Berlin and Brussels both sold the European Union’s credibility “too cheaply” with their support for centre-right ally prime minister Bokyo Borissov, an opposition politician claimed. Hristo Ivanov, a former justice minister who now leads the anti-corruption Yes Bulgaria movement, said Mr Borissov’s abuses of power had been ignored because of his role in upholding the EU’s migration pact with Turkey. The multibillion-euro pact – brokered between EU countries and Ankara during the height of the bloc’s 2016 migration crisis – led to a huge drop in the number of people attempting to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece.
“It’s a very typical thing: an empire is at its point of eclipse when it allows its border policy to be handled by local warlords,” Mr Ivanov told Politico.
“The thing is that the unequivocal support of Germany and the European Commission for Borissov is selling the credibility and political capital of Europe and Germany too cheaply.
“They could have gained the same level of cooperation without being so unprincipled and without demoralising the Bulgarian public.”
He added: “We have a lot of experience of trying to draw the attention of the competent institutions to eurofund abuses, and they are extremely generous with Bulgaria.
“Somebody in Berlin is making a cynical calculus: a billion more or less, who cares? As long as you buy the good favours of Borissov and you keep him stable … who cares about some ‘tips?’”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are both members of the centre-right European People’s Party alongside Mr Borissov.
Mr Ivanov also questioned the EU’s role in European politics if the bloc’s officials could not uphold rule of law across its member states.
He said: “If the EU is unable to guarantee minimal standards of rule of law in a member state as weak as Bulgaria, what is it good for?”
He insisted Brussels has “wilfully closed its eyes to what is happening in Bulgaria”, adding: “This level of state capture in Bulgaria was only made possible by the easy drug of EU funds.”
Sofia has been rocked by weeks of anti-government protests amid anger over Mr Borissov’s management of the country.
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Mr Borissov’s political party, Gerb, has said there was “no tolerance for corruption in Ferb and the government”.
A spokesman added: “Prime minister Borissov has repeatedly declared that he will not protect anyone accused of corruption.”
Mr Ivanov helped launch the latest wave of protests with a stunt declaring a stretch of coastline allegedly illegally occupied by Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkey party, Ahmed Dogan, as his new headquarters.