Bulgaria’s New Government – Pact with the Devil or Way out of the Impasse?
Dimitar Bechev, Lecturer, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA)
Mina Kirkova, Journalist Deutsche Welle, Sofia
Daniel Smilov, Member of the Management Board, Director of the Rule of Law Program, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
Cathrin Kahlweit, Correspondent for Central and Eastern Europe, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Vienna
The parliamentary elections in Bulgaria in April (the fifth elections within two years) once again produced no clear winners. Forming a government was difficult and led to a novelty: GERB-SDS and PP-DB have joined forces for 18 months; first Nikolai Denkov (for PP-DB) will lead the government for nine months, then former EU-Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (for GERB-SDS) will follow. The two parties, which are at bitter odds with each other, were brought together by their common Euro-Atlantic orientation and the desire to avoid a sixth ballot, which, according to the polls, would have produced similar results for GERB-SDS and PP-DB while possibly bringing additional votes for the Russophile far-right party “Vazrazhdane” (Rebirth) – which, with almost 14 percent, is the third-strongest political force in the National Assembly.
The new government has set its goals high: Key priorities are the budget, the judicial and constitutional reform, as well as the entry into the Euro zone and Schengen. However, there is a lot of potential explosive fallout within the cabinet. It is unclear what role Boiko Borissov plays behind the scenes and what influence Moscow has on domestic and foreign policy as well as the economy. But also the society is divided, and many PP-DB supporters feel betrayed that PP has made the “pact with the devil”, since the PP had ruled out any cooperation with GERB during the election campaign.
Against this backdrop, we would like to discuss with experts the political situation in Bulgaria and the prospects for the coming months. We will also focus on foreign and security issues in relation to Russia and Ukraine, but also regarding Bulgaria’s bilateral relations with neighboring North Macedonia and Turkey.