Co-leader of Bulgarian PP Party, Kiril Petkov of the centrist ‘We Continue the Change’ party, is sworn in as Prime Minister today. (See previous listings for Bulgaria elections in November and December 2021).
Challenges for the new government include addressing Covid in a country in which there has been a very slow uptake of vaccinations: less than 30%. Electricity and heating bills are on the rise, as they are elsewhere in Europe. The economy needs to be addressed, again as elsewhere in Europe, with Covid-19 creating many problems. Corruption needs to be addressed that has been left over from the previous administration and confidence in the judicial system needs to be restored.
At the same time, in the Balkan region, Russia has built up a heavy military presence along the Ukrainian border and there is concern globally that Putin may try to annex Ukraine, as he did with Crimea in 2014. Bulgaria is a NATO state. Ukraine is not. Petkov has said his government would focus on averting armed conflict using all diplomatic means possible, but that they remain firmly anchored with the west (FT).
Additionally, there is ongoing friction between fellow EU members with Poland and Hungary.
The new Bulgarian government are keen to encourage North Macedonia’s entry into the EU within a 6 month timeframe, now that the name dispute has been settled with Greece. North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since December 2005 but the name dispute was not settled with Greece until 2019, when Macedonia became ‘North Macedonia’. Mr Petkov has already spoken to North Macedonian Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, confirming his support of the same and wants to improve relations between the two countries. North Macedonia has historical connections with Bulgaria and many Bulgarians reject the notion of a separate North Macedonian identity and language, Slavi Trifonov being one of them. One objection is that North Macedonian text books refer to Bulgaria has having been fascist in the 1940s when Bulgarian forces occupied what is now North Macedonia. It is hoped that investments in finance, infrastructure and culture can bring the two closer countries together.
Petkov’s government consists of four parties (a quadripartite coalition): his own centre left PP party; the centre left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP); centre right (according to Euractiv; FT refer to them as ‘liberal’) ‘Democratic Bulgaria’ (DM) and the anti-establishment, socialist ‘There is Such A People (ITV) founded by cable television presenter Slavi Trifonov. A mixed bag but if corruption can be kept at bay then it might just work.
Sources and further reading:
Third time’s the charm? Bulgaria’s November elections and the elusive quest for a parliamentary majority
New Bulgarian PM proposes ‘very fast process’ to lift North Macedonia veto
New Bulgarian PM pledges U-turn on North Macedonia’s EU ambitions