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Bulgaria pledges solidarity with Hungary in rights standoff with EU

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Bulgaria pledges solidarity with Hungary in rights standoff with EU
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SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria will support Hungary in its standoff with the European Union over its democratic record, a Bulgarian deputy prime minister said on Wednesday, adding that the countries of eastern Europe had to stand together in their dealings with Brussels.

The European Parliament, in an unprecedented vote last week, backed sanctions against Hungary, accusing Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government of flouting EU standards on democracy, civil rights and corruption.

This could theoretically result in Hungary losing its EU voting rights – but any one member state could veto such a move, and both Poland and the Czech Republic have already said they would do so.

Krasimir Karakachanov, a member of the anti-immigrant United Patriots, junior partner in Bulgaria’s ruling coalition, said the cabinet had unanimously agreed to forge a common position that would oppose any sanctions against Hungary.

“We think that this is a violation of the sovereignty of an equal member state of the European Union,” Karakachanov told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

“Today it is Hungary, tomorrow it could be Poland, and one day it could be Bulgaria in the dock. Central and eastern European countries should act in solidarity and help each other because they have common problems,” he said.

Poland is also being investigated by the EU over its record on democracy and the rule of law.

Bulgaria, although criticised by Brussels for failing to effectively impose the strict rule of law, is not facing any such investigation.

Its centre-right prime minister, Boyko Borissov, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the EU, has not commented publicly on the Hungarian investigation.

But Borissov’s GERB party voted against the censure motion in the European Parliament last week. He needs the support of the nationalist United Patriots to stay in power, while Bulgaria is regularly criticised by the EU over its failure to tackle corruption and organised crime.

Like Hungary and other ex-communist states, Bulgaria has been critical of Merkel’s decision to take in more than a million migrants, mostly Muslims fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, since 2015.

Also like Hungary, Bulgaria has built a fence along its southern border – with Turkey – to deter illegal migrants trying to enter the EU.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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