Hours after the debate in the European Parliament on the occasion of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ska Keller, vice-president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, shared her impressions in an exclusive interview with this website.
Ska Keller s a German politician and Member of the European Parliament from Germany. She was the the European Greens’ frontrunner during the European elections in 2014.
Today the Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov addressed the members of the European Parliament, presenting the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and answered their question. Perhaps the most hard-hitting questions were yours. You raised the issue of the decision by the Borissov cabinet to open construction of tourist facilities in the Pirin national park, and the issue of corruption in Bulgaria. Are you satisfied by his answers?
I would have hoped for a more lively debate, but most of the speakers were clapping each other on the shoulders. A presidency is actually a very important moment, the presidency is exactly the moment when a country can shine in Brussels and in all of the European Union. But it’s also the time when everyone is looking and is paying a closer attention to that member state, and Bulgaria has a lot of issues we should pay attention to, these are also issues the Commission shouldn’t ignore.
In my intervention I mentioned the Pirin forest issue, it’s a Natura 2000 area, and therefore very much of European concern, and there we see that with the recent law of management plan change, up to 48% of that national park would be open for development.
“Dear @BoykoBorissov, thousands are on the streets for the preservation of #Pirin Natural Park and against corruption. This isn't just about the environment, but about European rules that need to be respected in all EU Member States” @skakeller #SaveOurHeritage #SavePirin pic.twitter.com/30hOs6l3CI
— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) January 17, 2018
But that is not a natural park any more, it’s not a Natura 2000 area any more, already UNESCO was very critical about the chance of keeping it as a world heritage site. The recent changes made the situation so much worse, that there should be much more concern from the European side. Everybody is talking about the primeval [Białowieża] forest in Poland, but in Bulgaria very old trees, a very important biodiversity area is not going to be the same forest for much longer.
And also the corruption issue. It’s something mentioned in the context of being an obstacle of Bulgaria becoming a Schengen member. I’m very much in favour of Bulgaria entering Schengen. Corruption is not one of the criteria of entering Schengen, but the corruption issue is still a big one. If you look at the corruption index, Bulgaria is still the last country of all EU member states, and also the recent legislation has not made things better. This are important issues we need to watch carefully.
“#Bulgaria should use the EU presidency to fight #corruption at home and ensure that the fight against corruption in the EU is more ambitious and effective” @skakeller @EU2018BG pic.twitter.com/BY0BGyF7aP
— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) January 17, 2018
In a reply to you, Borissov said twice “I guarantee”. He said he guarantees that the Pirin decision is only about building a second ski lift, and nothing else. He also said he guarantees that in two wears’ time he would deal with corruption. As a member of the European Parliament as an a political leader, are you satisfied with such guarantees?
Not really, actually. We’ll see about the ski lift or if it’s going to be much more. Because if this “ski lift” under brackets, if it goes through the middle of the forest, if it cuts through the forest, this will not be the end of the story, because we have seen already those interested get permit for a specific area, they expand much more. And then corruption: what does it mean to deal with corruption? Even if you had the nicest laws in the world in Bulgaria, you would need to implement them, and not use them against the opposition. So I’m not satisfied by the Prime Minister’s “guarantees”.
Bulgaria has a problem also with the freedom of media. I have watched two mainstream TV channels in Bulgaria, the national BNT and the largest private public TV bTV. Both gave a very flattering readout of Borissov’s performance in Strasbourg. Do you subscribe to this positive assessment? By the way, your name and your intervention weren’t mentioned in both cases.
No, I don’t subscribe to such assessment, because Borissov had his supporters from his own political group, and others. I asked some critical questions and that’s how it should be. It would be terrible if a prime minister in plenary only gets applause. Pert of democracy is opposition, part of democracy is controlling, criticizing, asking again and again. We just cannot live without that.
Are you aware that the majority of media in Bulgaria, friendly to Borissov’s government, systematically claim that the number of participants to ecological protests is much smaller than it is? Are you aware that the same media give much more prominence to “anti-ecological” counter protests, where we can see industry-made banners and expensive T-shirts with their messages?
Yes, I heard about that. And I’m not at all surprised that these media give more attention to these so called “counter-protests”.