The processes leading to the demographic shifts in Bulgaria were accelerated by in and outbound migration flows over the last 20 years, against a backdrop of scare campaigns against refugees and migrants crossing the Turkish and Greek border on their way to the heart of Europe. Bulgarian nationalists have risen to power and prominence and have been able to manually control immigrant flows, giving precedence to their favorite mix. The finding in the above referenced ‘secret’ report focuses on the ethnic Russian and Russian speakers as the largest ethnic minority – larger than the minority of ethnic Turks. This has been made possible by the emigration of more than 2 million Bulgarian citizens that have undermined traditional indigenous minorities. A large number of Bulgarian Turks have not renewed
Years ago while still in Moscow, in the course of trying to analyze and understand the motives behind different actions of the Russian authorities, I tried to seek the opinion of various people in Moscow – both those close to power and the opponents, who often command the intellectual heights in the dispute. One of the interesting topics in the early years of Mr. Putin reign, was the subject of the quiet Russification of Crimea. The pattern was exemplary for Russia’s foreign policy. In those days I had no idea, that the issue might end up with a imaginable “Bulgarian” tag. It was obvious, that the Kremlin would not chew the loss of the peninsula. It launched an offensive and a plan of economic conquest, including mass purchase
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As alluded to in previous analyses, there is a very diverse and intriguing picture behind the official results of the tender for engineering, procurement and construction of the Bulgarian section of Turkish Stream. A deeper look into the tender procedures would offer ample ground to reason that so far it has defied European standards for project development and management, being closer to the model Gazprom uses along the entire South Stream chain of projects from Anapa on the Russian Black Sea to the Baumgarten Hub. The original idea of engaging a Saudi company rests on the premise that, as a strategic ally of the United States, a company from the Saudi Kingdom could potentially “shield” Gazprom’s operation from Western and US sanctions. One can hardly anticipate that
Some time ago, a Kharkiv-based site hosted a typical Kremlin propaganda piece featuring an ultimatum to the Bulgarian government – either you agree and secure free passage for Turk Stream, ignoring EU and US reservations, or Gazprom will shut off natural gas supply, and Bulgarians will freeze next winter. Such provocative language blended with ultimatums is hardly what the Russian government can afford, at least at the formal level. Neither Maria Zaharova, nor Peskov, nor Putin, nor Lavrov would openly threaten a nuclear first strike. This is where the hybrid Russian “scaremongering” machine comes into play – the radical loose-talk politicians like Zhirinovsky, or media makers like Kiseljov, or the cloak and dagger “knights” like Leonid Reshetnikov. Working in the shade and in halftones, they seek to
This is the key line Russian President Putin used at the plenary session of the International Arctic Forum, which was instantly relayed by all Russian media, mainly by TASS, Russia Today and Sputnik. There is nothing new in this vintage Russian propaganda, which is echoed by pro-Russian politicians in the EU – Russian gas is indispensable and the cheapest gas in the world, while US-sourced LNG is expensive and inferior in quality. EU budgets, he asserts further, will have to compensate European consumers for the price difference between US LNG and pipeline gas from Russia. Even if one sets aside the basic fact that the budgets of EU countries and that of the Russian state are profoundly different in structure, the EU legal and regulatory bases make it
My favorite Russian diplomat is Ambassador Chizhov. He tops my rankings as the most outspoken Russian diplomat on a range of hot topics in EU-Russia relations. He is entrusted by the Kremlin to challenge the EU on its home turf each and every time the European Council, the European Commission or the European Parliament passes a motion that affects Moscow’s interests. One clear mark of President Putin’s personal trust in him is the fact that Vladimir Chizhov is spending his record 14th year in office as Russia’s Permanent Representative to the European Union. He did not waste time in reassuring Russians and Russia’s friends and partners that the amendments to the EU Gas Directive passed by the European Parliament on April 4th, amending key regulations for gas pipelines
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The presidential elections in Ukraine invite a revisit of one of the toughest questions for EU policy in the post-Crimea world – how to respond to Russia’s rising belligerence, facing imperfect choices amidst a variety of constraints and unknowns. There are two lines of thought, both acknowledging the undeniable fact that Ukraine is the outpost of the EU’s and NATO’s defense against Russia. Yet, the West has failed to translate this prima facie truth into a comprehensive set of policies within a long-term context. Here is an attempt to summarize what can be done to remedy this essential security gap, starting with the problem’s kernel – Ukraine’s energy dependence on Russian gas. Addressing this key challenge in a pragmatic way should outweigh the immediate benefits of arguing
Bulgaria’s natural gas monopoly has finally announced in public its intent to buy natural gas in the second quarter of 2019 for its needs using an open and competitive procedure. This is the official narrative, at least what Bulgargaz is trying to sell to the public. The volumes are more than modest – 22 million cubic meters in April and 62 million cubic meters in May and June. That is nothing dramatic, yet the management and the government media use the opportunity to trumpet a major shift in Bulgaria’s longtime allegiance to Gazprom, as the country remains the sole SEE state with a near total dependence on Russian gas. The national gas company, Bulgargas, has long been accused of acting as a Gazprom proxy with Stockholm syndrome, refusing