Ex US Ambassador: If I Was Bulgarian I Would Be Protesting

Diplomacy | July 10, 2013, Wednesday // 14:01|  views

Former US Ambassador in Sofia (2002 – 2005) James Pardew, photo by www.nato.int

Former US Ambassador in Sofia (2002 – 2005) James Pardew sees persisting and mass anti-government protests in Bulgaria as "revolution of dignity in which he would participate if he was Bulgarian."

In an interview for Bulgaria's Sega (Now) daily, the former diplomat says it was already too late for the Cabinet Oresharski, and that he would not be surprised if society sweeps away many of the "old" parties and politicians.

Pardew further explains that he was not surprised by the February resignation of the government of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, amidst mass protests against poverty, corruption and stagnation, adding he even expected the "regime" to be toppled earlier.

To him the rallies that started in the winter and are ongoing now represent the true awakening of Bulgarian society. He sees the demands of the protesters as clear and firm – bring an end to corruption and mafia in high echelons of power, in a rejection of politics of the past and a call for a true change.

Pardew voices the opinion that it would be good for political parties in Bulgaria to notice the above and make decisive changes if they wish to continue their existence.

According to him, the latest events could be the beginning of the replacement of the old political guards with young, talented and strong leaders.

The ex diplomat, however, warns that the old guards will resist and will hold on to power as much as they could.

Regarding situation in the media, he points out he traveled to Bulgaria in the wake of the last general elections and has been stunned by the dimensions of political threats and control on them exerted by the GERB government of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov.

Pardew says media freedom is declining and there is an unhealthy concentration of media in very few hands with owners not being interested in presenting objective information, but being rather led by their own political agenda.

He explains how PR articles are often presented as unbiased information while the government uses huge money, some from the EU funds, to influence the press, TV and radio and make them dependent all while journalists are often being threatened and attacked.

The former diplomat notes that free and independent media are one of the foundations of a strong democratic society and praises the many dignified, respected, and talented Bulgarian journalists, who know what to do and how to make changes.

Pardew points out democracy in Bulgaria is in decline, blasting GERB for instating fear and media control. He sees government corruption as a huge issue; institutions that Bulgarians are the most interested in - education, healthcare and culture as struggling to survive, and the gap between the poor and the wealthy widening with the middle class being squished.

The former ambassador underscores the Cabinet Borisov failed in all of the above, while the US wants as a partner a strong and thriving Bulgaria ruled by solid democracy.

The series of anti-government protests in Bulgaria was triggered by the scandalous appointment of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski as Chair of the State Agency for National Security (DANS).

Although the appointment was revoked, the people went on to demand that the cabinet resign collectively over ties with oligarchs.

According to Pardew, the blunder with Peevski showed to society that the government of Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, endorsed by the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, was going to stick to old practices and nothing has changed, which would ultimately lead to its demise.

Regarding the extremist nationalist Ataka party, the former diplomat says it is not in the best long-term interest of Bulgarians, voicing hope it would fade with the stabilization of the political situation. He explains he had worked during his career on the Balkans against such parties as they are always similar in their hate, and desire for exclusion and for destruction.

In connection with the investigation of the terror act in the Black Sea city of Burgas a year ago, which killed 5 Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver, and the possible Hezbollah involvement, Pardew advises Bulgaria to resist internal and external pressure and ground the decisions only on established facts.

The former ambassador stresses he was speaking as a private person, not as a diplomat on behalf of the US government.

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Tags: US Ambassador, James Pardew, protests, protest, rallies, BSP, GERB, Boyko Borisov, Plamen Oresharski, Delyan Peevski, DANS, media, freedom, Ataka, Hezbollah, terror act, Burgas


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