30 Aug 16

Bulgaria’s Impossible Balancing Act

Fear rather than ambition is driving Bulgaria’s juggling act between Turkey, Russia and the EU.

Dimitar Bechev BIRN Sofia
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, shake hands before a meeting in Istanbul. Photo: Kayhan Ozer/AP

Never mind the holidays, it’s been a busy summer for Bulgaria’s foreign policy.  It all started in June with an impassioned speech by the President, Rossen Plevneliev, who reminded the European Parliament that “Crimea is Ukraine and Ukraine is Europe”. 

Shortly after, however, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov shunned a Romanian plan for a NATO flotilla to patrol the Black Sea. 

Seemingly oblivious to the massive Russian military build-up there since 2014, Borissov called for the demilitarisation of the sea, saying: “I want yachts and tourists, not frigates cruising around”.

That, however, did not stop Bulgarian from pledging to contribute 400 troops to a new multinational brigade in Romania, green-lighted at the NATO summit in Warsaw in late July.

Come early August, Borissov was on the phone with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, discussing a gas hub on the Bulgarian coast, a revamped version of South Stream gas pipeline, and even a revival of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant that was aborted in 2011.

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