Bulgaria’s no-confidence vote could hamper EU expansion

Jun 21, 2022, 4:46 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 11:21 am
A pro-government protester holds EU flag during demonstration in support of incumbent Bulgarian gov...

A pro-government protester holds EU flag during demonstration in support of incumbent Bulgarian government near the Bulgarian Parliament building in Sofia, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Bulgarian lawmakers have started debating a no-confidence motion against the minority government, on the eve of the vote that could well topple centrist Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, elected just months ago on pledges to fight corruption. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

(AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Lawmakers in Bulgaria on Wednesday approved a no-confidence motion against the country’s minority coalition government that could topple the centrist prime minister and further stall efforts by Balkan countries to join the European Union.

The center-right opposition party GERB filed the motion last week, accusing the government of mishandling public finances and economic policy and failing to tackle soaring inflation. The no-confidence vote passed 123-116 with no abstentions.

Just after the vote, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov pledged to continue to struggle for reform — his key campaign pledge — in the EU’s poorest member state.

“We promise that … one day we will have Bulgaria without a mafia, a successful prosperous European country,” he said.

He later joined several thousand government supporters who converged near the parliament building in the capital Sofia.

Petkov, a Harvard-educated businessman, formed a four-party coalition government in December. He has pushed for a resolution to a bilateral ethno-cultural dispute that has blocked North Macedonia and Albania’s bids to join the EU. Bulgaria is a member of the EU and NATO.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has prompted the EU to consider speeding up its membership drive in the Western Balkans to prevent Moscow from expanding its influence in the region.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev will hold consultations with parliamentary parties that can try to form a new majority government. If that fails, he could install a caretaker cabinet before calling a parliamentary election, in what would be the country’s fourth such vote in little more than a year.

Bulgaria has blocked neighboring North Macedonia’s bid to join the EU, and with it indirectly, Albania’s as well. The Bulgarian government has insisted North Macedonia formally recognizes that its language has Bulgarian roots, acknowledges in its constitution a Bulgarian minority, and quashes “hate speech” against Bulgaria. North Macedonia has said that its identity and language aren’t open for discussion.

North Macedonia has held EU candidate status for 17 years and received a green light in 2020 to begin accession talks, although no date was set for the start of negotiations. Its president, Stevo Pendarovski, said last week that the delay has “taken a toll” on the nation.

The European Commission has made repeated promises that the future of six countries in the Western Balkans lies within the EU. Along with North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia have seen delays amid divisions among member countries and some bilateral issues.

France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said it is making last-ditch efforts to clear the path before a Western Balkans summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Clement Beaune, the French minister for European affairs, said the proximity of the war in Ukraine has put the onus on the 27-nation EU to “reinvigorate” its expansion process in the Balkans.

He said the French government has “activated and reactivated talks” with both North Macedonia and Bulgaria, as well as other EU members.

“I have a hope that we will succeed, but work remains to be done,” Beaune said.

Daniel Smilov, a political science professor at the University of Sofia, said that Petkov, Bulgaria’s prime minister, has been a “driving force” in pushing for a resolution to the dispute with North Macedonia and that a collapse of his government could blunt that effort.

“It’s quite unfortunate for the North Macedonia situation because simply we don’t have a stable majority now in parliament to give the green light to an agreement,” he said. “And the French presidency has come up with a very reasonable deal.”

The French deal, which has not officially been made available to the public, was sent to both countries last week.

Petkov’s coalition had promised to clean up rampant corruption in the country. But the fresh crisis is now raising fears among some observers who say that it could lead to a rise in pro-Russia parties.

NATO member Bulgaria, which has historically close relations with Moscow, has strongly backed the west’s sanctions against Russia since it launched its invasion on 24. Feb. Petkov even dismissed his defense minister Stefan Yanev for calling the invasion a “special military operation,” the Kremlin-favored description for its war.

But observers believe that political instability will favor Bulgaria’s pro-Russia parties, notably the far-right Revival party which holds 13 seats in the country’s 240-seat legislature.

Ruslan Stefanov, program director at the Center for the Study of Democracy, a Sofia-based think tank, describes Revival as a small “but very thuggish, very vocal pro-Russian” party with a prominent social media presence that has stated that “Bulgaria should support Russia and not Ukraine.”

“They’ve also been very … visible on the streets too … Russia has sizeable influence in the country anyway, but new elections would strengthen the formal political representation of this influence,” he said, adding that it could “weaken the EU positions.”

—-

McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania. Samuel Petrequin in Brussels and Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Argentina's Economy Minister Martin Guzman walks outside of the International Monetary Fund,...
Associated Press

Argentine economy minister resigns amid peso, diesel woes

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Economy Minister Martin Guzman submitted his resignation Saturday, acting at the end of a week in which Argentina’s currency hit an all-time low against the dollar and truck drivers staged protests over shortages of diesel fuel. Guzman announced on Twitter that he had sent a multi-page resignation letter to President […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Taylor Swift appears at a premiere for her short film "All Too Well: The Short Film” in Ne...
Associated Press

Man found at Taylor Swift properties faces stalking charges

NEW YORK (AP) — A 35-year-old New York man is facing trespassing and stalking charges after authorities said he entered two New York City residences linked to the famed singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Police say the suspect, who was arrested Friday, entered one of the residential buildings, located in the city’s Tribeca neighborhood, on March 26. […]
16 hours ago
People wave the old and the current national flags as they attend a protest in front of the governm...
Associated Press

Macedonians protest French proposals over rift with Bulgaria

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Tens of thousands massed outside government offices late Saturday to protest a French proposal for solving North Macedonia’s dispute with Bulgaria that is blocking the country’s membership talks with the European Union. North Macedonia’s government has said the proposal is a “solid base.” But the main opposition center-right VMRO-DPMNE party […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A person using a flamethrower set fire Saturday to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida. Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Connecticut’s new top public defender 1st Black woman in job

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — For the first time, a Black woman has been appointed as Connecticut’s chief public defender. TaShun Bowden-Lewis, who officially began her job on Friday overseeing the Division of Public Defender Services, said she hopes to provide minority clients with a greater sense of trust in the state’s criminal justice system. “I […]
16 hours ago
A customer examines his Superstar Ravi sneaker at the Adidas showroom in Dubai, United Arab Emirate...
Associated Press

Popular Pakistani restaurant stands test of time in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — In a city boasting champagne brunches with views of the sea, Michelin star restaurants, and endless high-end Asian food options, a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with plastic chairs and metal tables is one of Dubai’s go-to spots. Ravi restaurant, a small, family-owned Pakistani place, is rooted in the community of […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Bulgaria’s no-confidence vote could hamper EU expansion