#Macron to apologize to #Bulgaria for sake of French national security

| November 8, 2019

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) just caused a diplomatic scandal with his remarks in a French far-right magazine that he preferred legal African migrants to the illegal Ukrainian or Bulgarian gangs. What is ironic is that Macron did not even realize that with this comment he was putting in jeopardy French national security, writes Iveta Cherneva.

The Bulgarian Ambassador to France handed the French a protest note on Monday (4 November). It is safe to say Bulgarians won’t take this lying down.

In Bulgaria, we also prefer hard-working Vietnamese to the French jihadists which will be crossing into the EU through Bulgaria, coming back to France from Middle East terrorism hotbeds.

Somehow French jihadists do not define France; they are the mistakes that society needs to fix: “it’s not who we are”. But for Bulgarians, apparently the criminality element defines them. Then on this occasion, I am turning this sort of essentialism right back against France.

Speaking of criminal networks, Bulgaria doesn’t have a problem with home-grown terrorism. France does. Counter-terrorism intelligence among EU members is key. Macron must have realized that Bulgaria’s geographic location as a gateway to the EU and closest entry point to the Middle East means that Bulgaria will know and discover things about ISIS fighters with French passports returning to Europe. We will have that information first, before the French intelligence services.

What happens to French jihadists when they enter the EU for the first time – possibly in Bulgaria – is a hot-button issue.

President Trump has been adamant that Western European nations including France need to take responsibility for their ISIS fighters. They are “theirs”, not for the world to deal with, the same way Bulgarian traffickers are Bulgaria’s responsibility. But France doesn’t want to deal with their jihadists because they don’t know what to do with them. The evidence from war zones will simply not hold in court. There are hundreds, if not thousands of French ISIS fighters. How do you try all of them? This presents a huge security question and that’s why how they are handled from point of entry is key.

So on this point, Bulgaria might decide to listen to the US, not France. Whether we decide to simply send them back home to France for the French to figure out how to deal with them on French soil, or not, the point is that the French might not have a say in this. If we are not one big happy EU family and we insult each other, then each country is free to act as it decides. Macron did not think of this. Bulgarian cooperation should never be taken for granted. We could play ball, or we might not. It depends. What we don’t like it being insulted.

The return of ISIS fighters is one of those thorny issues for which there are no hard EU rules – just good will.

Maybe Macron bumped his head somewhere. Maybe he was just pandering to the French far-right. Bottom line is he needs to cut the crazy talk.

Bulgarians, unlike Ukrainians, are citizens of the EU with equal rights whether Macron likes it or not.

After blocking North Macedonia and Albania from EU accession talks last week, Macron is becoming the bad guy with the French accent in the Balkan action movie.

A big chunk of Hollywood action movies are produced and filmed in Bulgaria nowadays. A rotation of villains in action movies is periodic. The next baddies in Hollywood movies might as well be jihadists with their French accent. How is that for cultural stereotyping? I hear again: “but no, that’s not us.”

France is EU’s number two aspiring to lead the Union, but that sort of crazy rhetoric won’t get them there. France needs a following from smaller states for this to happen. A powerful state is not really influential without a following within the political group of states it aspires to lead.

If Bulgaria decides it doesn’t like that French attitude, it can start being difficult on many, many points which are actually vital to French security and politics which the French didn’t even anticipate. Because when someone is cooperating it is not immediately noticeable what harm it could do if they stopped all of a sudden.

For the EU to work, EU members need to cut down on insults. Stereotypes and insults on nationality grounds are plentiful in every country. We have many French negative stereotypes too, but they have no place in serious politics.

Oh yes, and I want Macron to apologize to Bulgarians.

Iveta Cherneva is an author of four authored/co-authored books in the fields of security and human rights who previously served for five UN agencies and in US Congress. Her recent commentaries have appeared in Euronews, The New York Times, The Guardian, London School of Economics, The Fletcher Forum, EU Reporter and others.


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Category: A Frontpage, Bulgaria, EU, France, Opinion

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