Ska Keller, co-President of the GREEN/EFA group in the European President, leader of y Prime Minister’s attack, got support from the Presidents of the Commission and the European Parliament following an extraordinary experience on Bulgaria, the country holding the rotating EU Presidency.
At the Commission’s midday briefing a question was asked if the EU executive had a reaction with regard to statements of a deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria against Keller, amounting to insults and threats.
Ska Keller was in Sofia on Thursday and Friday (8-9 February) where she participated to protests in defence of the Pirin National Park, visited the site of a controversial highway and gave a press conference.
On Friday, Valery Simeonov, leader of the “National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria” (NFSB), one of the three nationalist parties in coalition with the centre-right government of Boyko Borissov, posted a statement in his Facebook page which is difficult to quote because of its vulgar, machist and insulting style. Among other things, the statement contains elements which can be interpreted as threats for her life, and an outright appeal that “green Jihadist” Keller should be expulsed “in a van” from Bulgaria to the Turkish border. Simeonov adds that NFSB could provide the van.
At the Commission’s midday briefing today (12 February) a question was asked if the EU executive had a reaction with regard to statements of a deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria against Keller, amounting to insults and threats.
Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva answered:
“President Juncker personally spoke to MEP Ska Keller on Friday, as well as to the Bulgarian authorities. I think you saw that after that there was a press release by the Bulgarian government. This declaration clarifies things for the Bulgarian side. And that close the issue for us. “
The Bulgarian government indeed published a position saying that the NFSB position is not the position of the Bulgarian government. The position indirectly supports Simeonov, as its says that “in the Bulgarian society, the freedom of speech is also well-rooted, and guaranteed by the Constitution”.
Asked a follow up question how possibly this could close the issue, since the declaration contains no excuses or condemnation of the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister, Andreeva repeated that the Bulgarian government statement “takes distance” from the statements of the Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister.
EURACTIV spoke to Ska Keller immediately after to ask her about the circumstance of Juncker’s telephone call. The Green group co-President explained she had alerted Juncker and European President Antonio Tajani about her Bulgarian experience on Friday, as soon as she became aware of the “messages” published by Vice President Valery Simeonov.
“I alerted both of them, because this is not a random party, but the Vice Prime Minister’s, and I though it’s up to them to do something about it. This led to the statement by the [Bulgarian] government, in which they said this is not their official position.
“It’s very good that the statement came, but indeed, I don’t how they are dealing with coalition partners, if you look at the text, they are threatening with violence, this is what I’ve been told, obviously I don’t speak Bulgarian, but that’s quite shocking.”
Asked if she had the impression that Juncker, who generally strongly supports Borissov, was indeed concerned about the case, she said:
“Juncker has been very quick in defending me, so I don’t think he’s trying to defend Borissov, not at all. And [Simeonov’s] statement makes it even worse, because Bulgaria has the Presidency”, Keller said. She added that she had the same impression speaking with Tajani, namely that he took the matter seriously and was not going to downplay with the objective of helping a political friend.
Asked if she was afraid of coming back to Bulgaria, since the statements could inspire supporters of Simeonov for physical attacks against her, Keller said:
“No, I’m not. I could call Juncker and ask for support, but normal people who are in Bulgaria and are protesting for Pirin and against corruption, they don’t have that possibility. I’ve been hearing in Bulgaria again and again, during my talks with the local people, that they are afraid to speak up, and this is a very worrying situation and atmosphere, when people are afraid to speak up. I’m privileged to have the status of MEP, but I wish others would also be able to say what their opinion is, and not be afraid of the consequences.”