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Berlin’s Shift on Russia Exposes Sofia

Berlin's turn to a more assertive policy towards Russia has a direct impact on Sofia. The current government, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), largely shares the Moscow-friendly outlook of Germany’s SPD. Its leader Sergey Stanishev, born in the Ukrainian city of Kherson, held Russian citizenship until 1996 and is a graduate of the prestigious Moscow State University. Links between business people close to the government and Russia are more than close, especially where the energy trade is concerned. That explains the accommodation line pursued by the cabinet, unwilling to antagonize Moscow. But Sofia has been all too happy to hide behind Germany. For instance, in local debates, Gazprom-friendly voices arguing why South Stream should be granted exception from the EU’s Third Energy Package invariably refer to the precedent set by North Stream. 

The shift in German policy is

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Will Bulgaria take Russia’s side?

“I’d like to congratulate all Orthodox Slavs around the world on winning the Third Crimean War and remind them that the Balkans come next. I reckon all Russophiles around this table may congratulate ourselves.” No, this did not come from the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, but from a member of Parliament of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), currently in government. He appeared on a prime-time TV talk show discussing the fallout of the ongoing confrontation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the West over Crimea. In fairness, Nikolay Malinov, who happens to be the owner of the Duma daily, the BSP’s unofficial mouthpiece, should get a thumbs up. For he dared voice the sentiments held by the party’s rank and file. The Socialists, whose leader Sergei Stanishev also chairs the Party of European Socialists (PES), have been careful enough to pay lip service to the emerging

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Prominent Europeans call for action on Ukraine

European politicians and intellectuals call on the EU for targeted action on Ukraine

Shocked by the bloody crackdown in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, over 30 European political leaders and opinion-makers called today for swift action by the EU in support of European-minded Ukrainians. They called on the EU to impose targeted actions against members of the regime, including visa bans and asset freezes.

We are shocked by the bloody crackdown by the Ukrainian regime in the last 24 hours. At the February Foreign Affairs Council, the EU expressed its deep concern with the continuing political crisis in Ukraine and pledged to “respond quickly to any deterioration on the ground”. Today, with people dying on the streets of Kiev as a result of the unwillingness of the Ukrainian authorities under President Viktor Yanukovych to seek political dialogue, it is time for the EU to back its

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Cyprus talks re-start with the US in the driving seat

Victoria Nuland has done it again. Right after voicing her deep appreciation of EU foreign policy, the US Assistant Secretary of State has achieved what the European Union could not: she has managed to cajole Greek and Turkish Cypriots into re-starting talks on the island’s reunification after a five-month break. Cyprus represents a knock to the EU’s pride. The EU’s 2004 failure to use the accession process as an incentive to bring Greeks and Turks together in a shared polity ranks as one of Brussels’ top foreign policy missteps. The end result was that the problem was imported into the EU. Only the Greek part of the island joined the EU, while the Turkish northern section found itself in legal limbo. Turkey responded by blocking Greek Cypriot ships and aircraft from its territory, in breach of its legal commitments to the EU. The Greek Cypriot-led Republic of Cyprus blocked a

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What should the EU do about the protests in Bosnia?

In this year’s Scorecard, against the backdrop of a host of encouraging developments in the Western Balkans, Bosnia’s situation stands out as particularly troubling. The European Union’s policies in Bosnia have had few results in the past year. In fact, the EU’s policies have made little impact on the country since the Scorecard was launched back in 2010. Little has changed, and the sense of “same old same old” is largely met with a shrug. As a Bosnian friend put it, “I can pretty much recycle anything I’ve written since 2006, just changing dates, and it still matches the situation in the country”. Indeed, deadlock is profound in Bosnia: the state system is characterised by constitutional deadlock, dysfunctional state structures, the same old faces in power at various levels, a stagnating economy, and Western policy in paralysis. Pushes for serious change have not delivered, but

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