A centre-right Bulgarian MEP has added to the widespread criticism of Emmanuel Macron following the diplomatic rift provoked by the French President’s comments about Ukrainians and Bulgarians.
The row flared after Macron spoke of "clandestine gangs" of Bulgarian and Ukrainian migrants.
The right-wing French magazine Valeurs Actuelles published an interview with Macron who said he favoured legal quota-based migration to illegal workers, contrasting Guinean or Ivorian migrants who work legally to "clandestine gangs of Bulgarians and Ukrainians."
The comments triggered an outcry across the EU’s eastern member states as well as Ukraine, where the Kyiv government summoned France's ambassador.
Bulgarian ECR MEP Angel Dzhambazki has now sent an open letter to the president of the European Parliament David Sassoli and all MEPs. In it, Dzhambazki demands an apology for the “defamatory comments” made by Macron.
He also insists that the European Parliament “as an institution should support Bulgaria and call for an explanation.” The Bulgarian member also questions the “pro-European stance” of Macron “as there have been numerous cases of discrimination and double standards against Eastern Europe.”
The letter, seen by this site, reminds MEPs of “the darker times in French history” and warns against “dangerous generalisations” and calls Macron’s comments “ugly manipulation” which aims to “stigmatise and link Bulgaria to organised crime.”
“This is pure racism and xenophobia. Macron’s statement is a scandalous demonstration of reverse discrimination. It is outrageous he claims the moral high ground when hundreds of thousands of French people have been protesting against his policies for months” Bulgarian ECR MEP Angel Dzhambazki
He writes, “This is pure racism and xenophobia. Macron’s statement is a scandalous demonstration of reverse discrimination. It is outrageous he claims the moral high ground when hundreds of thousands of French people have been protesting against his policies for months.”
Dzhambazki adds, “The statement is offensive to the presidential institution and France as a European leader.”
Sassoli, from Italy, is yet to comment on the issue but critics have accused Macron of playing up his antipathy towards illegal migration in an attempt to appeal to supporters of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Le Pen, who leads the populist National Rally party, recently declared that she would stand against Macron in France's 2022 presidential election. The pair faced off in the second round of the 2017 vote.
Bulgaria's president last Sunday slammed the remarks and Macron and Bulgaria's leaders are due to meet soon to discuss the country's ambitions to join the Schengen area of visa-free travel and begin the process towards joining the euro.
Bulgaria’s populist Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, however, has downplayed the scandal, saying he had had a telephone conversation over the controversial quote with Macron who assured him that he had not meant to criticise Bulgarian citizens, migrant workers, or institutions, and reiterated his support for Bulgaria.
Borisov said that Macron had been active in the recent election of Bulgaria’s former EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva as head of the International Monetary Fund.