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Sanctions 'hurt' Russia and the EU, says Bulgaria President Rumen Radev


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Sanctions 'hurt' Russia and the EU, says Bulgaria President Rumen Radev

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Bulgaria’s new president was elected on a wave of discontent. After 10 years in the EU his country is still the poorest in the bloc and considered the most corrupt. Some in the international community are concerned that President Rumen Radev’s mandate could mark a step towards Russia, but the president contends this does not entail a step away from Europe.

To discuss these issues and more Isabelle Kumar spoke with the president at the Presidential Palace in Sofia.

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“Why can’t Bulgaria get its act together after so many years?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“I think we need to take an objective look at the problems in Bulgaria as part and parcel of the problems of the EU. Of course a number or problems remain, namely poverty, the feeling of an absence of justice, the demographic crisis is a huge problem for Bulgaria, resolving these problems require decisive measures from those who are at the helm.”


Tackling corruption

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“Bulgaria has got a corruption problem. You have just been issued a warning by the EU, the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception index has marked Bulgaria as the worst performer in the EU. What makes you think you will be able to succeed where your predecessors has failed?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“Yes there is corruption in Bulgaria, but I could not say that Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the EU, Bulgaria is making efforts to fight corruption but I am sure we need to make much bigger efforts we need to bring together the efforts of institutions, political parties, civil society organisations and the entire country (he says – ‘society’) in order to fight corruption and crime.”

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“One problem in tackling this is the political instability in your country. You are now going to have the third government in four years. There are going to be elections in late march. How can you grapple with these fundamental issues when you are rocked by this instability?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“You are right in that. Political instability gives birth to a number of other problems to the economy, to justice.
I do hope that the next elections will give us a parliament which will be able to think more about the interests of the people, that would adopt leglislation in the interests of the people and that the government with swift and decisive measures would re-instate trust to the state institutions.”


Between the Kremlin and the EU

Radov is considered to be Russia-friendly. He has called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia. He has also expressed his interest in balancing Bulgaria’s commitments to the European Union and NATO, while maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia.

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“When you were elected some said you were Moscow’s candidate and your election was a loss for Europe. You say you will try and have a balanced approach but is it possible to serve two masters – Moscow and the EU?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“Frankly speaking I do not understand this question. I graduated from two US military academies and organised and conducted many NATO excercises here in Bulgaria bilateral and multi-national ones.”

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“You have advocated an easing of sanctions and a detente with Russia….”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“Yes I definitely think sanctions do not bring about definite benefits – they rather hurt the economies of Russia and the European Union.”

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“There is obviously the situation of Crimea, that is why the sanctions were imposed in part, if one lifts the sanctions does that then mean we are ignoring international law?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“Of course the Crimea annexation was a violation of international law – and Bulgaria firmly supports all principles of international law. The big question is how long Europe will remain divided by sanctions which undermine trust – 5 years, 10 years, 50 years.”

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“There will be a vote on upholding those sanctions in the European Union in July – will you push therefore for Bulgaria to vote against the continuation of sanctions?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“There is a lot of time until July. The situation is literally changing by the day. Let us imagine an interesting situation. When the administration of President Trump and President Putin come to an agreement on improving dialogue, and growing trust, decreasing confrontation through the prism of sanctions, how would Europe react?”


Tracking terrorism

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“You just mentioned President Trump, Donald Trump has made a link between refugees, migration and terrorism – do you concur with him on that?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“As we have already witnessed there have been cases of terrorist attacks and these attacks were quite serious. If they become more frequent what would that mean to Europe?”

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“Some would argue that this is a misinterpretation of the facts.
Many terrorist attacks have actually been carried out by nationals of those countries?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“Some of these terrorist attacks have been conducted by second and third generation of migrants. This is a very serious issue. On the other hand there have been terrorist attacks carried out by people who came within the flow of migrants and this is taking place right now so this is a substantial mix of threats so when talking about terrorism we should not overlook any one threat if we indeed consider the security of European citizens substantially.”


Relocating refugees

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“On the issue of immigration and European Union refugee policy you have said you are not for the relocation of refugees and the quota system proposed by the EU – at the same time you say Bulgaria is a compassionate country – how can you combine the two?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“Very easily. It goes without saying, In Bulgaria we do every thing we can to help people fleeing the horrors of war but we have to see the difference between refugees and illegal immigrants.

“What are the criteria of a successful integration? And I think Europe has a problem with that. It is unclear how much financial resources it would take, what the impact on the social system would be – how many people Europe can provide shelter for and at what price.”


From Air Force to President

Isabelle Kumar, Euronews:
“Finally President you are inexperienced when it comes to politics – you are a former commander of the Bulgarian air force, do you see that as a hindrance or a help when you are faced with these many challenges?”

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev:
“There are both pros and cons. The absence of experience in politics is a problem but it could also be a huge advantage because in present day politics what is needed is impartiality and objective views and people who don’t think of politics as such, not of their political parties interests but of the nation and here I have an advantage.”

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