Bulgarian Prime Minister called the pro-Russian party neo-fascist

Ahead of his first visit to Brussels on June 27, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov declared the pro-Russian radical party Vazrazhadane, a neo-fascist organisation, because of the aggressive behaviour of its leader and supporters.

“A neo-fascist party is storming the parliament, appearing in the national media, and declaring war on European values, which are also Bulgarian. Without a courageous European stance in the media, Bulgaria will lose the fight for its European identity”, Denkov said, concluding his remarks with a quote from Bulgarian philosopher Professor Georgi Fotev.

Konstantin Kostadinov, head of the Vazrazhadane party, is also considered a Russophile, anti-American and Eurosceptic with anti-immigrant and anti-NATO views. In March 2022, he received a 10-year ban from entering Ukraine, which was attributed to the persistent pro-Russian rhetoric of his party.

On May 21, protests led by Vazrazhadane vandalized EU offices in Sofia, and Vazrazhadane MP Emil Yankov promised to send political opponents to the communist-era Belene concentration camp. Last week in Varna, Bulgaria’s largest city on the Black Sea coast, Vazrazhdane supporters made death threats against the opposition in front of police.

On June 25, Kostadinov incited violence and called on his supporters to ‘exterminate’ the party’s political opponents. This call was made in connection with the attempted coercion by the Russian special military group Wagner and was directed against those who oppose Russian dictator Putin.

Despite repeated incidents, Bulgarian police did not act against party members. In conclusion, Mr Denkov called on the authorities to take action, especially against the recent calls for violence.

Mr Denkov’s statements come on the eve of his first visit to Brussels. The new Bulgarian leader will meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. On Thursday and Friday, he will attend the EU summit.’

The elephant in the room

Denkov’s meeting with Ursula von der Leyen will be focused on the Vazrazhadane referendum against Bulgaria’s membership of the Eurozone. Legally, the referendum will not cancel Bulgaria’s membership of the Eurozone, as promised in the EU accession treaty. Still, Vazrazhadane wants it to be postponed until 2043, when Bulgaria’s incomes will approach those of the wealthiest EU countries.

The required signatures have been collected for the referendum, and there is a risk that a majority will vote in favour of delaying eurozone membership. In theory, the referendum could take place as early as this fall, in parallel with local elections in Bulgaria.

While Vazrazhadane’s campaign against the EU single currency is in full swing, there has yet to be a publicity campaign to explain to citizens the benefits of joining the Eurozone.

According to EURACTIV sources, the EU wants the new Bulgarian government to reduce referendum risks and more actively counter Russian propaganda and disinformation.

New Justice Minister Atansas Slabov said: “As a democratic society, we cannot allow violence in the political process to become the norm. Slabov also called on the Bulgarian investigative authorities to open an investigation against Vazrazhadane”.

Kostadinov then asked the television station to give him more time to speak.

This week, the Sofia Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had opened an investigation against Kostadinov on charges of incitement to violence and hatred. The legal analysis will last up to three months, after which it will be decided whether there is enough evidence to prove the crime.

Prosecutor’s office officials told EURACTIV that there are two options. One is incitement to hatred and violence, and the other is propaganda of fascist and anti-democratic ideology. If enough data is collected after the investigation is completed, the supervisory prosecutor could open a case for fascist propaganda.

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