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Future of Europe discussed at debate, hosted by Millenium Club Bulgaria

From left to right: Rumen Cholakov, Sergei Stanishev, Tomislav Dontchev [Mediapool]

Millennium Club Bulgaria, a think tank of Bulgarians born after the 1st of January 1981 who studied (or are still studying) abroad, hosted on Monday (14 January) a talk show in Sofia about the future of the EU, and voiced ambitions to participate in the European elections. Georgi Gotev has the story.

The participants in the talk show were Rumen Cholakov, 27, a lawyer by training, currently an associate in the London office of Kirkland & Ellis International, Tomislav Dontchev, Deputy Prime Minister in Boyko Borissov’s government, representing the party GERB, and Sergei Stanishev, former Prime Minister and leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

In the last months, Millenium Club Bulgaria voiced the ambition to take part in the European elections, with three options: being incorporated in the lists of existing pro-European parties, being included in the lists of a political force yet to be formed, or establishing their own political force.

The website Mediapool quoted Cholakov as saying that he had been abroad during the last 11 years, and has realized that to be successful in an international environment, a Bulgarian needs to be ten times better than the locals. The same, he said, applied for Bulgarian MEPs, who in his words needed to be as good if not better that the best parliamentarians from older Europe, if they want to be “on the table, not on the menu”.

Neither Dontchev, nor Stanishev made any openings to Millenium Club Bulgaria. The latter is not even sure that he will appear of the list of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, as a result of ideological differences with the BSP leader Kornelia Ninova.

BSP say they will draft the list according to proposals from local party organisations. Asked to comment before the debate, Stanishev said it was not very wise for BSP to emphasise its differences with PES. “It’s better to look at what unites us”, he said.

The PES leader described three scenarios for the EU. The first in his words is the EU of the status quo, embodied by EPP, the European Peoples’ Party, to which Borissov’s GERB is affiliated.

“It is a Europe of inequalities, which has already became unbearable”, he said, referring to the ‘yellow vests” protests in France and in other countries.

“Europe has become a machine for punishments”, Stanishev said.

The second scenario, the PES leader continued, was of the “Europe of Nations”, a name which may sound appealing to some, as the return home in times of crisis is a normal reaction. But he added that Europe’s problems could not be solved via national solutions, and that the golden ages described by some never existed.

The third scenario in Stanishev’s words is “Europe of recovered values”, of solidarity and mutual respect. He admitted that the leaders with courage to engage in such a path were few.

Dontchev too painted three scenarios: integration, total disintegration, and partial disintegration of the EU, in the form of a two-sped Europe. He admitted that it was increasingly difficult to explain to EU citizens how does a state function, let alone how does the EU function. Moreover, he said, this was happening in times when it’s very easy for someone who claims unicorns exist, to create a community of people in social media who believe in unicorns.

Dontchev said that one of the problems of the EU was that it didn’t have a big plan. As an example, he said it was a pity that the EU had lost the chance to be at the forefront of an effort to conquer the planet Mars.

The Deputy PM expressed an interesting idea: introducing a “day without EU” in the calendar, when people would need visas to cross borders, or would pay customs duties to import goods. “This would drastically reduce the number of eurosceptics”, he said.

Cholakov said it was worrying that too many politicians were using the strategy of identifying an enemy who should be hated.

“Behind the project of Europe of Nations is the attempt to put the freedom of expression under control, and not only this freedom”, he said.

The President of Millenium Club Bulgaria advocated  Europeans electing directly a EU President, who should replace the Commission President. He also made the forecast that the EU will be confronted with a new financial crisis in the next two years.

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