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The Dalai Lama crosses the Indian border - rare document

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The following is the collection of historical documents related to the flight of the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama. Of particular interest, the reports of the Political Officer, Har Mander Singh about his first encounter with the Dalai Lama and his Cabinet ministers. Some words are unfortunately missing in the file which seems to be attacked by white ants. The file is from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, writes Claude Arpi

Incidentally, an account based on Chinese Military Intelligence was recently published: The 1959 Tibetan Uprising Documents: The Chinese Army Documents (China Secrets Book 16) Kindle Edition

It   gave   another   view   on   the    escape    of    the    Dalai    Lama    to    India.   Supposing that the assertion in this book is right, it is also very much possible that the Dalai Lama and his entourage did not know that Mao had ordered “Let him go, if he wants to go.”

The fact that the Dalai Lama ‘crossed the Himalaya under permanent danger of being caught or even killed by the Chinese can’t be doubted.

The author of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising Documents himself admits that Mao would have changed his mind on March 17, 1959 and asked the PLA to stop the Tibetan leader.

Here are an extract of the 1959 Documents.

Misjudgement on the escape of the Dalai Lama

Another legend related to the 1959 Tibetan uprising is the ‘escape’ of the Dalai Lama to India. Supposedly he managed to barely get away from advancing Chinese army units and crossed the Himalaya under permanent danger of being caught  or  even  killed  by  the  Chinese.  This rather romantic legend is disproved for many years. At least by the 1990s when new Chinese archive material became available it became clear that it was Mao himself who instructed the Tibet Military District "To let him go (over the border with India) if he wants to go." Mao issued this order on March 12. He seems to have changed his mind somewhat on March 17 and asked the army in Lhasa to stop him, but then it was too late. After receiving this surprising message, the high commanders of the Tibet Military District just decided to do nothing about it.

Looking at all the original papers available to this author, there is no indication for a search or hunt after the Dalai Lama by any Chinese unit. Units like those stationed in Tsetang and located between Lhasa and the Indian border never received orders to go out and search for the Dalai Lama.

Another option would have been to send those Chinese soldiers stationed in Shigatse and Yadong [Yatung] in the direction of Southern Tibet to cut-off his escape route. Those garrisons just stayed in the same locations during March. The ultimate option would have been the use of paratroopers to block the main mountain passes. In the end, nothing was done, and Mao was not pushing for action.

More  interesting  is  the  first  report  of  the   Dalai   Lama's   arrival   in   India   Report    on    the    entry    of    His    Holiness    the    Dalai     Lama     into     India.     Phase I- Chuthangmu to Lumla

5 April, 1959

On 27 March 1959, Shri TS Murty, Assistant Political Officer (APO) Tawang, received instructions about the possibility of the Dalai Lama seeking entry into India. He reached Chuthangmu to receive the party at 9h hours on 31 March, 1959.

The advance party of the Dalai Lama under a comparatively junior officer had already reached Chuthangmu on 29 March. They stated that the main party consisting of the Dalai Lama, his family, ministers and tutors were expected to enter our territory at 14h hours on 31 March, that there was no sign of the Chinese pursuit and that the party was bringing a small number of porters and would be needing many more from our area.

At 1400 hours on 31 March, the Dalai Lama and his party reached Kenze Mane [Khenzimane] which demarcates the frontier in Chuthangmu area. His holiness was riding a yak and was received by the Assistant Political Officer, Tawang. They proceeded to the checkpost without halting at the frontier.

Dronyer Chhempu [Chenpo or Lord Chamberlain], Personal Assistant to the Dalai Lama met the Assistant Political Officer in the evening and it was agreed that all porters brought by the party from Tibet would be sent back and that porterage arrangements thereafter would be made by us. It was also agreed that all pistols and revolvers, except those in possession of the Dalai Lama, his family and ministers (excluding their servants), and all rifles would be handed over to us for safe custody and that these could be collected at the frontier by those members of the body guard who were to return to Tibet after escorting the Dalai Lama to the plains or that alternatively, we would keep that in our custody and obtain disposal orders from the Government. It was further decided that a list of all Tibetan officers and of entering our territory would be prepared and handed over to the Assistant Political Officer.

The same evening, Shri Kumar, ACTO of the SIB [Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau] in Chuthangmu brought to the Assistant Political Officer [TS Murty], the copy of letter dated the 26th March from the Dalai Lama addressed to Prime Minister [of India] and requested that it should be delivered to the addressee. He stated that two messengers from the Dalai Lama carrying the original letter had already passed through Chuthangmu on the 29th and that he had transmitted the English translation over the wireless to Shillong. He had asked the messengers to hand over the letter to him for dispatched but they had insisted on carrying it themselves and had proceeded to the plains via Bhutan. On the morning of 1 April, 16 rifles and 9 pistols/revolvers were handed over to us for safe custody.

The Dzongpon [District Commissioner] of Tsona [in Tibet] who arrived in the meantime was refused entry after discussion with senior Tibetan officers.

At 09:00 hours the Assistant Political Officer was summoned by the Dalai Lama. Following points were made by His Holiness during conversation with him:

The policy of the Chinese was becoming increasingly anti-religious; the masses of Tibet were restive and he was no longer able to make them put up with the Chinese rule; the Chinese had attempted to endanger his person; Tibet should be free; his people would fight to win their freedom; he was confident that India’s sympathies are with the Tibetans; the seat of his Government had shifted from Lhasa to Ulgelthinse in Lhuntse Dzong and the Government of India should be informed of this very early.

At about 1800 hours, Lobsang [one word missing, probably, Lobsang Samten, brother of...] of the Dalai Lama, reached Chuthangmu and was [one word missing].

The party moved to Gorsam Chorten.

At 15h, the Dalai Lama called the Assistant Political Officer and wanted to know if he had received any news of international developments in regard to his escape, especially the line adopted by India, the UK and the USA in this regard.

The     Assistant     Political     Officer     said     that      he      had      no      information.     On the following day the party moved to Shakti and on 3.4.59 it reached Lumla.

Sd/-Har Mander Singh Political Officer

5 April 1959

Here is another document related to the first encounter between the PO and the Tibetan leader

SUMMARY     OF     DISCUSSION     WITH     SENIOR      TIBETAN      OFFICERS   AT LUMLA

3 APRIL, 1959

Lyou Hsia [Liushar] Thubten, Foreign Minister, Kungo Shase [Shashur Shape], Minister and Chichyap Khempu [Kempo], Secretary to the Dalai Lama came to see me soon after their arrival in Lumla. It was meant to be a social gathering but the Chapes [Shapes] spoke about some important matters while they were with me. Shri [TS] Murty, Assistant Political Officer, Tawang, was also present.

  • After the usual formalities the Foreign Minister briefly recounted the circumstances under which the Dalai Lama was forced to leave Tibet. He said that the relations between China and accepted as a spiritual leader by the Chinese Emperors. There was exchange of visits between the leaders of the two countries which brought them together. The Government of Tibet was, however, in possession of documents refuting Chinese claim of suzerainty over them and in support of theirs being an independent country. In recent past they had endeavoured to regulate their relationship scrupulously on the basis of the 17 point Treaty with China. The attitude of the Chinese after their “peaceful liberation of Tibet” had become increasingly anti-religious. For example, in order to popularize communism they had circulated a story in a periodical issued from Thachido, [Dartsedo or Kanding in Chinese] a town on Sino-Tibetan border, that Prince Sidhartha was forced to leave his kingdom because of the popular feeling against kingship and that he had attained ‘Nirvana’ because he had ultimately realized that peoples’ will was more important than that of the kings.
  • The Dalai Lama himself felt that they should work in and harmony with the Chinese. Indeed during his visit to India was advised by the Indian Prime Minister himself to cooperate with the Chinese in the interest of his country. In spite of [word missing] effort to accommodate the Chinese viewpoint, the Chinese interfere in the religious affairs of the Tibetans had [word missing]. They had desecrated several monasteries in Kham Province and had also killed several incarnate Lamas.
  • On 10 March, the Dalai Lama was invited to attend cultural show in the Chinese area. The people came to know of this invitation and feared that it may be an attempt to remove the Dalai Lama from the scene or exert undue pressure on him. The news spread in Lhasa City and soon a large crowd gathered around the palace and prevented him from attending the Chinese function.
  • On the 11th, a procession of women went to the office of the Consul General, India and asked him to intervene on their behalf with the Chinese. They made a similar request to the Nepalese Consul General also. Their main demand was that the news about the Chinese interference in the religious affairs of the Tibetans and of their attempt to remove the Dalai Lama from Lhasa should be given publicity in the world press.
  • This kind of unrest continued for seven days. At 4 p.m. Lhasa time, on the 17th, the Chinese fired two mortar shells which fell only eighty yards short of the [word missing]. This convinced the Kashag that the Dalai Lama’s life [was endangered] and, therefore, they persuaded him to escape from [the Norbulinka] at 10 p.m. the same night with the Dalai Lama dress [word missing] clothes.
  • They had been listening [word missing] news ever since and had also been getting information through their sources. According to their information, the Chinese came to know of the Dalai Lama’s escape on the 19th March and shelled the Potala, the summer palace and the Gompa at Chakpori on the 20th March.
  • The Dalai Lama’s party escaped via the Southern route. There was a Chinese garrison of about 600 at Tsethang. They were surrounded by the rebel troops and Tibetan Government forces and could not, therefore, interfere with the movement of the party. On reaching Ulgelthinse in Lhuntse Dzong, they established the seat of the exile Government there temporarily on the 26th March. For the present, the Government would be run by the lay and monk commissioners of Southern Tibet known as Lhojes. They had sent instructions to Lhasa that all Government officers and records should be moved to this place.
  • Except for Tsedang there were no Chinese in Southern Tibet.
  • After leaving Ulgelthinse they spotted an aircraft flying over them near Tsona and feared that their party might be bombed but fortunately they were able to reach the Indian frontier without incident.
  • They reached the frontier at 2 p.m. on 31 March and were received by Shri [TS] Murty, Assistant Political Officer, who brought them to Chuthangmu. They had felt very relieved after entering Indian Territory.
  • They had heard the Chinese announcement that the Dalai Lama was forced to escape on the advice of 18 officers who were accompanying him and that these officers had been declared traitors. It was quite obvious, therefore, that they had no place in Communist Tibet.
  • They were quite prepared to negotiate with the Chinese for their return to Tibet and would welcome India’s good offices in this direction. They intended, however, to insist on complete [word missing] for Tibet and would continue their fight till their country was liberated.
  • I said that while we wanted friendship with all countries including China, we had much closer cultural and religious ties with Tibet and were, therefore, happy to receive them in our territory. I also said that our country’s good offices could be effective only if opposing parties had faith in our impartiality. It was, therefore, essential that no attempt should be made by bands of Khampas or Tibetan Government troops to violate the frontier. I said that I shall be grateful if they could suitably pass this on to the correct quarters. Our Government was, however, always prepared to grant asylum on humanitarian considerations and a case was already on record where we had brought the family of a favour Khmpa rebel to Tawang for medical treatment on these very considerations.
  • We briefly discussed the future programme of the party. The Foreign Minister indicated that they might like to stay upto ten days in Tawang. I explained briefly the disadvantages of their prolonged stay in Tawang and said that we could perhaps make them more comfortable in Bomdi La. I made it clear, however that we were prepared to accede to the Dalai Lama’s wishes in the [word missing]. The Foreign Minister said that it would be possible to cut down [word missing] Tawang to about three days.
  • I also said that we shall provide the facilities for travel beyond Tawang to all persons [word missing] the Dalai Lama but there was danger that stray persons escaping from Tibet may take this opportunity and come in along with the main party. It was, therefore, important that the list of persons authenticated by the party should be as comprehensive and accurate as it was possible to make it. The Foreign Minister agreed to this suggestion.

Sd/- Har Mander Singh Political Officer

3 April, 1959.

China

China: Bomb attack in Mingjing kills 5

EU Reporter Correspondent

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A man detonated a homemade bomb blowing up four other people besides himself in Mingjing, a small village in Guangzhou on 22 March. Jeimian, a news website, shared a video of the aftermath, a destroyed office, with blood splattered on the walls and at least two people motionless on the ground.

The Guangzhou Panyu Security Bureau confirmed the bomb blast on its Weibo account. Investigations into the explosion are still ongoing. Xinhua, China’s news agency, described the blast as an ‘act of sabotage’, while several others are attributing it to an ongoing dispute due to the forcible land grab by the government that is causing hardship to the residents. Meanwhile, the blast was claimed online by a pro-TIP telegram channel. The message indicated the blast as the result of the oppression of the Uyghurs by China. It urged more attacks on government buildings and officials across China. The message ended with a shout out call to all Uyghurs to make their voices heard.

However, this is not the first time such a blast has happened in Guangzhou. In 2013, a similar blast had happened in a storehouse for shoe-making materials, in Baiyun district, killing 4 people and injuring 36. The coercion  of Uyghurs is causing a lot of resentment and the brunt of this resentment has been borne by Beijing (2013) and Kunming (2014) as well.

Guangzhou has been witness to several such incidents which have highlighted the simmering resistance in the society. Guangzhou is a commercial hub and hosts a lot of industries. The labour in these industries is sourced from Xinjiang. This serves the twin purpose of changing the demography of Xinjiang and providing for cheap captive labour. Studies have pointed out that between 2017-2019 alone, 80,000 Uyghurs have been relocated from Xinjiang to other parts of China. Footage of these Uyghurs being transported to remote parts of China as forced labour (CBN News, Channel 4 News, BBC) confirms this. The policy involves a high degree of coercion and is designed to assimilate minorities by changing their lifestyles.

Guangzhou by virtue of being an industrial hub has afforded more opportunities for the expression of this angst. Guangzhou hosts a large number of people from Africa and Middle East, who demand halal meat. This is provided by ethnic Uyghur restaurants in the city. The increasing crackdown on Islam in China initially forced these restaurants remove the Arabic signage’s, which brought a dip in their business. Added to this was the ousting of foreigners by the Chinese government to rein in the corona virus spread has resulted in hardships to these Uyghur eateries.

The forced relocation and the restrictive employment opportunities have added to the frustration of the Uyghur minority. This oppression has formed the bulk of the propaganda for Uyghur militant groups such as TIP. Last year, the TIP chief Abdul Haq Turkistani, had appealed to the Taliban and Al Qaeda to support the Uyghur cause. It is not surprising that inspired by the success of the Taliban, the Uyghurs are emboldened to stand up for their rights. A pro-TIP telegram channel claimed the blast as retribution for the injustices met out to the Uyghurs. It further warned of similar attacks across China.

The growing restlessness and insecurity amongst the Uyghur is a cause for concern. Irrespective of the justification and success stories that the government peddles to support its education camps, the fact remains that denying the Uyghurs right to religion and freedom of expression is not only a violation of the Chinese constitution, it is also repression of the human rights. The government will have to rework its policy and ideate on a more heterogeneous approach to the issue.

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France

Strong ticket sales set up Rugby World Cup 2023 for major success

Colin Stevens

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With the general public sale of tickets for the Rugby World Cup 2023 opening on Tuesday, April 6, sports fans the world over will be able to catch a first glimpse of normality and excitement in what many hope will be by then a post-corona world. To be held in France, the tenth edition of the Rugby Union World Cup is set to be a historical event, as it rings in the 200th anniversary of the “invention” of the sport by William Web Ellis in 1823.

To mark the event, and to account for the steadily growing interest in rugby across the globe, the organisers are offering a record 2.6 million tickets in the run-up to the event, sold in a broad two-phase process designed to provide as many places to eager rugby fans and in a manner as organized and fair as possible. Since March 15, pre-registered “Family” and MasterCard users have been able to obtain tickets. This first batch of tickets is available until April 5, with general sale kicking off the following day.

Fair and transparent phases

However, this approach – which differs from ticket sales used for other major sports event in that it “reserves” a batch of tickets to registered members rather than distributing them by public ballot or lottery – came under criticism, when the massive ticket-run briefly overwhelmed the sales website. Following 250,000 simultaneous connections and after selling up to 1,000 tickets per minute at one point, the website crashed for seven minutes, causing frustration among fans.

Even so, it’s important to stress that the principles of “fairness, accessibility and transparency” underpinning the system were never compromised, according to the CEO of France 2023, Claude Atcher. While acknowledging that some fans may be disappointed about what happened, he explained that France 2023 “deliberately wanted to open the website and the ticket sales to everyone at the same time”. Furthermore, World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont also commented that the phased approach was a deliberate choice for making France 2023 “the most accessible tournament to date.”

The world’s greatest World Cup?

In light of the more than 500,000 registrations for the pre-sale, an organisation spokesperson also elucidated that “the process was what we believed to be the fairest. We believe a ballot or lottery is not as fair as rewarding the people who show their motivation to sign up in advance.” As such, these difficulties notwithstanding, the overall success of the sales campaign so far is impressive and speaks for itself. According to estimates by the Rugby World Cup organisers, more than 300,000 tickets were sold on March 15 within twelve hours. Given that the competition is still two years away – scheduled to take place from September 8 to October 28, 2023 – observers estimate that no other sporting event had ever been met “with such success and aroused such collective enthusiasm.”

Indeed, if the overwhelming demand for tickets shows one thing, it is the desperate desire of countless people to return to normality and see their respective teams live on the field after more than a year of coronavirus-induced freeze. It’s therefore no surprise that the sales so far have far exceeded expectations, as well as those of previous World Cups.

As rugby fans the world over eagerly await the tournament, France 2023 is already breaking records before the event has even kicked off.

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Bulgaria

Boyko Borisov's “Russian roulette”

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Regular parliamentary elections in the Republic of Bulgaria are due to take place on 4 April 2021. At the elections, 240 representatives/deputies in the Bulgarian National Assembly will be elected according to the proportional system with closed lists. The total number of electoral units is 31. Depending on the size of the electoral unit between four and 16 representatives/deputies get elected from it. The election threshold is 4%. - writes IFIMES, the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies

In 2016, the Bulgarian Parliament adopted a law on mandatory participation in the elections with the aim of increasing the legitimacy of representatives in the country. The sanction envisaged for the voters to neglect their obligation to vote at the elections is removal from the electoral roll. However, the removed voters have the possibility to be reentered into the electoral roll. Nevertheless, this does not resolve the problems. This is an undemocratic law because the right to vote implies that each voter can decide whether or not he or she would participate in the elections. Voters are not to be coerced to vote or sanctioned if they do not vote. Hence, this in itself is an indicator of ignorance/non-recognition of democracy and the undemocratic spirit of the regime in Sofia. Bulgaria has a large diaspora which traditionally does not participate in the elections. This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the participation in elections will be rendered more difficult even for the voters living in Bulgaria. 

As there are no accurate records, it is assessed that the diaspora includes between 2-2.5 million citizens. In example, there are around 700,000 Bulgarian Turks, who had survived a calamity in the 1980-ies of the last century, living in Turkey, and around 300,000 living in Greece. Will they participate in the elections? The Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), an ethnic party of Bulgarian Turks, is trying to galvanize as many ethnic Turks as possible to participate in the elections. 

The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) published an analysis titled: 2021 Elections in Bulgaria: Bulgarian 'assault' on North Macedonia,


Identity crisis 

Has Bulgaria managed to develop a European identity over the 14 years of its membership in the EU? Namely, Bulgaria is constantly faced with an identity crisis. Throughout its history the process of “Bulgarization” was forcibly conducted in Bulgaria. An example are the Bulgarian ethnic Turks. 

A point of concern is the present systemic stigmatization of Roma. The terms that the ruling structures use to refer to the Roma include “gypsy parasitism”, “gypsy crimes”, etc. At the same time, the authorities are striving to cover up the true number of the Roma in the population. Namely, according to official statistics the Roma comprise around 5% of the population, while the real percentage is two times higher. 

Bulgarians are attempting to present themselves as superior with respect to others and as some kind of a “higher and superior nation”, particularly with respect to the Macedonians. At the time of globalization the similarities and closeness among peoples will progressively increase, identities will become intertwined- all as a part of an inevitable process. As Macedonians have a high level of national awareness and connection with the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC-OA), the negation of their identity and language is pointless. Owing to the circumstances, the Macedonians took Bulgarian passports in order to be able to find employment in EU member countries.  Majority of Macedonians would give up their Bulgarian passports if North Macedonia gets coopted into the EU. Taking of Bulgarian passports is in no way a reflection of their identity or identification with Bulgarians but simply an existential issue (literary a matter of fight for survival). Namely, the Bulgarian authorities have already experienced a fiasco in this respect because a negligible number of Macedonians holding Bulgarian passport, which is below the statistical error, will participate in the upcoming elections in Bulgaria. 

Bulgaria has also disputed the identity of ethnic Turks. Bulgarian Turks have been stripped of their rights through the policy of forcible assimilation and the massive exile in the 1980-ies, under the regime of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. In example, in the period from June to September 1989 alone around 340,000 ethnic Turks emigrated from Bulgaria to Turkey. This was an act of ethnic cleansing, not voluntary departure, as the Bulgarian authorities had presented it at the time. 

Analysts believe that the political rhetoric of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zakharieva (GERB) and the controversial VMRO-BND leader and Minister of Defense Krasimir Karakachanov aimed at negation of identity and language of Macedonians reminds of the rhetoric of Italian fascists in relation to the Slovenians, in which they negated the identity of the Slovenians and the Slovenian language in the early XX century. In Bulgaria patriotism is closely connected with the identity crisis. 

Borisov has been the Prime Minister for 10 years already. In this period the Bulgarian rating with respect to the liberal democracy index has dropped. While Bulgaria became an EU member in 2007, it has still not embraced the true European values, including liberal-democratic standards. Borisov has not been in the Bulgarian parliament for a year already. Dictatorship of the “silent majority” has been established. The reporters have become the adversary, while Borisov's regime resorts to a monologue- one way communication. Withdrawing of money from the funds should not be the very goal of membership in the EU but a means to assist the states to faster and more easily adjust to the political, economic and social standards that exist in the EU and in such a way participate on an equal footing in all the activities within the EU. Integration into the EU, awareness of belonging as a country to a large community, awareness that every citizen of Bulgaria is simultaneously a citizen of the EU, a large political and economic space with 450 million citizens and the largest space in the world ruled by liberal-democratic standards – is something that does not exist with the majority of Bulgarian citizens. The absence of the feeling and perception that they are Europeans, that they have one common identity and should promote common European values of unity and solidarity, is one of the major problems that Bulgaria faces. Unfortunately, not many in Bulgaria have that feeling. Bulgaria, which has been under the scrutiny of Brussels for years already, is no longer forced in any way or given any conditions regarding the respect of liberal-democratic standards, as it had been expected to do during the process of its integration into the EU.  The situation is similar in some other countries that had earlier become EU members. 


International position of Bulgaria 

The Republic of Bulgaria is a state with numerous problems. In this most underdeveloped country in the EU citizens live at the brink of poverty. The economy is ineffective, financial resources are limited and mainly already exhausted. A strong element of oligarchy, which includes around 3,000 individuals, has been established and is now engaged in the fight among clans for distribution of limited financial resources and redistribution of power, property and contracts. The business and financial capital in the country is controlled by several superrich tycoons. In fact, majority of public tenders and resources from EU funds goes through them. Crime and corruption are omnipresent and have become the prevailing “social technology” in management of public funds, as well as in all public spheres. The laws themselves create the conditions for corrupt practices and corruption has become a social norm. 

Bulgaria is trying to find a new balance between its obligations towards NATO and the traditional emotional ties with and sympathies for Russia. As a NATO member, Bulgaria is responsible for a 354 kilometer- long eastern border of the NATO alliance. The border on the Black Sear is less than 500 kilometers away from Crimea and directly neighbours with the area controlled by the Russian Black Sea fleet and the Russian air force. As Bulgaria has the obligation to control Russian military activities at the Black Sea, it is trying to find the right balance in its relations with the two sides. 

Emotional ties with Russia are deeply rooted in the Bulgarian society. The historical and cultural links with Russia and the sympathies for Russia are in collision with the fear spread through the media that Bulgaria could easily be pulled into military showdowns on the Black Sea. Russian President Vladimir Putin had stated that Russia and Bulgaria have historically enjoyed close ties and that Russia will develop its relations with Bulgaria “on all tracks”. 

Essentially, only two “tracks.” Specifically, one is the “South Stream – Balkan stream”, which is an important economic project and an instrument of Russian foreign policy. The other is the attempt of Russia to use Bulgaria to influence (dis)unity between the EU and NATO in order to divide both of these organizations with respect to the sanctions and the security policy, as it has partly already managed to do. That is why Bulgaria is a suitable playground for implementation of “secret activities and operations”, which is confirmed by the fact that one of the main posts of the Russian intelligence service in the region is located in Sofia. Russia has numerous supporters among Bulgarian political elites and citizens, which could be characterized as pro-Russian orientation. 

State Department report critical of Bulgaria

The latest State Department report titled “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bulgaria[2]” of 30 March 2021 is critical of Bulgaria. The part of the report dealing with the freedom of association reads: „Authorities continued to deny registration of ethnic-Macedonian activist groups such as the United Macedonian Organization-Ilinden, the Society of Oppressed Macedonians, Victims of Communist Terror, and the Macedonian Ethnic Tolerance Club in Bulgaria, despite a May judgment and more than 10 prior decisions by the European Court of Human Rights that the denials violated the groups’ freedom of association. On October 1, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed in an interim resolution “deep concern” with regard to authorities’ “formalistic application of legal requirements” applied persistently to refuse registration to the United Macedonian Organization-Ilinden and similar associations since 2006. In November 2019 the prosecutor general acted on Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) leader and defense minister Krasimir Karakachanov’s complaint about attempts by two associations, the Civil Association for Protection of Fundamental Individual Human Rights and Ancient Macedonians, to create a Macedonian minority. The prosecutor general petitioned the court to dissolve the associations, accusing them of a political agenda threatening the unity and security of the nation.”


Boyko Borisov's “Russian roulette” 

Due to its geopolitical position, as well as its close spiritual and cultural relations and connections with Russia, Bulgaria was “invited” to act as a mediator and alleviate the dispute between Russia and the West. Majority of Bulgarians support such a role of the state. However, majority of politicians understand it is entirely unrealistic that a small country as Bulgaria, which is on the brink of poverty, is suddenly positioned as a major peacemaker on the international scene. Nevertheless, Bulgaria has remained divided on the issue of its policy towards Russia. 

Boyko Borisov is playing with the Russians, and Russia has an interest to have its men and women in EU and NATO institutions. Borisov's mindset is that of the KBG. The recent exile of Russian agents is a kind of a farce. Russians have under control the security-intelligence and the defense system of Bulgaria. The exile of several Russian agents means nothing for the Russian position in these sectors in Bulgaria. However, it is important for Borisov to show himself in the eyes of the West as a true fighter against Russia and Russian interests. It is worth reminding that his party, the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party, was established by the CDU and under the auspices of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also his political patron. Is she also the protector of his crimes? Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has strong connections and influence on the Turkish DPS party, is also important for Borisov.  Erdogan and Russia support Borisov. The role of Germany in the region cannot be assessed as positive. If we take into account the fact that the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is the key man for the “North stream” pipeline and Putin's man of trust, then the role of Germany in Kosovo, which is directly opposed to US interests, is of no surprise. A point of specific concern is the role of CDU/CSU members in criminal activities in Bulgaria, which has received more than 40 billion Euros from the EU just because it is an EU member. The failed attempt of imposition of Christian Schmidt (CDU) as the new high representative of the international community in BiH is a sign that one should be cautious when it comes to the German policy for the region. There is also the Germany’s protective relationship towards the Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović.

The current Bulgarian government is a hybrid of “Orbanism” and “Trumpism”, spiced up with crimes/mafia. Boyko Borisov is trying to play “Russian roulette” with all and as a result he has become an unreliable partner whom nobody trusts anymore. Because of the modus operandi and the problematic nature of the Bulgarian Government, the new US adminsitrationn will probably reconsider its relations with Bulgaria, which had openly demonstrated its support to Trump and the Visegrad Group countries (V4).

Analysts warn that Russian security-intelligence services are deeply involved in the security-intelligence system of Bulgaria, which can realistically undermine the security of NATO. This is why Bulgaria is referred to as the Russian “Trojan horse” in NATO. Therefore, inclusion of Bulgaria in exchange of highly classified intelligence can constitute a risk for NATO. Within the framework of the NATO system, intelligence is selected and differentiated so that Bulgaria has no access to important intelligence. 

While Russia did not manage to prevent integration of North Macedonia into NATO, it is now trying through the Bulgarian blockade that is veto, to prolong the beginning of the accession talks between North Macedonia and the EU. Therefore, a reasonable question to be asked is does Russia exercise its interests in the region through Bulgaria. It is interesting that recently in the European Parliament representatives of the CDU/CSU had voted in favor of support to Bulgaria and against the proposal to officially criticize the Bulgarian government regarding the obstruction of the beginning of negotiations between North Macedonia and the EU. The EU adopted the report on North Macedonia, but not the amendment on “provocative conduct of Bulgaria.” The amendment by the Greens and socialists regarding the provocative conduct of Bulgaria towards North Macedonia was not accepted because of the blockade by representatives from the European People’s Party and European conservatives (EPP), where the CDU/CSU has a key role. The authorities in Sofia are doing everything possible to try to “idealize” the situation in the country, which has already become a “case country” in the EU and NATO. 


Bulgaria requires thorough decriminalization and demafiaization

The coalition capacity of the DPS, which is connected with the mafia structures and is closer to the GERB, will be important for the establishment of the new government. The GERB is also cultivating relations with the mafia structures and functions as a cartel, not as a political party. The DPS has already conducted some “hygiene activities” in order to prepare for the coalition with the GERB. The removal of tycoon Delyan Peevski from the list for the parliament and the sale of his media business seems to be a part of the attempts of the DPS to prepare itself to be suitable as a public coalition partner of the GERB. 

The VMRO-BND will probably remain below the election threshold, despite the transfer of people, materials and topics (“North Macedonia”), which were provided and serviced by the GERB. Even if the VMRO-BND manages to become a part of the parliament, and the three parties (GERB-DPS-VMRO-BND) get more than 121 seats, the negative trustworthiness of such a coalition would be a problem from the very start. In such a coalition the GERB would become even more vulnerable to corruption scandals of Boyko Borisov, because of the growing impression that the umbrella of DPS's prosecution will remain above it. In general, the GERB's connection with the DPS, which is already known to the public, will be clearly confirmed. On the other side, the VMRO-BND will once again get rather convincingly exposed as a pendant to the GERB-DPS tandem.  From this point of view, the open GERB-DPS-VMRO-BND coalition seems as an agreement on political suicide. Bulgaria needs thorough decriminalization and demafiaization, for which there has been no political will so far. 

According to analysts, if the orchestrated attacks on North Macedonia do not stop, the EU and the US will find a political option that will represent the future of Bulgaria. Boris's attack on North Macedonia is a suicidal move, which will firstly cost him, and then Bulgaria as well, because the US will not allow Bulgaria to blackmail anyone, and particularly not North Macedonia, which became 30th member of NATO thanks to the support of the US. 

Analysts believe that the upcoming parliamentary elections will therefore be an exceptionally big and important opportunity for the Bulgarian voters to turn their back to such social deformations and request democratic development of their country, towards the necessary prosperity and true respect of European values, including good neighbourly relations, recognition and appreciation of diversity and plurality of modern society, which is what the EU truly is. Maintaining the current status quo in Bulgaria is unsustainable. 

Ljubljana/Washington/Brussels/Sofia, 1 April 2021    

Footnotes:
[1IFIMES - The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia,has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.
[2] Source: US State Department, Report »2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bulgaria«, link: https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/bulgaria/

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IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN, New York, since 2018.

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