момент – министър в българското правителство. Повод за интервюто е кризата с мигрантите в Европа. България е представена като най-бедната страна в Евросъюза, граничеща с Турция, откъдето влиза голяма част от мигрантския поток и в конфликт с европартньорите по въпроса за приема на мигранти. Меглена Кунева е в студиото на Би Би Си, води разговора без превод. Макар езикът и да е автентичен и компетентен, тя попада в капаните на добре подготвения водещ на няколко пъти.
Транскриптът е правен първоначално върху видеото от телевизионното предаване. По-късно е добавен и уводът към звукозаписа в подкаста, който се различава от началните думи в ефира на Би Би Си.Пълен текст на транскрипцията
(SS: My guest today is a familiar figure in Brussels, a former EU commissioner who is now a senior minister in her home country. That country is Bulgaria, the poorest of all the European member states. And Meglena Kuneva, though herself a hardened European, now represents a government that has an uneasy relationship with Brussels. Right now the biggest challenge facing Bulgaria and the EU is the migration crisis. Bulgaria is on the front line. It shares a border with Turkey, which hosts 2 and a half million Syrian refugees, many of them eager to get into the European Union. Bulgaria’s iron fist response to migrants and refugees on its soil has prompted condemnation from Human rights groups across Europe. It’s one symptom of discord and disunity in the EU response to the crisis. But there are other strains in the Brussels – Sofia relationship too, concerning the failure to root out corruption and establish a truly independent judiciary. After almost a decade inside the European club, why does Bulgaria still seem semi-detached? Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva joins me now. Welcome to Hard Talk.)
S.S. The EU and Turkey have drawn up the outline of a deal which might – just might – stem the flow of migrants from Turkey to the West. But, it will require EU states to take large numbers of Syrian refugees direct from Turkey. In a show of collective European burden-sharing which may be hard to deliver. My guest today is Meglena Kuneva, Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister. Her country shares a border with Turkey, but has shown an iron fist towards refugees and migrants. So, is Sofia out of step with European values? Meglena Kuneva, welcome to HARDtalk.
MK: Thank you.
SS: I think we have to start with the deal – the outlaying deal which has been drawn up between the EU member states and Turkey. It’s somewhat complicated, but it seems Turkey will take back all those irregular migrants who reach Greece, including Syrians, but only on the understanding that the EU will agree to take one-for-one Syrians from the refugee camps inside Turkey. Does Bulgaria support the deal?
MK: Yes. Actually, this is one-for-one deal, as we call it, and I think it’s fair. It’s burden-sharing. We show solidarity, which is a must in these difficult times.
SS: So to be clear about it, if there will be – and it seems there will be – quotas decided by the European Commission as to how many Syrian refugees each EU member state will take, Bulgaria will be quite happy to accept its quota?
MK: Well, nobody’s happy under these circumstances, with quite disturbing sources…
SS: Well, forget the word „happy“. You don’t have to be happy…
MK: It’s important. It’s important.
SS: Will Bulgaria commit, right now, to take whatever quota it is given?
MK: Yes, if it is about burden-sharing and solidarity, we fully understand our responsibility. Yes, we already promised once when the quota system started to be discussed that we will take our share.
SS: Well, that’s very interesting you say that, because last September, yes, you’re right, the European Union began this idea of collective burden-sharing. The idea was 160,000 refugees would be spread around the member states. Bulgaria had only agreed to – you said you’d take, what, 1,600?
MK: Yes, this is the share of Bulgaria.
SS: How many have you actually taken?
MK: Well, unfortunately, this quota system doesn’t work quite well.
SS: No. You’ve taken two.
MK: Two. Indeed. But this is a matter of the willingness of the refugees, so…
SS: Well, it just makes me wonder whether, frankly, this deal, in outline, is worth the paper it’s written on. A country like yours says, „Yes, yes, we’ll accept our quota.“ But history of the last six months would suggest you’ve no real intention of implementing it.
MK: It’s not about our intention, I dare say. Bulgaria, of course, is very much – we stick to what we have promised. But how to make people who are very much willing to go to Sweden or to Germany – how to make them and to press them and to force them to come to Bulgaria, which of course is a country with a language which is not so spread, like German or English, so this is the first difficulties which the refugees will face, and also economically, of course, the countries like Germany and Sweden are better off, and refugees hope that they will have better lives there.
SS: Maybe there’s another reason that refugees look at Bulgaria and think „I don’t want to go there.“ They see, in your government and your policy, a completely, frankly, uncompassionate, um, attitude to them. They see violence, they see that one refugee was actually shot dead by your security forces, and they think, „I would never want to go to that country.“
MK: Well, the refugee hadn’t been shot, as you said, but there was a gang, and it was a ricochet of the bullet, so it’s…
SS: You can dress it up how you like, but the fact is, your security forces killed a migrant.
MK: Well, I’m quite careful and aware what does it mean „killed“ and what does it mean something bad to happen by accident. So I wouldn’t accept such kind of words that a refugee was killed.
SS: Well, there were also other incidents, including one incident where some Yazidi migrants were forcibly returned to Turkish territory from your territory, and two of them died of hypothermia. There is, underpinning your government’s strategy, many would say – including human rights groups is a callousness which is remarkable, even in Eastern Europe today.
MK: Well, we have some troubles to make people to be registered, and this is also part of our obligation. Because we can very nicely discuss, ah, our human obligations, and I fully subscribe after it, but also we talk about security. As you introduced our talk, you said we have a border with Turkey. And there are no other European countries with a border with Turkey. Imagine if we just opened the doors and all the refugees – without being identified – to come through the territory of Bulgaria and then go to wherever they want.
SS: Hang on a minute. It seems there’s a real contradiction here. You’re telling me you support the deal that has just been struck with Turkey, which includes the notion that there will be visa-free travel for Turkey, a warm embrace of Turkey, a speeding up of the accession process with Turkey. And here you are saying, „Oh, my God, we’ve got a Turkish border, we’re very worried about it.“ I know you’re deploying your army there, you’re building a new barbed wire fence. These things don’t seem to match.
MK: No, we are talking about legal and illegal immigration. So, being with all these terrorist threats – and don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying that the migrants are terrorists or close to this term, but we need to be vigilant. Because together, with people seeking for a safe haven, some migrants would also like to do something bad.
SS: You look at Turkey with a sense of apprehension and fear?
MK: No, I wouldn’t say so. We are good neighbours. We support each other.
SS: Is that why you’re building a barbed wire fence?
MK: Because we cannot afford, with the Bulgarian guard forces, to have one guard every 50m or 1 00m. So that’s why we decided to build this facility – this is not exactly a border – which will save human capacity. Otherwise we cannot, from purely budgetary and administrative capacity reasons, we cannot go with this any further.
SS: In all honesty, deputy prime minister, do you believe it is right for Europe to speed up the accession process with Turkey and, by the summer, talk about delivering visa-free travel for all Turks into the European Union?
MK: Well, first of all, when we talk about speeding up negotiations, still to open and close a chapter means to fulfil all the obligations and, also to abide to the political criteria. And second, visa revalorisation I think is a step in the right direction. This one will help tremendously the Turkish society and also will make Europe more apprehensive to and to understand better the needs of Turkey.
SS: Yeah. Let’s then get back to this notion that the deal, it is hoped, will stop the migration flow from Turkey into European territory. I just wonder whether you are now prepared to say to me – and we’ve talked about the shooting incident, but there’ve been many other incidents too, and we can talk about some of them, including police brutality, beatings, forcible pushing of migrants back over the border – I wonder whether you would now acknowledge to me that it has been bad for Bulgaria’s reputation, what has happened over the last 6-9 months?
MK: I think to single out Bulgaria having difficulties to prevent the rules over the border, it’s not very fair. We have the same incidents, as you said, in Hungary, for example, or in Austria, or in Germany, or in former Republic of Yugoslavia, Macedonia…
SS: Nothing like the pervasive, systemic use of violence and abusive practice against the refugees. I mean, it’s not me saying that, it’s, for example, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, which, in conjunction with Oxfam, did a detailed study of people who had passed through Bulgaria and managed to make it into Serbia. Of all the refugees they interviewed – from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan – all who had had contact with the Bulgarian police reported abuse, extortion, robbery, physical violence, threats of deportation, and police dog attacks.
MK: Well, I very much appreciate the work of human rights activists, and this is their right and obligation to raise the voice and to ring the bell.
SS: Isn’t it your obligation to respond to it, fruitfully, and to find out what went wrong, and to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore?
MK: Exactly. That’s why we made a lot of internal investigations among the police officers and we raised the public awareness what is right and what is wrong.
SS: Well, Bulgarian state television broadcast from 2013 included interviews with members of the border police who said their superiors had instructed them to „beat refugees and send them back.“
MK: This is completely wrong. This is completely wrong. It can’t be like this. If there is one single case if people claimed for it, I believe that not only the minister, but also the professional governors of the ministry, had taken note from this.
SS: There’s a phrase which has been used about not just Bulgaria, let’s be fair, but about some other…governments in Eastern Europe. The phrase is „a compassion deficit.“ Now, I wonder whether you would acknowledge that there is something about the attitude of East European peoples, who feel themselves that they maybe are suffering economically, that their lives are difficult, that the EU hasn’t maybe delivered them all of the promises that they’d hoped it would deliver – that they don’t really feel much compassion for these migrants coming in from outside. Is that true?
MK: Well, you ask me a quite psychological question. Mm. I don’t want, first of all, to have another border between – mental one – between West and East in Europe.
SS: Do you think there is a bit of a division between…?
MK: Well, we are closer to the conflict. When the conflict is just one border from Turkey and you are obviously responsible to guard the entrance into the European Union, you should perform. And actually what is a lack of EU policy is a lack of enforcement. Because we decided once that we needed to have control over the European borders, and we didn’t manage. So instead of complaining that the big countries like Germany, like Spain, like Italy they should do more, the Eastern European countries they regained the control. Maybe not all the time quite properly – actually, Bulgaria was not together with V4 , Vishegrad 4 in respect of rejecting quota. We accepted quota.
SS: No, no. You’ve made this plain to me. You’re not rejecting quotas.
MK: We accepted quota. But we need to have equal treatment. And if it is stipulated that we need to regain control over the borders, it’s tough. It’s really hard talk. But we need to do it.
SS: Well, this is HARDtalk. I’m going to ask you another hard question. I wonder whether there is an element of xenophobia, Islamophobia, in your government’s response to this migration challenge. I’m just looking at the words of your prime minister, Mr Borissov – „I’m scared, he said. The Bulgarian people are scared. If only because of where religion is concerned. After all, we are Christian and they are Muslim.“
MK: The Prime Minister should talk with the Bulgarian people and be outspoken about their concerns. Maybe some parts of the society, they do have such kind of concerns, and it is for the Prime Minister to speak up instead of somebody else. Instead of various populist movements.
SS: Isn’t it dangerous to legitimise this sort of language? The Orthodox Church released a statement in Bulgaria saying the immigrant wave, “looks like an invasion”. I mean, you only have 30,000 refugees come in, and a small proportion have actually been given the right to stay, so this idea that it looks like an invasion is nonsense.
MK: We live in a mediated society, and the moment you switch on the TV and you start to watch that the refugees are coming, the incident in Cologne in Germany or in other parts of Austria, or in Macedonia, which is another order with us, people do feel this is almost in their homes, and again I very much insist on it. We have populist parties in Bulgaria like everywhere in Europe, and I stay very much behind the Prime Minister being outspoken. What people think and what people fears, it means that we need to face these fears, and try to solve the problem.
SS: Are you scared?
MK: I think it is quite scary that Europe…
SS: You think that it is scary that a very few thousand Muslim refugees have come into your country? You think that is scary?
MK: I think the fact we are not able to regain control over our borders, over our European borders, might be scary.
SS: I am particularly looking now at this clash of cultures your Prime Minister, your church, appears to be encouraging as a perception inside your own country.
MK: You need to take this conversation into the context that we do have a Muslim minority in Bulgaria, and we do…
SS: Between ten and 13% of your own countrymen are Muslim.
MK: No, no, no! This is not about Muslim. This is about unmanageable flow of refugees. And that’s what the people do think.
SS: But the Prime Minister said: they are Muslim, we are Christian. Which is an odd think to say when up to 15% of your own people are actually Muslim.
MK: Well, I think the Prime Minister was …
MK: No, he hasn’t talking about what this clash of different religions, but the unknown are coming from outside. We are happy to live with Muslims for centuries in Bulgaria.
SS: Just a final point, it interests me that you have many posts as a deputy Prime Minister, which is that you are also education minister. As I understand, you got the job after the last Minister essentially was fired because he was proposing to change textbooks, to get rid of some of the more inflammatory language suggesting that the Turks had held Bulgaria in slavery for hundreds of years, that they had dominated and enslaved your people. He was fired for trying to change the textbooks.
MK: No, no, it is about… I would say mismanagement to explain to the public what went wrong with the textbooks, and actually according to our rules this one should be discussed publicly and for a long time and if this is not done, of course…
SS: You are now education minister and we have talked a lot about the EU’s developing relationship with Turkey. Do you think it is right and proper that Bulgarians are taught they were held in slavery for hundreds of years by the Ottoman Turks?
MK: I think you are very well briefed, but you need to know also our literature, our history, and to know more about how many people just gave their lives for the freedom and to have our own state. This one reflects in our literature and our history, and we need to be open and say what we went through.
SS: Let’s talk now about Bulgaria today. We reflected on the fact that maybe your attitudes to the migration problem is somewhat coloured by the fact that you are the poorest country in the European Union. I think that once they found you people were the unhappiest in the EU. Why is it, do you think, that Bulgaria’s member ship of the EUfor the last eight years or so has not delivered for the Bulgarian people?
MK: Well, I think that to manage expectations is one of the most difficult tasks for a politician and for all of us. So if we expected the miracle to be overnight and Bulgaria quickly to be a better place to live and to work, it is not 100% fulfilled. But we achieved a lot. And also the European Union went into crisis almost immediately Bulgaria entered into the union. We had the energy crisis with Russia and we were totally affected by that. Then financial crisis, which we felt, without being guilty, to bear circumstances after this crisis. So this is not the happiest time for Europe.
SS: But maybe it is also because Bulgarians hoped that getting into the EU club would improve governance into Bulgaria.
SS: But it hasn’t.
MK: True. This is, this one I fully recognise that as our own responsibility.
SS: And it has not worked, has it?
SS: The latest commission report on progress in Bulgaria under your corporation verification mechanism, it is full of jargon, but basically the message is Bulgaria has to do a lot more and make much more progress against corruption, organised crime, and that Bulgaria is failing.
MK: Well, if you read carefully the report, there are areas where Bulgaria is improving the status quite substantially. But of course we still have a lot of to do. I think on anticorruption, pretty soon the good news will come in Bulgaria. But it is a tough battle.
SS: Your government tried to pass a law creating a new anticorruption authority and it was rejected in the Parliament.
SS: What does that tell us about the systemic…?
MK: Well, that the law is too good, too strong, maybe. I think they have been fears in the Parliament, and actually I introduced the bill, so they have been kind of… reluctance to accept the law as I proposed and the Council of ministers proposed because the parliamentarians they felt that it might be witch hunting, and this one will be used as a political tool, which never crossed my mind, of course. But now we have a second attempt, and I hope this time the law will pass.
SS: Your president made a speech earlier this year expressing big ambitions. That we have aspire in Bulgaria to be inside the Euro, to be part of Schengen, to be absolutely in front and centre in the heart of Europe, but it seems to me that you are not on track to achieve any of that.
MK: No, I think just the opposite. I think we are on track to achieve all of that. I believe that Bulgaria is more than ready to join Schengen, and we are ready to protect the European border, our border. We are quite ready with all of the figures about our economy and we will be quite ready to join the euro, which is part of our treaty, actually, and this will bring stability. Actually, we have a currency board, and we actually implement the rules of Europe, the discipline of the euro area. So I think it is quite manageable in the next few years.
SS: So you want to fully integrate with the European Union, and you are in London when the British are, of course, pre-occupied with the decision about whether to leave the European Union altogether. If even if they don’t leave, David Cameron says he has negotiated a deal which leaves out very much out of some of those integration projects. Do you think it is important written stays in?
MK: Yes, I do.
MK: Well, I appreciate what you have as experience, as diplomatic skills, innovative ways of doing the single market. I very much like the idea of single market. It is a highly political idea, actually, not just to trade among the countries. I think we are, you are, one of the forces for good in the European Union, and I hope the British people will say yes when the moment to vote comes.
SS: Meglena Kuneva, thank you so much for joining me on HARDtalk.
MK: Thank you.
Интервю с Даниел Митов, ноември 2016 г.
Пред ноември 2016 Стивън Сакър интервюира Даниел Митов, като външен министър на България. Интервюто се провежда в студиото на Би Би Си, на английски език. Даниел Митов участва без превод. Езикът му е естествен и гладък, без грешки. Държанието му е така уверено, че в самото начало дава заявка да поеме контрол над разговора, като коригира водещия за представянето, което прави за него.
България е представена като най-слабото звено в Европейския съюз, с ширеща се корупция и неразкъсани връзки с Русия. Митов, от своя страна е млад технократ, с възходяща кариера в управлението.Пълен текст на транскрипцията
SS.Welcome to HARDtalk! I’m Stephen Sackur. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link then the European Union has reason to worry about Bulgaria. Once a redoubt of the Soviet empire Bulgaria is by many measures the poorest most corrupt member of the European Union.
It also happens to be a key player in two of the great challenges facing the EU – the migration crisis and the hostile relationship with Russia.
My guest today is Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. Can Brussels rely on Bulgaria?
Daniel Mitov welcome to HARDtalk.
D.M.: Thank you.
SS.: I think we have to start with Europe’s migration challenge. If we look at the response of your government it seems that there is an atmosphere of panic in Sofia. Why?
DM: First, I would like to start with the fact that I found it quite unfair the introduction in the very beginning. When it comes to weakest links actually Bulgaria has done quite well in terms of protecting the external border of the European Union and that has been recognised on so many levels both in Brussels and in our bilateral relationship with each and every member of the European Union.
- I wasn’t measuring weakness simply by the strength of your frontier. There are other parameters
too. But let’s not get stuck on that.
DM: That is absolutely true but we can of course explore other dimensions.
SS: I promise you we will! I talk about this atmosphere of panic because your Interior Ministry just in very recent hours has issued an order activating level two in terms of the estimation of danger on the Bulgarian/Turkish border and this comes under your national plan for emergency situations. Why are you ratcheting up the…?
DM: Very often when it comes to assessing the level of control over the border there are moments in which you need to take into account the circumstances and especially when it comes to migration and refugee pressure. Right now you know what is going on in Aleppo and Mosul we hope that Mosul will soon be liberated and people can return actually to their homes. But when it comes to Aleppo the atrocities there are appalling. That is why we are…This is not panic this is a reaction to expected events.
SS: But I wonder why you are expecting such an emergency because this year I think the figure is roughly 16 000 the number of migrants that have entered your territory. 16 000 is not insignificant for a country of 7 million.
DM: A lot of them were actually returned. We have throughout the recent last months we have returned a lot of those back to Turkey or we have actually already trying to trigger all those agreements between the European Union and third countries which require repatriation.
SS: Because your message is clear it is extremely negative about this whole issue of immigration into the European Union. You are building walls at a furious pace. You are a country which ironically after 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Empire you dismantled your frontier razor wire and minefields and now here you are building walls like there is no tomorrow.
DM: Different times, different circumstances. We are trying to be and we are they responsible out of border of the European Union. We are not responsible only for our own territory control. We are responsible for everyone else’s and by the way the facility which we are building we are very much aware that it is not going to stop large numbers of people but it will for sure impede the attempts of human smugglers and criminal groups who are trying to smuggle illegally people through the Borders.
SS: But the fact that you have got an important strategic position does not justify violating and flouting international norms and human rights law does it?
DM: I would very much disagree with this.
SS: You think it gives you the right do you to flout international norms?
DM: It doesn’t give us any right to flout international norms but we are not.
SS: Why are you doing it then?
DM: I am contesting exactly that. Bulgaria has never intentionally or in any other way violated any norms. In fact, we are living up to those norms. If there are individual cases which are contested then we not only look at them but there have been in the past people punished for violating certain types of principles.
SS: Border guards have been accused by a whole host of independent human rights groups and border monitors of using excessive force. We saw just year ago and Afghan individual shot dead by your border forces. And your Prime Minister promised a full investigation and as I understand it the courts have dropped all charges against those responsible.
DM: First that was clearly an incident. When it comes to this specific case it was thoroughly investigated.
SS: Who has been punished?
DM: As every other case those are investigated and there are people who have been punished, actually, throughout the process.
SS: The courts dropped all charges.
DM: I cannot go into each and every individual case but with the NGOs which you have already mentioned we have contacts with them and we investigate and we are trying to engage with them for every single possible case. But let me tell something else here. The human smugglers are becoming extremely inventive. Bulgaria has increased the penalties for human smuggling. Bulgaria has taken full control over its external border especially when it comes to Turkey. In co-orporation with the Turkish authorities. I have to say here that we have very good cooperation and understanding on how things need to work. But human smuggling has become extremely inventive in ways to circumvent certain types of norms and some of those accusations you are mentioning are actually a way for certain people to get status of refugees or of witnesses of certain types of crime in order to stay in Bulgaria and then use the opportunity and move onward.
SS: You are the Foreign Minister. I’m sure you care about your country’s international reputation.
DM: Very very much.
SS: Then I’m sure you are concerned when the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein says things like this. He condemned the fact that all people entering Bulgaria in an irregular manner are to use his phrase „detained as a matter of course.“ „Even worse they may be prosecuted and jailed for a year or more if they try to leave the country.“ He says this is not acceptable. He went on to say „evidence suggests that attacks and abuses against migrants and refugees are rarely if ever punished“.
DM: These are actually all statements which we have already created a framework with UNHCR which allows us to work together with them in order to look in every single possible case…
SS: So you are going to change policy?
DM: It is a very hard balance.
SS: Because as we speak today there are hundreds of people demonstrating in one of your detention camps right on the border demanding the right to get out of your country and go to Serbia.
DM: Look, there are rules and we are living up to those rules. When it comes to how to treat refugees and economic migrants the distinction needs to be clearly made. Towards the refugees we have certain type of obligations and that is why the European Union pays a lot of money in Turkey in Jordan in Lebanon and in other third countries where we need to assure that the conditions for the refugees for them to develop to get a job to send their children to school are in place. When it comes to economic migration that is a very very different story.
SS: His point is it is not right to detain people in essence as prisoners for more than a year.
DM: As I mentioned these are already all the statements…
SS: The one statement I just read to you was from September so that is one month old.
DM: Those practices whatever they were are being amended exactly with the participation of UNHCR. We are working very closely with them.
SS: We can only take your word for that because he criticised you only a month ago so if you have changed your practices we will find out.
DM: Criticism towards many countries around the world even those who are considered champions of human rights have been made recently because in this very difficult situation it is a hard balance to be sure that you respect the rules and the human rights of the people who arrive.
SS: Nobody is saying this is easy but in the end it is about how you prioritise and also it is about the tone and the values that underpin your policy. One criticism of your government would be and it has been made by the Helsinki committee which has an office in your country and many other independent observers too that you are playing politics with this. You are stirring up according to the Helsinki committee representatives animosity toward refugees presenting them as a threat to the Bulgarian public and the reason you are doing that may be because your government is propped up by the Parliamentary support of far right political groups.
DM: No statements of mine or any of the Bulgarian government officials have been read in terms of stirring a certain type of fear or blame towards the refugees or anything else. In our public statements we are extremely responsible and there cannot be any quote from myself or anyone else that can confirm this statements…
SS: It is not just a question of quotes is it? It is a question of actions. For example, if your government was serious about curtailing xenophobia and assaults on migrants why do you not arrest and charge Dinko Valev, who is well-known in your country as a vigilante, who goes round with heavily armed colleagues on their quad bikes trying to round up any migrants who are found in that border area on your territory.
DM: That was a phenomenon which has been already dealt with. The upper mentioned Dinko. He was called into the prosecutor’s office. There were certain charges raised against him. And now vigilantes of that sort which we know are under observation and under surveillance.
SS: But they are still out there.
DM: That is a problem that has been dealt with.
SS: A British man of the far right is in the British newspapers just these last few days crowing about his activities on your territory alongside Mr Valev and others with guns rounding up migrants. It is still happening.
DM: I claim they might roam around forests but they are under observation and they have done nothing of the sort recently.
SS: My question comes back to this. If you look at the way he is portrayed in the Bulgarian media he is described as a hero. If you look at the support he seems to have amongst the Bulgarian…
DM: I cannot be responsible for how media describes anyone that’s first. Second the government has always condemned the actions of vigilantes in any country which respects itself. And the rule of law is the main principle. Actions are taken and we have taken them.
SS: So Mr Valev is going to face charges is he?
DM: I’m not really sure at what stage right now the prosecution is. But he has been called into the prosecutor’s office and certain charges have been done against him.
SS: The evidence according to the Helsinki committee is that in public platforms including on your media he has claimed to have been involved in assault and battery making death threats unlawful detentions
inciting ethnic hatred. These are crimes in your country?
DM: These are crimes in my country.
SS: So your message to your own people is we are going to deal with Mr Valev and all of these so-called vigilantes?
DM: We are and we are dealing with them and that is why they are under surveillance right now. They cannot do what they have done in the past.
SS: Let’s talk about a different aspect of the same concern that I have quoted various independent monitoring groups is having about your country and that is xenophobic populism. One other element of this according for example to Amnesty International’s Europe director John Dalhuisen is your country’s determination it seems to take on those women who want to wear the full veil in public in Bulgaria. Would you accept that that is a part of this same problem?
DM: I don’t think so. This is a decision that has been taken in the Parliament not so long time ago and these type of cultural expressions are not traditional for the country and on the basis of that…
SS: They are traditional for a certain number of Muslims.
DM: And on the basis of that we have taken this decision. The Parliament has deliberated on that with quite wide majority.
SS: In the light of this particular quote from the Europe director of Amnesty International he says women in Bulgaria should be free to dress as they please and to wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs. What’s your personal view about that?
DM: Can you agree that this is a European debate in general. We can see this type of phenomenon in France we can see it in other countries. That is a worldwide… Sorry not a worldwide but a European wide debate for sure. When it comes to traditional ways of expressing religious appurtenance Bulgaria is one of those countries where Muslims and Christians have lived for centuries together without any problem and without using burqas.
SS: Which makes one wonder why your government is now so determined to take on this small section of your population who want to wear…
DM: The burqas have never been a traditional expression of our Muslim populations.
SS: And your view is you have every right to ensure that no woman is allowed to go on the street in public wearing…?
DM: It is not about women in this case. It is about everyone who covers their face in public. So the target is not women who want to wear burqas in general. The whole philosophy of what the Parliament has voted is covering your face in public is unacceptable.
SS: I suppose underpinning a lot of the questions I am asking you is searching for Bulgaria’s European identity right now and Bulgaria’s values.
DM: We don’t have to search for that. We have it. We have been Europe always.
SS: Let’s talk a little more then in broad terms about where Bulgaria sits. For example, in the EU. You obviously are here in London and you are observing what the British people have decided to do which is get out of the European Union. You in Bulgaria I think it is fair to say are on the periphery of the EU.You are not in the Schengen common travel area. You are not of course in the euro and the eurozone. You do feel and look like a country that is very much on the edge of the EU. Is that problematic?
DM: Geographically that is a fact. When it comes to levels of integration in the European Union of course we do have still a lot to do. Eurozone is one of our goals becoming part of the eurozone. When it comes to Schengen – yes, we are negotiating right now and we hope that soon at least the decision will be made to let Bulgaria and Romania here in the Schengen zone when it comes to air and maritime borders.
SS: But you know that a lot of nations I am looking at recent statements from Finland the Netherlands they don’t think you are anywhere near ready. In terms of your quality of governance…
DM: I’m not really sure where those statements come from but when it comes to our negotiation process we are at least sure that we are not only ready we are more than ready to join the Schengen space when it comes to a borders and maritime borders. When it comes to land borders there could be a bit of a longer process because right now and this is important to mention Bulgaria was one of those countries and actually the first country probably which introduced a certain type of shift of philosophy when it comes to the European Union and how we should perceive ourselves in the future. The European Union needs to perceive itself as one whole with external borders which need to be guarded and protected together with the effort of all EU member states. This is much more cost-effective and much more secure because if we managed to do that everyone else in the heart of the European Union can feel safe. But it comes back to what I said at the very beginning in my introduction.
SS: Many in the European Union many member states and indeed many people in Brussels see you as a weak link because of your endemic corruption your very poor record of governance and of course your very weak economy. But there is another factor too. You have traditionally and still today seem to be something of a split personality country in that you look to Brussels of course you are a full member of the EU but you also have a very close relationship with Russia. And that continues.
DM: Well that is a bit of an interesting statement which I would like to challenge. So first when it comes to the corruption you mention we don’t run away from the problems. We need to continue with our judicial reform. We need to continue fighting corruption. But that is valid for a lot of other countries even old members of the European Union. Second in the recent years in the last couple of years Bulgaria has created a really good record when it comes to fight against smuggling of different goods especially when it comes to illegal alcohol and cigarettes. That has added up to our coffers more than 3 billion leva. Which means that we have created a special unit which deals with that. So where the corruption comes from it comes from illegal practices like that.
SS: You make the case that you are tackling corruption. Let’s take that as a given because we don’t have so much time and I do want to get onto this point about Russia.
DM: And that is one very important point. First, Bulgaria has always supported the sanctions against Russia when it comes to them being linked of course to the full implementation of the Minsk agreement. Point one. I have already mentioned the atrocities in Aleppo. Our Prime Minister a couple of days ago said there are more important things than an economic relationship. Human life stands above everything.
SS: If you are sending a message to Moscow let me get you to clarify. Your president recently made a statement that caused the big stir in Bulgaria. He described Russia as a nationalist aggressive state ruled by a president who sees Europe as an opponent not a partner. Many Bulgarians castigated him for saying that. Here is your opportunity as Foreign Minister to say do you agree with your president’s words?
DM: Whatever the president has said I stand 100% behind that.
SS: So you see Mr Putin too as an opponent not a partner and you see him as supervising a nationalist aggressive state?
DM: We have always tried to build an equal partnership with Russia on the basis of mutual respect. Unfortunately, in recent years not only towards us but also towards the whole European Union this is not happening. What has been challenged and I will ask…
SS: The reason I am pushing you on this is the president is about to leave office and you are having an election for a new president and the socialist candidate one of the two leading candidates says that he doesn’t believe in sanctions. He wants a much closer relationship with Russia. That’s the danger of the selection because we might have someone which or who is not capable of understanding what is going on.
SS: What I’m saying to you is Bulgaria is clearly split right now. A very substantial chunk of your population wants a close relationship with Moscow.
DM: That is a fair assessment and this government is fighting exactly to make a clear picture of what is going on in the world and why we are supporting the sanctions on the one hand but also to describe what is going on and I would plead for a little bit of time here.
DM: First the world has divided it is already divided in 19th-century terms. On one hand there are the liberal democracies and on the other hand Absolutist authoritarian regimes which are basically challenging the liberal democracies.
SS: And you see Putin’s Russia is one of those?
DM: I see a lot of those.
SS: But the problem you have, Foreign Minister, is you are a liberal voice in your government but there are many who see the nature of the economic ties between Russia and Bulgaria and feel that you are going to lose this argument. Let me just quote you before we finish. Mr Pyotr Tolstoy a Russian MP very loud voice in the Russian media and he said recently we will just buy out the entire Bulgaria. Half of its coastline he said already belongs to us and that is the truth…
DM: That is offensive first and second in the Bulgarian political spectrum has reacted to this and has condemned those words.
SS: When it comes to energy the vast wealth that the Russians hold inside your country including property the Russians have you round the neck.
DM: That is somewhat of a fair assessment but I have to say Bulgaria is doing a lot when it comes to diversifying its sources of energy. Everyone knows that Bulgaria is almost 100% dependent on Russian gas that is why we are building the interconnections with Greece with Romania we are trying to invest in the LNG terminals. But given that reality how can you tell me that within the EU and its debate about how to handle Russia you are going to be anything other than a country that in the end wants good relations with Moscow?
DM: We have proven that we can stand the ground of the European values and the European way of thinking on how to handle situations like that. Because what happened was a brutal dismantlement of the international law and order by seizing of part of an independent sovereign neighbouring country in the case of the annexation of the Crimea. And then destabilising eastern Ukraine. If we let this go without consequences there will be other countries revisionist countries which will think that they can do the same and repair some kind of historical injustice.
SS: A very interesting point. We are going to end the interview with just a straight yes/no answer from you if we may. If the Socialist candidate who wants a much closer relationship with Moscow wins the Bulgarian presidency will your Prime Minister and where you quit? Will it be the end of this government?
DM: I will stand my ground and I’m absolutely sure that is valid for the Prime Minister.
SS: Daniel Mitov we have to end there. Thanks for being on HARDtalk.
SS: Thank you.