What does the BSP see when it looks in the mirror? And what do the majority of European left parties see? One thing is certain – if this mirror includes the subject of Russia, then the images on the other hand are significantly different.
In recent weeks, since the election campaign began, BSP representatives have strongly emphasized a position they have long defended. Both in their meetings with sympathizers and in their media appearances, the formation repeats that sanctions against Russia must be lifted, and negotiations with Gazprom for gas supply – restored.
The BSP emphasizes one more thing – that just like other socialist parties in Europe, they also propose economic measures to help Bulgarians deal with high prices and economic uncertainty. The examples that the BSP leader Cornelia Ninova repeatedly gives, are with the successful leftist governments in Spain and Portugal. Both in Europe and in Bulgaria, there is no way to get through the crisis without a left-wing party in government, says Ninova’s message.
Although she tries hard to suggest that she resembles the modern left parties of the west, however, her BSP does not behave like them. And in some moments it even dangerously resembles some of the far-right formations in Europe. In the following lines, we have collected examples from Austria, Germany and Italy.
“They are killing Europe”
“Sanctions against Russia are not killing Russia, they are killing Europe. It’s time for European leaders to rethink this,” he said a week ago at a meeting with supporters in Razlog Cornelia Ninova. She also called for the resumption of negotiations with Gazprom.
A few days later, in front of Nova News, she again repeated her appeal, as well as the statement that the sanctions of the European Union make no sense, because they harm the EU itself more than Russia. The same thesis that the sanctions “achieved absolutely nothing” was repeated by Christian Vigenin on Wednesday.
“That’s why the way is to remove these sanctions, dialogue and normal relations,” Ninova said in her interview on Saturday. She referred to the Austrian foreign minister, who she said said that “we should start thinking slowly about lifting the sanctions if Moscow turns to Europe.”
The Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Shallenbergwhose opinion Ninova refers to, however, says the exact opposite.
In two of his interviews, published on Friday and Saturday, Schallenberg categorically indicated that the European sanctions are having an effect, and the time for their removal has not yet come.
“Sanctions are becoming more effective every day. Whole sectors of the Russian economy are not working, Russia is falling into recession,” he said.
According to him, the proof that the measures are working is the fact that the Kremlin set as a condition for the release of gas supplies precisely the easing of sanctions. He added that the time to lift sanctions is far from over, as all negotiations require two sides, and Russia is still trying to “manage the facts with military means.”
“It would mean defeating injustice”
Shallenberg is not from a left-wing party, but from the center-right AAustrian People’s Party. Even the representatives of the left political spectrum in Austria, however, do not share the BSP’s position on the sanctions on Russia and Gazprom. From the largest left party in the country – The Austrian Social Democratic Party have not made calls for negotiations with the Russian monopolist. This is happening despite the fact that Austria is a significantly larger consumer of Russian gas than Bulgaria, and in July Gazprom cut supplies to the country by about 70%.
Along with Germany and Italy, it is one of the three countries in Western Europe most dependent on Russian gas supplies, according to the latest research by Fitch Ratings.
However, the position of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (ASP) is that, despite Russian pressure, European sanctions on Russia remain necessary. Although in her public speeches the chairperson of ASP Pamela Randy-Wagner often talks about the negative consequences of the sanctions on the European economies as well, unlike Ninova, she has not called for the lifting of the measures at the moment.
“I have always said that sanctions are necessary, sanctions are important. It is important in this case that Europe gives a united common response and remains united. Because what is the alternative? Shall we turn aside and not watch a European country being attacked and occupied?” she said in an interview with Austrian public broadcaster ORF two weeks ago.
In her words, the sanctions should still be lifted “when they stop having an effect”. However, Randy-Wagner did not say that that moment has already arrived.
“Act like a businessman”
In neighboring Germany, calls for the lifting of sanctions led to a crisis in the party of “The Left”. She came after the deputy’s speech Sarah Wagenknecht last week, in which she accused the economy minister of waging an “unprecedented economic war against our most important energy supplier”. She also demanded the immediate lifting of sanctions on Moscow.
Subsequently, many members of the “Left”, including its leaders, officially distanced themselves from Wagenknecht’s speech, and several of its leading figures even left the party.
Russian military aggression in Ukraine forced the largest left-wing party in the country – The German Social Democratic Party (GSDP), to take a clear stand against the war and take a move away from Russian dependence. The government, headed by the chancellor Olaf Scholzwho is from the GSDP, also made the historic decision to break with his policy of not exporting weapons to war zones and to supply them to Ukraine.
It was the GSDP that was accused of allowing Germany to become too dependent on Gazprom in the past, and that the party’s former chancellor played a key role in this Gerhard Schroeder.
Schröder recently visited Moscow, where he said he met the Russian president in person Vladimir Putin. After his return, he once again stated his claims of dramatic consequences if Germany gives up Russian natural gas – similar to the theses of the BSP in Bulgaria.
Unlike the Bulgarian case, however, Schröder’s continued support for Russia is an exception and has been repeatedly condemned by the party leadership. It also led to consequences – dozens of regional organizations of the GSDP demanded that he be excluded from the formation. The procedure is currently ongoing and will be considered at the second instance in October.
“Gerhard Schröder does not act as an ex-chancellor, but as a businessman, and we must consider his statements in this way. With everything he does and says, he only protects his own interest and that of his business partners,” said the co-chair of the party Saskia Esken.
“And Putin couldn’t have said it better”
There is another nuance among the socialists in Italy – the other country which, according to research, is most vulnerable to the suspension of Russian gas supplies. There, the left not only declares itself against the negotiations with Moscow, but also warns that a potential victory in the elections of the broad right-wing coalition will also mean a victory for Russian interests in Europe.
Snap elections are due in the country on September 25 after Mario Draghi’s government resigned in July. The union of “Italian Brothers” has a great chance to win them Georgia Melonithe far-right “League” of Matteo Salvini and “Forza Italia” on Silvio Berlusconi. While Meloni promises to adhere to Western sanctions, that is not the case with the other formations in the coalition.
Salvini, who has long been accused of being friendly to the Kremlin, a few days ago expressed an opinion that coincided with that of the BSP. According to him, the sanctions against Russia are not working and essentially harm Europe.
“Should we defend Ukraine? Yes,” Salvini said. “But I would not want the sanctions to harm those who impose them more than those who are affected by them,” added the far-right politician.
While Enrico Lettathe leader of the center-left Democratic Party, strongly defends the disengagement from Russia and accused Salvini of doing favors for Putin.
“I don’t think Putin could have said it better,” Letta tweeted in response to his opponent’s remarks.
However, the social democrat expressed other, more serious concerns. After it emerged that Russia had secretly spent $300 million on political influence in 24 countries, Letta called on Italian authorities to publish the funding figures for all parties in the country. And in an interview with El Periodico, he even directly accused Russia of participating in the campaign for the upcoming elections on September 25.
“There is strong interference from Russia in favor of the right because [руското правителство] knows that our position will continue to be in line with the anti-Putin position that the Italian government has maintained until now, while Salvini and Berlusconi are two friends [на Русия]Leta said.