Sofia, January 29, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
Volen Siderov (photo) of far-right ultra-nationalist minority party Ataka was the first Bulgarian political leader to congratulate Alexis Tsipras on his election victory in Greece.
A letter to Tsipras from Siderov, made public on January 27 – the day after the Syriza leader took office as Greece’s prime minister – preceded official reaction from Bulgaria’s centre-right government or any political party of significance.
It is hardly suprising that Siderov would be the most eager to congratulate the populist far-left Greek leader, given that some similarities in their policies are easily discernible, or at least, Ataka and Syriza have more in common with each other than with established mainstream parties.
That is, of course, that Siderov’s Russophile, anti-Western and “Orthodox Christian” policies, combined with hostility to the EU, Nato, Turkey and Islam have never got him anything more than a minority share of seats in parliament, in contrast to what seems to have been a massive protest vote in Greece that swept Tsipras’s party into power.
Siderov wrote to Tsipras, “I am happy that Greece has chosen the right path, to take the destiny of their country into their own hands.”
The Ataka leader said that the election in Greece was a landmark for the entire EU. He told Tsipras that he and his people had showed the world that it was high time for the countries of the EU to stop being the “vassals” of the humiliating policy of Washington.
Siderov said that he had said repeatedly that the current EU should be disbanded and a new one set up on the basis of “genuine national sovereignty and Christian values”, telling Tsipras that he like, like him, was called extremist and radical.
Ataka had “very similar views on government,” Siderov said, that the “so-called austerity” policy should end, that Bulgaria should leave Nato, that sanctions against Russia should be ended, “because they are harmful to all countries of the continent and serve only the US”.
Pressing on with what he saw as their similarities, Siderov underlined that his plan for running Bulgaria also included free health care and education, the nationalisation of banks and re-nationalisation of privatised former state enterprises, reducing VAT and cutting the taxes of low income earners, while he added, “I admire your intentions of levying higher taxes on the rich”.
Further, Siderov added, “only a true statesman would insist on investigating privatisation with punishment for the guilty.
Siderov described as “worthy” the request by the Tsipras government to renegotiate its agreement with the EU.
“I insist on the same for Bulgaria. I believe that Bulgarians will soon wake up and choose the anti-globalisation, anti-colonial path that Greece has,” according to the Ataka leader.
Factually, of course, Siderov’s letter overstated similarities between the policies of Ataka and Syriza, for example the fact that Tsipras has dropped the policy promise of nationalising banks, and that rhetoric about so-called “Christian values” may not resonate with an atheist.
On issues such as opposing sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, they are of one mind, though of course Siderov has no influence in the matter.
Hardly suprisingly, the official reaction to Tsipras on the part of Bulgaria’s centre-right cabinet was somewhat less emotionally effusive and affectionate.
In contrast to Siderov’s gushing tones, the government media office said that Prime Minister Boiko Borissov had sent congratulations to Tsipras on taking office as head of government.
The message from Borissov emphasised bilateral relations between Greece and Bulgaria as those of “friendly and partner” states, and emphasised that there were numerous untapped opportunities in this co-operation, notably in the energy field.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party, in effect the Bulgarian partner of similarly mainstream socialist party Pasok – and similarly hammered in the most recent elections – also sent congratulations to Tsipras, seeing in the Syriza victory a vindication of left-wing policies.
BSP leader Mihail Mikov said that Greek citizens had voted confidence in taking a difference course, “that of economic development and growth instead of the neo-liberal policy of painful austerity and anti-crisis restrictions”.