More problems for the EU: Nationalism in Bulgaria may impact European Parliament vote

A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refugee camp in the town of Harmanli, southeast of Sofia in November 2013. Bulgaria’s asylum centres are severely overcrowded

A wave of nationalism, fuelled by a flow of Syrian refugees, integration of the Roma community and Russia’s interference with Ukraine, is expected to have an effect on Bulgaria’s European Parliament vote on Sunday (May 25th).

The situation has provided a fruitful terrain for nationalist movements and parties, including the Ataka party, which is represented in the parliament, as well as the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, and some newcomers like the Bulgaria Without Censorship party, which has allied with the country’s oldest nationalist party, the Bulgarian Nationalist Movement.

Although nationalist movements and parties are unlikely to gain substantial representation in the EP, their influence is extremely negative.

“We are talking about 10% of all voters at most, but nationalist messages and hate speech set a negative tone for the whole media environment,” Dimitar Bechev, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told SETimes.

He added that in many cases “the prosecution and the court fail to apply the criminal code” to punish such speech or actions.

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Perhaps the Bulgarians thought they were entering an era of free speech after Communism fell and they joined the EU.