The Political Choices of the Bulgarian Center-Right
‘We will put an end to the populism of the Left’ – with this firm promise Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, and current deputy-president of the party ‘Citizens of European Development for Bulgaria’ (abbreviated in Bulgarian as GERB), addressed the Brussels politicians .
On the 10th of April, Hans Seidel Stiftung (HSS) hosted a conference for Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, and current deputy-president of the party ‘Citizens of European Development for Bulgaria’ (abbreviated in Bulgarian as GERB). HSS also organized series of meetings with deputies from the European People’s Party. ‘I thank HSS for the whole help they are giving us, in the sectoral policies,’ expressed gratitude Tsvetanov. Indeed, the links between the Bavarian politicians and the former Bulgarian majority-governing party seem very strong. However, in the early months of 2013, the results of the Bavarian sectoral policies, transplanted to Bulgaria, led to thousands-strong angry protests and to the resignation of GERB’s cabinet.
Now, with the early elections about to take place on May 12th, GERB has just unveiled its electoral campaign. ‘We have a will,’ was the moto of GERB’s national conference, which took place on the 7th of April. The conference was endorsed by international guests, which included German politicians, such as ‘the international secretary for the Christian Social Union (CSU), Susanne Luther,’ and ‘one of the most authoritative German deputies in the Bundestag’ – Hans-Peter Uhl, ‘chair of the working group for interior policy of the CDU/CSU faction’ . The German guests were the first two speakers at the conference.
Bulgarian politics through Bavarian eyes
GERB’s Bavarian midwife
Mrs Luther opened the conference by conveying greetings from the ‘numerous Bavarian friends,’ and stating that: ‘GERB and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria are linked with friendly cooperation from the very founding of GERB.’ ‘That’s why sometimes we are called jokingly the midwife of GERB,’ she explained . ‘GERB grew up from this gentle flower to one big flower, which rejoices all of us,’ added Mrs Luther. She further commented that, ‘with advice and action… and sometimes with well-meant criticism we followed the impressive pathway of GERB from a citizens’ movement to (being) the most successful party of Bulgaria. We always encouraged you, even in difficult times, not to deviate from the course of reforms that you have undertaken.’ The public applauded.
…’the admiration of many German policemen’… and ‘the easy way of Greece’
The Bundestag Bavarian deputy Hans-Peter Uhl was the second speaker at the conference. In his speech Hans-Peter Uhl occasionally digressed into his German election campaign speeches. First he stated that ‘in half a year we also have elections in Bavaria and in Germany’ . Uhl then praised the reforms of Bulgaria’s judiciary system and these of the interior security sphere. Bulgaria and Germany ‘have to work together in order to be able to deal with international crime,’ he stated. Then Uhl focused on his concrete experiences: ‘I was at your (country’s) border …., I saw your police office in Sofia, and what I saw impressed me very much. What a contemporary equipment, you guard your border in such an excellent way, that some German policemen, if they saw that, they would be very, very impressed and admiring.’ GERB has inherited ‘a very heavy heritage,’ added Uhl, but ‘you have shown hope and growth,’ ‘you are on the right way.’ ‘You did not walk the easy way of Greece, with this enormous indebtedness of the country,’ and ‘You did not walk the way of Cyprus, with money-laundering,’ remarked Uhl contentiously. ‘You walked … the stable way, which does not lead to new state indebtedness,’ affirmed the Bundestag MP, ‘with this you became an example for all in this region of Europe.’ The public applauded again.
If only Bulgaria was Bavaria…
GERB’s governing policies have seemingly been ‘made in Bavaria,’ rather than ‘made in Bulgaria.’ If only GERB did not have to govern the poor Bulgarians, but the wealthy Bavarians, the transplanted CSU’s policies would have worked splendidly. However, the impoverished Bulgarians have to deal with an endemic and acute socio-economic crisis. While the equipment of the Bulgarian border guards would bring the admiration of many German policemen, according to the latest available data from the European Commission (March 2013), 49% of the total Bulgarian population and 52% of the children have been at risk of poverty or social exclusion (2011) . Bulgarians spend 85% of their monthly household incomes on basic necessities, the electricity costs being one of the main expenditures .
But all this did not dampen the elated mood at the conference: ‘I wish Bulgaria to continue on this road of interior stability,’ stated Hans-Peter Uhl in his speech. ‘As a German politician, I wish for Bulgaria to fight with us, Germany, for stability in Europe… I want you to tell that this politics is approved of in Germany, that it is approved by us.’ Thus, remarkably, the political path mapped out for Bulgaria remains extreme austerity and poverty even though the social impact of Uhl’s ‘road of interior stability,’ indicate that it has been the road to perdition, rather than the road to salvation. Hans-Peter Uhl’s ‘salvation’ recipe was a repeat of the adage that ‘the European peripheral countries must adopt, or rather import whole-sale a range of German policies from fiscal tightening to labor- and product-market reforms’ . However, ‘the convergence of policies in Germany and Bulgaria has led to opposite outcomes in both countries, showing that Europe will not necessarily be cured by becoming German’ .
. ‘Tsvetan Tsvetanov: GERB will put an end to the populism of the left,’ GERB, (10.04.2013), http://www.gerb.bg/bg/events/eventsdetail/cat_id/5/from/eventslist/id/23224, (accessed 11/04/13).
.’National Conference of GERB,’ min. 29.04, kanal3, http://kanal3.bg/?v=11698, (accessed 10/04/13).
. Ibid., min.37.00.
. Ibid., min.43.30.
. ‘EU Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review,’ March 2013, p. 28 http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=7482, (accessed 25/03/13).
. Krastev, Ivan, and Georgi Ganev, ‘Why Making Europe German Won’t Fix the Crisis,’ (07.04.2013), Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-07/why-making-europe-german-won-t-fix-the-crisis.html, (accessed 20/04/13).