Alvaro Peñas interviews Julian Angelov, secretary of the VMRO party (whose initials correspond to Faith, Morality, Patriotism and Responsibility in Bulgarian) and national MP since 2014. VMRO is part of the United Patriots coalition that obtained 15% of the votes in the last national elections (third political force), and which governs Bulgaria with the center-right GERB party. VMRO President Krasimir Karakachanov is the Minister of Defense and Vice President of the Bulgarian National Assembly. IMRO has two MEPs, affiliated with the Group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).
On October 8, the European Parliament (EP) approved a resolution against Bulgaria on the rule of law. Bulgaria has been accused of corruption, lack of the judiciary independence and reduced freedom of the press. What is true in these accusations?
Some of the findings in the resolution of the EP on the rule of law in our country correspond to reality, some of them do not correspond, and some want to create a false reality. For the most part, this Resolution was inspired by two MEPs who, in their desire to become popular and gain some electoral weight in our country, actually sent the pink-green fascists in the EP to make a whole muddy campaign against Bulgaria. The strange thing is that one representative in the EP was elected by the BSP here in Bulgaria, who are campaigning on topics such as the Istanbul Convention, the Migration Pact, etc. They pretend to be great patriots and speak out against gender ideology, and their political family in the EP – PES – are the ones who actually push them as politicians at the level of the European Commision (EC) and the EP. Do you see what hypocrisy this is about?
This Resolution speaks of the rule of law, and at the same time there is a direct interference in the work of the highest court in the country – the Constitutional Court. It was criticised for its decision declaring the Istanbul Convention unconstitutional. The resolution also reproaches another decision – the one for banning the OMO – Ilinden (organisation of Macedonians in Bulgaria — ed.), and there is open talk of a Macedonian minority. This is a closed page for Bulgaria. The preamble of the Constitution enshrines the one-nation principle. Raising such issues by Euro-bureaucrats is a serious precondition for raising the question – is there a rule of national legislation, since a small number of left-liberal MPs can seek responsibility and criticise the highest court in a country and the highest law in it. And at the same time this resolution speaks of the fact that there were ethnic groups that could not campaign in their mother language. What is this if not again an attempt to give rights and instilling a sense of ethnic difference? There is also talk of the rights of LGBTI+ communities and others similar, who not only have never been discriminated against, but also want to show their diversity in the face of society in a particularly irritating and arrogant way. They have been trying for years to discriminate against majority. While the coalition United Patriots, in which we from IMRO are included, are in power in the parliament, that will not happen.
Another issue mentioned in this resolution is Bulgaria’s refusal to sign the Istanbul Convention. What is your opinion about these attempts to impose gender ideology?
For several years now, we have witnessed systematic and increasingly aggressive attempts to replace the essence of the European Union as a place for the free movement of people, goods and capital, subject to treaties and based on the values of democracy, enlightenment and Christian civilization. There is a large-scale attempt to revise all this, an experience driven by leftist ideology, breaking the traditions and rules of common sense.
We from VMRO are the ones who stopped the scandalous document in which the gender ideology is introduced under the noble protection from violence against women and children. This is another example of the EC’s strict policy of positive discrimination in favour of the LGBTQI community, as well as of advertising and promoting homosexuality. We oppose the forced imposition of same-sex marriage – a trend that has been methodically and consistently pursued through the various EU mechanisms. For us, this is a policy directed against the traditional national and Christian foundations of the Bulgarian family and society. This is a policy that definitely pushes us in the direction of self-destruction of all the achievements of European civilisation.Such a demonstration, at a time when Europe faces the unprecedented challenge of surviving economically, politically and perhaps demographically, shows only well-disguised hypocrisy. Such dangerous trends call into question the legitimacy of the EU Treaty.
On November 24, Bulgaria was again criticised in the European Parliament for governing the rule of law. Do you think that a campaign could be launched against Bulgaria like the one against Hungary and Poland?
The meaning of the EU is very different from what we see today. We are witnessing the imperative and arrogant imposition of policies that are foreign to the member states. Very often this is done by imposing practices and rules that are alien to traditional values and oppose legal systems. The rule of law is a topic that is important for any democratic society. But it is precisely this rule that must not be undermined by the EC, the EP and the EU as a whole.Europe has long been at several speeds. And the countries of the so-called the Socialist camp will always be seen as a third hand. That is why we are for a Europe of the nations, not a Europe of the founding countries and everyone else after them.
Another disagreement with the EU is the Bulgarian veto on the entry of North Macedonia. What is the Bulgarian position on this issue?
There is no way we can support Macedonia in starting EU membership talks, as it does not abide by the 2017 Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighbourliness. The hate speech against Bulgaria in North Macedonia does not stop either. Bulgaria is for the European integration of the Western Balkans, but it will not allow the falsification of history, it will not allow the trampling of national interests. We have not given up helping our compatriots in North Macedonia to become part of the EU. But this cannot be done at the expense of the Bulgarian national interest!
We at VMRO are adamant that politicians on the other side of the border must stop Macedonian propaganda and acknowledge the historical truth. And it is only one and is based on facts and documents. We have a common history until 1945. And the historical figures who gave their lives for the liberation of the Macedonian lands are not natural Macedonians, but Bulgarians, born and found for their brethren in this territory. Macedonia is a geographical name. It is located within the historical borders of Mother Bulgaria. Yes, today, under international law, it is an independent state, but this does not give politicians there the right to demonise Bulgarians and Bulgaria and deny our common history.
We will not allow Bulgarian history to be stolen under the pressure of Serb propaganda. Nor will we accept that the Macedonian language exists and is completely independent and authentic. According to research by historians and linguists from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, this is a dialectal form of Bulgarian. We stated this clearly and categorically in a declaration in the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria. In it, we explicitly state that VMRO will not adopt a decision that contradicts the Framework Declaration of the National Assembly from 2019.
Let me also emphasize that Bulgaria was the first country in the world to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia on January 15, 1992. Bulgaria provided humanitarian and transport corridors in the conditions of the economic embargo imposed by Greece in the period 1994-1995 in order to change the flag, the constitution and the name of the young republic. In 1999, Bulgaria donated 94 T-55 tanks and other weapons to the Macedonian Army, which at that time has several unusable T-34 tanks from the time of World War II. During the refugee crisis caused by the war in Kosovo, the Bulgarian government proposed to the authorities in Skopje to build a Bulgarian military field hospital to treat the sick from the refugee camps and to build a refugee camp in Radusha, 14km from Skopje, where they housed 3000 refugees, supported, fed and treated by Bulgaria. In addition, the Bulgarian Red Cross sent worth of 211 million Bulgarian levs in the form of blankets, clothes and other materials. During the outbreak of military conflict in the northern parts of the country in 2001, Bulgaria defended the territorial integrity of Macedonia.
That is why we have the right to ask for guarantees. And for us, the only guarantee is the undertaking of specific legally binding commitments by Skopje in the form of an annex to the treaty based on the Framework Declaration of 2019. Otherwise, Bulgaria cannot agree to starting negotiations for the accession of North Macedonia to the EU common family, because this is contrary to our national interests. We are convinced that there is no external force capable of exerting pressure to force any Bulgarian government to sacrifice our centuries-old national interests in Macedonia.
Between July and September, there were almost daily demonstrations in Sofia demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Supported by the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev and the socialist opposition, the demonstrations seemed to have lost their force and there were even counter-demonstrations. What is behind these protests? What is the current political situation?
Currently, there are no more protests, except for small groups of people who continue to ignore the provisions of the National Operational Headquarters and gather without masks, to go around the streets and vandalise. However, I want to say very clearly that we are not against the right of people to express their views through peaceful marches and protests. Even in the beginning, when a lot of people were really gathering, we told them that we agreed with some of their demands. But then there were people on the street who just wanted to say they didn’t agree with certain things and policies, while over time things changed a lot. As the protests progressed, they were ridden by people who had only one wish – for this government to fall and for them to come to power regardless of the indirect victims, the economy and etc. Things happened that disgusted the normal people who came to the square, and so the fair protest was completely bled. After a series of provocations and organised clashes with police, the peaceful protesters simply withdrew.
As for President Radev, we have a very clear and precise position. Bulgaria and the people must be foremost for all politicians. Political battles in this global crisis are completely unnecessary and do nothing to deal with the complex situation. That is why the inter-institutional wars must end.
VMRO, in United Patriots coalition, is a part of the centre-right government coalition. What has patriotism brought to the Bulgarian government?
Thanks to the participation of the patriots in power, many things have been achieved. One of the great achievements is the increase of the minimum pension. Thanks to us, the migrant pressure was also stopped. We have made a package of measures related to social parasitism by certain marginal groups. We prevented the signing of the Istanbul Convention, the Migration Pact, stopped a number of provocative and scandalous texts of the LGBTI + communities, the promotion of gender ideology in kindergartens and schools, etc. Leading for this government has become the policy towards the Western Balkans, and this is again thanks to our participation in government. We are constantly fighting and pursuing various policies to support the Bulgarian diasporas outside Bulgaria.
However, I want to emphasise something very important, which we have already talked about. The government’s policy regarding the accession of North Macedonia to the EU. The firm position is also the result of the long-term policy and work of VMRO in relation to our brothers abroad. I want to emphasize again that we want Macedonia to become part of the EU, but not while the politicians there are pursuing an anti-Bulgarian policy.
In 2017, Bulgaria had a serious demographic problem, losing an average of 50,000 inhabitants per year. Has the Bulgarian government managed to change this trend?
We continue to work on measures to overcome the demographic crisis. For the first time, the state is making a package of measures aimed at every family, at every child. From next year, the funds that will be allocated to the municipalities to finance kindergartens, 50 percent of them will go to exempt children from needy families from fees, and the rest of the money will go to reduce the remaining fees. This is the first step towards the requested free kindergartens for all children. Demographic policy is one of the main priorities in the VMRO program. During the 4 years we have been in power, we have taken many steps to promote an educated, reasonable birth rate.
Economic measures are already a fact in the municipalities, where IMRO has a strong representation in the municipal councils, to support young families with children. And now, thanks to a legislative initiative of the MPs from VMRO, in the state budget for 2021, all children will receive benefits as tax relief for parents.
Parliament also adopted another of our proposals – children without a place in kindergartens will have financial support from the state. Thanks to the patriots, there is no longer just social assistance in the National Assembly, but support for a different group of people who have never received state support. We also guaranteed through the state budget funds for the construction of nurseries and kindergartens. This is a serious package to stimulate the birth rate. The current National Assembly, of which we from VMRO are a part, can be proud of that.