Bulgarian PM joins controversy over parliamentary committee on interference by Russia and Turkey in politics

Bulgarian PM joins controversy over parliamentary committee on interference by Russia and Turkey in politics

Sofia, February 28, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has joined the controversy over Parliament’s decision to set up an ad hoc committee to examine alleged interference by Turkey and Russia in Bulgarian domestic politics, saying that nothing good would come of the committee and it would serve only to worse his country’s relations with both countries.

Borissov’s comments came a day after the Russian and Bulgarian foreign ministries exchanged barbs over the formation of the committee, which Moscow described as “absurd” in a statement that Sofia rejected as “impertinent”.

Although Ankara has not issued an official public statement reacting to the formation of the committee – which followed a major drama within the Movement for Rights and Freedoms that led to the party’s leader Lyutvi Mestan being ousted for backing Turkey against Russia – Borissov said that the reactions from Russia and Turkey had been “very sharp”.

Borissov said that he was not interfering in the work of Parliament, but had approached the head of his GERB party’s parliamentary group, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, to “use all mechanisms of diplomacy” in Parliament and assess the need for the committee.

The committee was proposed by the MRF, which currently has a triumvirate temporary leadership although the real force in the party is its honorary president Ahmed Dogan, and was voted into existence with the support of, among other parties, GERB. The committee, which is to have a lifespan of two months, is chaired by a GERB MP, Valentin Radev.

Borissov said that the setting up of the committee had come at a time “when we, with Turkey and in the EU, are seeking maximum co-ordination to deal with the migrant wave. The Russian Federation made a big turnabout on the topic of tourism”. This latter was a reference to efforts to restore the flow of Russian tourists to Bulgaria, which decreased rapidly after EU member Bulgaria stood with the bloc’s condemnation and sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

He said that the formation of the committee had come “exactly as we succeeded to balance relations and to move towards improvements with both countries, with this committee”.

Borissov called on his MPs to find a solution “so that the two ministries, of Russia and of Turkey, do not shower me with notes and press statements and our Foreign Ministry has to wonder how to answer them”.

Former MRF leader Mestan, who has founded his own party called – to use the Bulgarian abbreviation – DOST, described the formation of the committee as a “grave political mistake”.

“I do not know how the agreement between the MRF, the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival, the Patriotic Front, and the Bulgarian Socialist Party was reached. The Reformist Bloc does not take part in this committee’s work,” Mestan said in a television interview on February 28.

He demanded to know how the dialogue over reaching agreement on the committee had been held.

“This is a grave political mistake as I have not felt such interference. I can not point to a single fact to support the thesis on interference in (Bulgaria’s) internal affairs,” Mestan said, as quoted by local media.

He said that this was a well-created myth on the part of pro-Russian elements in Bulgarian public and political life.

The decision to found the committee was supported by 126 MPs, variously from the MRF, GERB, BSP, Reformist Bloc and Bulgarian Democratic Centre. Nineteen MPs voted against and 13 abstained.