BREAKING: Poroshenko will participate to EU summit as Ukraine wanted

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 29/08/14

Published at 20.45hrs Brussels time. Diplomatic sources just told me that the services of Council President Herman Van Rompuy just invited by email EU heads of state and government to the EU summit starting at 17.00hrs tomorrow (not 16.00 as previously announced), at which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “will make a communication”.
Obviously, Ukraine has succeeded to have its President participate to the summit, and have a real session on Ukraine.
My information is that Ukraine had made this request, kept on insisting, but for many days had faced a refusal.

Read: Kyiv asks EU summit to discuss Ukraine

Electing Tusk as Council President is a sanction against Russia in itself

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 29/08/14

EU leaders are meeting tomorrow to elect successors to Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton. They are also expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine, where reportedly the Russian army has openly invaded, and decide further sanctions.

The Ukraine situation has strongly boosted the chances of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to succeed to Van Rompuy. Poland has been the most ardent supporter of pro-European Ukraine and his election will certainly deal a blow to Moscow.
As a journalist I have many times witnessed the irony with which Russian officials describe their EU counterparts, namely Van Rompuy and Ashton. I’m sure they would be more respectful of Tusk.
Electing Tusk will also confirm the stature of Poland as a major player in the EU. Poland’s major strength is that the country is strongly pro-European and that its 10 years of EU membership can be described as a success story, illustrating the benefits of EU enlargement and EU reunification.
Poland’s turbulent history has had many low periods, but this time POLSKA is at its peak.

MH17: Why didn’t the EU put its flags at half-mast?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 25/07/14

Every little act is a symbol that you care. I fail to understand why the EU didn’t put its flags at half- mast following the downing of MH17. Friends from France, Spain, Bulgaria called me and asked: did the Commission put down its flags? It didn’t.

The Malaysian airplane carrying 298 people of which 222 Europeans was shot probably by mistake, but it was a murder. Those are innocent victims of another war on European territory. The Netherlands, a country that lost 193 nationals in the crash, took the lead in the identification of the bodies. Dutch government buildings flew the flag at half-mast on 18 July, the day after the crash. But I don’t think the Dutch felt that the EU was with them on that day. By the way, Downing Street has put the Union Jack down, as 10 UK citizens perished in the crash.
Many European citizens felt as bereaved as the Dutch. But the EU institutions left them down.
P.S. This is the answer I got:…

Vassilev-Peevski, CCB bank run: oligarchy in Bulgaria exposed

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 13/07/14

Credit dossiers for a total of 3.5 billion leva (1.78 billion euro) of Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) have disappeared and a sum equivalent to 206 million leva (105 million euro) has been withdrawn in cash upon order by its president of the supervisory board and the majority shareholder Tzvetan Vassilev, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) announced on 11 July. Tzetan Vassilev is left on the photo.

BNB Governor Ivan Iskrov also said the license of CCB will be withdrawn, the bank will be declared bankrupt and all deposits and accounts of individuals and companies, with the exception of the accounts of Vassilev, will be transferred to CCB’s subsidiary bank “Crédit Agricole Bulgaria”, which will be nationalized.
Vassilev spoke from Vienna, denied any wrongdoing and basically said the developments were a conspiracy.
So much for the news. Now some comments.
Several media in Bulgaria titled “The robbery of the century”. It is assumed that CCB, one of the few Bulgarian-owned banks in the country, is the “bank of the power” – this is where most of the state assets used to be deposited.
In return for the favour, CCB contolled a media empire which paid lip service to the government – previously of Boyko Borissov, presently of the coalition between the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the Socialists. The media empire also badly attacked political foes and critics, including in the media.
A key figure in the story is Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker and MEP from DPS. Deevski is right on the photo. As it is common knowledge, the biggest concentration of Bulgarian media ownership and distribution concerns primarily the New Bulgarian Media Group Holding, of which Peevski’s mother Irena Krasteva is the owner, and of which credible press investigative reports suggested long ago that Vassilev is the creditor. I wrote about it myself some time ago.
In fact, the European Commission’s latest monitoring report on Bulgaria’s deficient law-enforcement system largely focused on Peevski, without naming him.
CCB has also reportedly financed the expensive European election campaign of the party “Bulgaria without censorship” of former journalist Nikolay Barekov, who is now an MEP. Vassilev has made no secret he wanted to play a role in politics. Barekov denies having been financed by CCB.
Then, the relations between Vassilev and Peevski deteriorated greatly, for undisclosed reasons. The Bulgarian prosecution took seriously Peevski’s signal that Vassilev had hired three people to kill him and investigated Vassilev’s offices, which contributed to a bank run on CCB that accelerated the early elections.
According to media reports, DPS has largely taken control over the siphoning of Bulgaria’s state resource, in terms of public procurement, governmental decision-making and law-making. Also according to publications in the Bulgarian press, the Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov often appears to act (or not to act) according to Peevski’s will.
Now the main topic in Bulgaria is “who will pay” over the salvaging of the bankrupt CCB. Some views support the conspiracy theory – unnamed big creditors created the bank run, so they will not have to pay.
In Bulgaria, huge wealth is visible (against the background of massive poverty), although few economic activities exist. It is assumed that much of the wealth has been created during a major previous bank crisis, in 1996.
Maybe we see a remake of the story. How was it possible that CCB and Peevski created such a powerful center of oligarchic power? Despite the fact that several media outlets in Bulgaria have warned against both against Vassilev and Peevski’s alleged foul play? How is it possible that the Bulgarian Central Bank did not notice for years the wrongdoings of CCB, before Iskov cried wolf a few days ago? Why major political forces were so largely silent, what was their interest to keep their eyes wide shut? Who are those people and companies who safely withdrew their millions just before the bank run became obvious?
Vassilev’s bank offered extremely generous interest rates for savers, and this is why most of the Bulgarian elite had put their money in his bank.
Many Bulgarian commentators today speak as if they were paid communicators by Vassilev. And nobody in the Bulgaria major TV stations asks those commentators before inviting them to comment: do you have put your money in CCB?
I don’t have any and will try to remain objective when returning to the matter.

Game over for Stanishev in Bulgaria. New life for him in the EU Commission?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 06/07/14

Stakes are high that Sergei Stanishev, (outgoing) leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and (still) President of PES, the Party of European Socialists, will be his country candidate for EU Commissioner.
Boyko Borissov, former Prime Minister said bets that Stanishev will be the Bulgarian candidacy, to be announced by the outgoing Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski. Borissov is better informed than me on home issues.

Oresharski said he will resign on 23 July. He also said he will attend the extraordinary 16 July EU summit, where top EU jobs will be discussed.
In an article I wrote for the Bulgarian press, I appealed for the President Rossen Plevneliev to represent Bulgaria at the 16 July summit. I also suggested that political forces should agree before that for a candidate. Current Bulgarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, current Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, appears to be a strong candidate for the next EU executive and it would be logical that Bulgaria would bank on her.
Stanishev made many mistakes, the biggest being the attempt to appoint Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker, as head of the country’s law-enforcement agency. Another has been to accept a government formula with the support of the extremist Ataka party. Further mistakes included waging an all-out war with political opponents inside the Bulgarian left, which brought anxiety and despair among the supporters of this political force.
When I wrote the article I wasn’t aware of the date of the resignation of the Prime Minister. It looks absurd that Bulgaria would be represented by an outgoing prime minister. Bulgaria has a long-standing practice that its President attends EU summits. Especially if there is a good reason for it.
In the meantime, yesterday (5 July) a forum of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was held, where a decision was taken that a Congress (the highest decision-making structure) would be convened on 27 July to elect a new leader, and that Stanishev was not going to be a candidate again.
This basically means that for Stanishev, it’s game over in Bulgaria. But does it mean that he should be given another chance to follow up at EU level?
It’s very much in the hands of Oresharski, and of Jean-Claude Juncker. The future Commission President may just mechanically take up the candidacies from capitals and play the (Russian) roulette gamble with the hearings in Parliament. Or Mr. Juncker could say: Stanishev is not a good candidate for the project I intend to lead.

BREAKING: EU, US sanctions work: Rogozin stranded in Transnistria as Ukraine denies overflight

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 10/05/14

Yesterday Dmitry Rogozin, a top Russian official,bragged on twitter that he was able to land in Transnistria overflying Bulgarian and Romanian airspace, because Ukraine didn’t let him go. Rogozin was in Tiraspol for the 9 May celebrations.
But now he is stranded in the breakaway region, as the US has put pressure on Romania not to let him go.

Rogozin is on the EU and US sanctions list. Currently a deputy Prime Minister responsible for defense, he is a former Russia Ambassador to NATO, and quite a personality. He describes himself as a “troublemaker” and his Twitter account has over 11.000 very alert followers, if you know what I mean.
Big question is: how did Bulgaria and Romania let him go on the way in to Tiraspol? Apparently Kyiv is a better Western ally than Sofia or Bucharest.
I learned about Rogozin’s movement thanks to Christo Grozev in Twitter.
Read the full account of Rogozin’s Transnitria trip on his Twitter account @DRogozin
Read Christo Grozev’s on Rogozin’s movements on his Twitter account @christogrozev
READ MORE in Christo Grozev’s blog…

What will you celebrate on 9 May?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 24/04/14

That’s the question to be asked in Ukraine, but also in Moldova, and possibly in other countries from the former Soviet sphere of influence. Many in Ukraine are likely to mark Europe’s Day. We remember the EU flags on Maidan, and it would make sense if pro-Europeans would show the colours again.

But 9 May is in all post-Soviet countries the Day of Victory, День Победы, marking the end of World War II, which cost the USSR 20 million dead. The capitulation of Nazi Germany took place on 8 May 1945, but it was announced in the USSR on 9 May.

It can be anticipated that Russia will do its utmost to mark 9 May in Eastern Ukraine, in Moldova and some other places, so that the world would see “who is together with Russia” in the current geopolitical confrontation.

Russians have a new expression for these territories – Новороссия, or New Russia.
Undoubtedly, on 9 May Moscow will employ anti-fascist symbols. And there will be a lot of USSR flags. The Soviet flags with the hammer and the sickle were one of the symbols of the celebrations of the Crimea “referendum”. Russian propaganda calls pro-European forces in Ukraine “fascist”.
It would not be mistaken to consider that those who would attend the Victory Day parade are seeking immediate unification with Russia, and those marking Europe day hoping for a more distant EU membership.
If two rallies are held in the same city, the potential for confrontation is significant. I asked the Commission how they see the security risk on 9 May. The essence of their response was that the Commission had more pressing issues rather than to think about anniversaries (watch from min. 10).
In my country, Bulgaria, the saying goes: tell me what you celebrate on 9 May, and I will tell you who you are.

Pro-Russia Donetsk Republic orders all Jews “to register”

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 17/04/14

I am based in Brussels and cannot confirm the authenticity of this document, but I guess it deserves attention.
A website of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk has published a photograph of a leaflet propagated by the authorities of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” with the following content:

“Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community in Ukraine supported Bendera junta in Kiev and are hostile to Orthodox Donetsk republic and its citizens , the Main Headquarters of the Donetsk republic ruled as follows :

All citizens of Jewish nationality over 16 years, residing in the territory of Donetsk sovereign republic, need until 3 May 2014 appear in front of the Commissioner for Nationalities in the building of Donetsk Regional Administration, Office N. 514 for registration. The registration fee is U.S. $ 50.

You should have cash in the amount of U.S. $ 50 for registration fee, your passports where your religion will be marked, documents of your family members, as well as documents attesting of the real estate property owned by you and your vehicles.

In case of failure to register the perpetrators will be stripped of their citizenship and deported forcibly outside the country with confiscation of property. Your Peoples’ Governor Denis Pushilin”

Putin’s propaganda calls the pro-European Ukrainian citizens fascists. Who are the fascists, actually?

Ukraine crisis: what went wrong?

Who and when has messed things up, such that after Crimea’s annexation, we speak of a new Cold War. According to my journalistic notes, the root of the problem stems from November 2008, when we first heard talk about the “Eastern Partnership”, which some said was modeled on the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, a project that is dear to me because I was the Pact’s spokesperson until March 2008, when it passed into history.

The Eastern Partnership appeared as a response of the Mediterranean Union, an initiative that Nicolas Sarkozy launched at European level on the occasion of the French EU Presidency, in the second half of 2008. Poland and Sweden countered with an initiative in favor of the remaining countries of the European Neighbourhood policy, those from the East: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Thus, under the Czech EU Presidency, on May 7 2009 in Prague, the Eastern Partnership was launched. The initiative foresees the possibility for the conclusion of association agreements and free trade deals, similar to those which the EU had already offered the Western Balkans. The difference was that the Western Balkans had been promised EU membership when they met Brussels’ requirements, while the Eastern Partnership countries received no such promise.
The Prime Minister of Ukraine at that time was Yulia Tymoshenko, supposedly pro-EU, but in fact she hurt those relations with her conflict with then-President Viktor Yuschenko. In late 2010, Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential election. Though he was considered a pro-Russian leader, it was under Yanukovych that the Association Agreement was agreed upon and initialized. It is indeed ambitious, and I’m glad I was the first to publish about it in this blog, in December 2012.
In the meantime, on 7 May 2012, Vladimir Putin became president again. Shortly before that, as prime minister, he first mentioned plans to create a Eurasian Union on the basis of the Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, founded on 1 July 2011. In the EU, my impression is that no one took these plans seriously.
On the one hand the EU progressed with association agreements with Ukraine , Moldova and Georgia; on the other hand, Russia sought to extend the Customs Union in post -Soviet territory, including to those same countries.
The turning point came the day when Yanukovych said that Ukraine wants to be a member of both the Customs Union and to sign an Association agreement, and a Brussels official said that the EU Association agreement is not compatible with the Customs Union. It’s either-or, the anonymous official said. This was in December 2012.
Initially, no one paid much attention to these words. No one in European Union institutions realised that this was a de facto declaration of war. Any further statements by Brussels that the signing of an Association agreement with Ukraine was not directed against Russia did not sound serious. The next developments are widely known, culminating in the refusal of then-President Yanukovych to sign an Association Agreement during the summit in Vilnius on 28 and 29 November last year.
Two weeks ago, Pierre Vimont, the number two in Catherine Ashton’s External Action Service, said that the EU was “pushed into the wall by Cold War reflexes”. He also said that the choice between the Association Agreement and the Customs Union was not as “inescapable” as initially thought.
“What strikes me is when we ask is this really incompatible as it’s really said, we discover, discussing with our experts, that maybe it’s not exactly that, and we can find a common ground,” Vimont said.
So much about facts. Now for my commentary. Asked who they prefer, Russia or the EU, the Ukrainians are divided , but in Bulgaria, the country I know best, society is not unanimous either . Happily enough, when entering the EU, no one offered Bulgarians an alternative.
The Presidential elections on 25 May will show whether a majority of Ukrainians would prefer the EU or Russia. What is less clear is if the minority will accept the choice of the majority, or Ukraine will split up.
Otherwise, the EU and Russia will sooner or later have to assimilate their neighborhood projects: Whether it will be called Trans- European area from Lisbon to Vladivostok, or a Common Economic Space , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is to overcome the current crisis. It’s a big one, indeed.

Serbia in EU? Well well well…

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 22/03/14

Fifty eight per cent of Bulgarians approve Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with 38% against. A similar percentage of Bulgarians were against the NATO strikes on Belgrade over the Kosovo ethnic cleansing by Milosevic. And were against the Kosovo independence.
Each time the going gets tough, a stable majority of Bulgarians approve Russia against the West. Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski reportedly said that his country is likely to use its veto right if the EU decides to impose heavy sanctions on Russia.

Butt let’s look at Serbia. Bulgaria’s western neighbour is even more pro-Russian and its economy is even more dominated by Russia than Bulgaria’s.
The Crimea crisis will have a lot of consequences. It would be logical that that the EU won’t take on board any new ‘Trojan horses’. By the way, a hardcore nationalist has just won absolute majority in the Serbian elections.

P.S. The combined Serbian and Russian flags on the image, a Serbian “souvenir”, say: “Same colors, same faith one blood”.

Reuniting Europe rss

Georgi Gotev is senior editor of EurActiv more.