Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Krassimir Karakachanov urged the rest of the Bulgarian government to harden the tone with the EU and complained of unfair treatment of the country from Brussels and older member countries. Karakachanov is one of the three leaders of forces constituting the nationalist coalition “United patriots”, the junior coalition party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB. Krassen Nikolov has the story.
In the past year, Karakachanov took clearly pro-Russian positions, albeit more moderate than his nationalist colleague Volen Siderov. In contrast, the third leader of the nationalist coalition, Valeriy Simeonov, expresses strong anti-Russian positions.
Boyko Borissov’s GERB party majority in parliament depends on its coalition with the United Patriots: Siderov’s Ataka, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria of Valeri Simeonov, and VMRO, a political party who claims to be the successor to the historic Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. VMRO is led by Krassimir Karakachanov. Simeonov and Karakachanov are Deputy Prime Ministers, while Siderov is leader of the United Patriot’s group in the National Assembly.
Karakachanov’s explained his angry reaction by some rather old storeis, such as the closure of the four old reactors of the Kozlodui nuclear power plant, which was conditional on Bulgaria’s EU accession in 2007. To this, he added the EU opposition to the South Stream gas pipeline project in 2014. The third reason he invoked was the recent Mobility Package, which puts at risk the business of Bulgarian truckers. A day ago, the transport committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of Bulgaria’s position and forwarding companies would be excluded from the general rules.
Karakachanov went as far as suggesting the absurd idea to punish the European partners of Bulgaria if they do not vote according to the interests of Sofia. According to him, the companies from countries that oppose Bulgaria should not be given access to the expected projects for the modernization of the army.
“I will personally consider this when it comes to companies from these countries who are now screwing up [he said so] our business”, Karakachanov said in an interview for Nova TV, a public chain.
In the next few years, Bulgaria plans to spend more than €2 billion on the purchase of new jet fighters, armored infantry and patrol vessels. Among the favorites for new aircraft is the Swedish company “Saab group”, which manufactures the “Gripen” fighter. Many European companies, including from Germany and France, have shown Interest in supplying armored machinery and battleships.
“It is high time we came out of this lullably song and a naive dream of being treated as equals in Europe”, Karakachanov said.
He said, however, that Bulgaria cannot afford to play it as tough as Britain with its Brexit referendum. In this context, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke in favour of intensive development of relations with Russia, realization of gas projects and construction of the second nuclear power plant near Belene.
“When it comes to [EU and large member states’] interests in Iran, we need to show solidary, but when it comes to Bulgarian interests and [truck] drivers, there is no need of solidarity. We have to say clearly: we understand [the Mobility package] as a blow to the Bulgarian economy, so do not expect solidarity from us [next time] when it comes to your economy. If we continue to behave kindly and to ask for their understanding, we will not succeed. World history knows no precedent of a big and powerful state being impressed by the anger and the interests of a smaller country, unless there were other hidden interests”, said the Defense Minister, who was trained as a historian.
He explained that he was not a Russophile, but a Bulgarian politician, for whom Bulgarian interests were above all. In his opinion, the great danger for national security was not Russia, but Islamic radicalism and terrorism, which the EU continued to underestimate.
It is curious that Karakachanov made his statement less than a week after the visit of Boyko Borissov to Moscow, where the Bulgarian Prime Minister spoke to Putin spoke in a very conciliatory tone. Borissov even apologized to Putin for the failure of South Stream in 2014, a tone which contrasts, to say the least, with the “hard talk” Karakachanov advocates vis-à-vis Brussels.