Prime Minister Acad. Nikolai Denkov addresses European Parliament: It is our responsibility that a free, democratic and united Europe may live forever!


Speech of the Prime Minister within a session of “This is Europe” plenary debate


Esteemed Madame President of the European Parliament,

Esteemed Chairs of the Parliamentary Groups in the European Parliament,

Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

Esteemed Mr. State Secretary,

Esteemed Madame Commissioner,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is an honor for me to stand before you, the representatives of united Europe in this beautiful city that is packed with symbolism. On this day 105 years ago, a few days after the armistice that put an end to the First World War, the French troops entered Strasbourg. Tomorrow is the day when 79 years ago General Philippe Leclerc and the 2nd Armored Division of the French Free Army aided by the Allies, liberated Strasbourg from Nazi occupation.

Strasbourg is a city with an eventful and turbulent history. It was part of the Roman Empire; next, it was within the boundaries of the Frankish Empire and of the Holy Roman Empire; for a short period of time, it was an independent free city and in the last two centuries, it changed hands between France and Germany.

Etymology interprets the name Strasbourg as a city at the crossroads. In the past, these roads saw more soldiers and tanks than merchants and goods and heard more gunshots and groans of wounded and dying people than songs of travelling musicians. In the past a crossroads location was often a curse rather than an advantage. In the past these roads divided people, today they connect people. In the past, the sky above Strasbourg was torn by the eerie howl of shells, fighter jets and bombers whereas today there fly passenger planes, shining balloons and children’s colorful kites. In the past, Strasbourg was the Apple of Discord, today Strasbourg is the White Dove of Peace and the symbol is here.

In the past Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin tried to unite Europe through wars of conquest and to subjugate other nations by force of arms. And the more brutal and unscrupulous the wars became, the shorter their success was.

Today, for the first time in its centuries-long history Europe is united peacefully in an equal union of independent states, where the main values are solidarity, freedom, democracy, equality before the law, rule of law, respect for human dignity and for the fundamental rights of all citizens. Strasbourg, where you sit in session, is the seat of the European Parliament of united Europe, the guarantor and guardian of these values.

Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

My country is one of the earliest states in Europe and the name Bulgaria has been saved ever since its foundation in A.D. 681 down to this day. Throughout its millennial history, it was forcibly annexed for 167 years to Byzantium and for nearly five centuries to the Ottoman Empire. Yet our country rose again owing to the figures of the Bulgarian National Revival – Paisiy Hilendarski, Georgi Rakovski, Lyuben Karavelov, Hristo Botev and many others. One of them, Vassil Levski, who the Bulgarian people call the Apostle of Freedom, is the spiritual inspirer of an independent European Bulgaria. In 1872, he proclaimed that Bulgaria should be, I quote, “a democratic republic in which all nationalities – Bulgarians, Turks, Jews – will be equal in every respect and all will live under the rule of law that will be common for all and decided by majority vote of all nationalities. To be equal with other European nations depends on our own joint efforts.” It is so very relevant today too that there is nothing to add to it.

In its recent history Bulgaria has been a target of continuous attempts to be put under domination, some of which were successful, by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, these Great Russian aspirations continue even today and our country is a target of calculated hybrid attacks. Putin’s secret services and propaganda are taking advantage of the country’s economic and resource supply dependence on Russia and of the historical and cultural ties between our nations to divide our society into Russophiles and Euro-Atlantics who oppose each other. Therefore, Bulgaria’s full EU and NATO membership is the strongest guarantee for the continuation of the democratic and European path of development of our country. We must therefore complete our European integration by our accession to Schengen and the Eurozone. I avail of the occasion to thank warmly all MEPs who supported Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen and thus help us overcome a European injustice.

Although the country’s course of history was full of challenges, Bulgaria has always been an integral part not only of the military achievements of Europe (let me recall the thwart of the invasion of the Arab Caliphate at Constantinople by Khan Tervel in 718), but also of European culture and Enlightenment – probably the most illustrious example is the Cyrillic alphabet invented by St. Clement of Ohrid in late 9th century on the basis of the Glagolitic script of St Cyril and St. Methodius. It is our aspiration that modern Bulgaria makes its worthy and significant contribution to the development of the European Union. It is understandable that in most of the countries that joined recently, especially in the poorer ones, they tend to see the European Union primarily as a source of generous funds, aids and as a place of better-paid employment. We are convinced that this stereotype of thinking must be destroyed, so let me paraphrase the well-known thought of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what the European Union can do for your country – ask what your country can do for the European Union.”

Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

Unfortunately, the European Union is not an isolated island of peace and prosperity. A devastating war has been fought on its border for almost two years now, in which the Russian invaders have been trying to put down the Ukrainian people’s longing to live in an independent, free and democratic country. No less bloody is the revived armed conflict in the Middle East triggered by the brutal terrorist attack of Hamas against civilians, women and children and Israel’s large-scale military response that has already killed thousands of Palestinians, including many women and children. The outlook for the conflict to expand and become a regional conflict is not to be underestimated, especially given the volatile situation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen and the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iran and of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Тhe situation in the Far East is likewise alarming where North Korea continues to provoke the world community with its nuclear program for military purposes and the regular launch of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The ever-growing tension between China and Taiwan also poses a great risk.

The situation in Africa, south of Europe is unstable, too. In recent years, democratically elected governments in several countries in Central and West Africa – Gabon, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso – have been deposed by the military. It is alarming that some of these coups were carried out with the essential help of the PMC Wagner mercenaries and led to the installation of pro-Russian regimes. If we add to this the ongoing civil wars in Libya, Sudan and Ethiopia, the anarchy in Somalia and the numerous terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and other countries, we see an extremely alarming world of instability across most of the continent.

We cannot turn a blind eye to these geopolitical challenges. To deal with them, Europe must be strong and to be strong, it must be united. The two main ideological and political trends in the European Union, conservatism and liberalism, can and should move forward not in sharp opposition, but in mutual understanding and cooperation.  The borders of our countries, the history and traditions of our nations, Christianity and the family are conservative values that the modern world continues to need. Europe’s borders, which have become so visible in recent years because of the migrant crisis and the war in Ukraine, are a natural generalization of this conservative value. However, the world is changing and becoming more and more global and liberal ideas are making their way not only in the economy but also in politics, culture and international cooperation. The rights of women, of minorities, of the different ones, of the immigrants are now an integral part of liberal democracy. We need to eliminate the extremes and unite around the best conservative and liberal values for the sake of Europe’s future. We must fight hatred as a political tool and polarization as a political platform to gain power. This is the only way to regain the confidence of the citizens and to move forward. A united and strong Europe must play a more active role in international relations, as an influential and strong mediator and guarantor of peace. At the same time, the European Union must consolidate ties with its strategic NATO allies and strengthen its defense capabilities in cooperation between countries within the Union, while it carefully considers the idea of the institutionalization of a single European army.


Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

Given the complicated international situation, the enlargement of the European Union assumes exceptional importance. Bulgaria has always been a resolute supporter and adherent of the accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union. At the same time, we believe that the countries in this region that is critical for the stability and peace in Europe should accede when they meet all needed requirements. Accession must be based on real achievements that demonstrate the candidates’ desire to develop as an integral part of the European family and must not be a result of political calculations. I welcome the Commission’s decision to recommend that accession negotiations should open with Ukraine and Moldova. We hope that Georgia will join this group in the near future. Undoubtedly, the European Union needs to strengthen its institutions and its capacity for enlargement, but we believe that this important process and the work to absorb new members should go in parallel and concurrently. The decision that the reports on the rule of law should be valid for the new members is a good guarantee of control. The countries in question will feel evaluated according to a standard that applies to the member states too. All previous enlargements of the European Union show that an increase of the number of the member states does not weaken the Union, which on the contrary becomes stronger and stronger.


Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

Today Europe is often showing some signs of fatigue of the war in Ukraine and voices are being raised against the support to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian refugees. More and more Europeans are asking themselves why we should bear the burden and hardship of a war that is far away and between two countries that are not part of the European Union. Wouldn’t it be better to make some concessions to Putin and let the war end? The Latin phrase „Pax potior bello“ is quoted as is its modern version “Even the worst peace is better than the best war”. But it is also good to remember a thought of the American philosopher George Santayana quoted by Winston Churchill in reference to the Munich Agreement of 1938: “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” It is sad to remember how attempts to placate Hitler with continuous concessions ended. The same holds true today. Putin’s war against Ukraine is actually Putin’s war against Europe. When we help Ukraine, we help Europe. When we defend Ukraine, we defend Europe. Otherwise, Moldova could find itself in the situation of Ukraine tomorrow, the Baltic republics could experience it the day after tomorrow and Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and other European countries come next.


Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

The increasing wave of immigrants is a direct consequence of the wars and of the unstable global environment. Because of the great attractiveness as a place to work and live in, the vast majority of asylum seekers choose Europe. However, the European Union is not in a position to host an unlimited number of immigrants without jeopardizing the normal function of its institutions. Moreover, the integration of a large number of immigrants already there goes at a slow pace and is not satisfactory as evident from a number of incidents, attacks and assassinations, committed by radicalized individuals, a large number of who were born, grew up and attended school in countries of the European Union.

We need a new strategy that clearly differentiates war refugees from economic immigrants. The European Union must do everything possible to facilitate the reception of refugees and take all necessary measures to stop and discourage economic migrants. Moreover, the necessary balance must be struck between solidarity and real possibilities, both of the individual countries and of the European Union as a whole. We hope that all these issues and challenges will be taken into account in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum. In this regard, I would like to remind that Bulgaria has met all requirements for accession to the Schengen area and any further delay is unacceptable and demotivating to the country and its citizens. We are aware that currently the very functioning of the Schengen Agreement is facing serious problems and many countries are resuming control on their borders but we do not think that this can be an argument against the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. With our two countries in, the Schengen area and Europe’s borders will be better protected and Europe will be stronger.


Esteemed Members of the European Parliament,

Let me finally recall a touching story about war, aid and solidarity.

On 5 March 2022, a few days after the invasion of the Russian troops in Ukraine, the following message was uploaded on the official FB page of the Slovak Border Police:

“An 11-year old boy from Zaporozhye walked to cross the border from Ukraine to Slovakia. He carried a plastic shopping bag, the passport was tied round his neck and a phone number was written on his palm. The boy was alone as his mother had to stay in Ukraine.“

“My name is Hasan. I am 11 years old. I have two sisters and three brothers.” This is how the boy introduced himself to the astonished border police officers. He travelled four days alone from home to the Slovak border after his mother escorted him to the railway station.

“Our family has some experience. We escaped Putin’s army when we lived in Syria. I was 12 then. Our father was killed and we had to move to Ukraine to my mother’s family. So, eight years have passed and it’s Russia again, it’s Putin again,” the elder brother Zakaria says who is a student in Slovakia and it was his telephone number that was written on Hasan’s palm.

“I want to thank all Slovak border police officers and volunteers. I can’t leave my mother alone as she is confined to bed so I took my son to the railway station and put him on the train. Please save our Ukrainian children and give them safety,” added the boy’s mother Yulia Vladimirovna.

“Tears in our eyes… He is the greatest hero of the night before,” concluded the publication of the Slovak Border Police.

The child travelled 1200 kilometers, first by train and finally he walked. He was all alone, day and night in the bleak Ukrainian winter, hungry, freezing, scared and haunted by the wail of sirens and the roar of shells. There might have been tears in the eyes of the border police officers but the eyes of the child were dry. As can be seen from the uploaded photos, the little hero even tries to smile.


Esteemed members of the European Parliament,

I began my speech with the symbolism of today’s and tomorrow’s date. Let me conclude with two other emblematic events that occurred on these dates. The hero of the French resistance movement against the Nazi occupation, the first Prime Minister of free postwar France, the first President of the Fifth Republic General Charles de Gaulle was born on that date 133 years ago. On 23 November 1959, President de Gaulle delivered his famous speech “From the Atlantic to the Urals” where he expressed his confidence that one day all of Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains would be united. Sixty-four years ago, at the height of the Cold War, when the Iron Curtain divided Europe “from Szczecin on the Baltic Sea to Trieste on the Adriatic Sea,” that statement sounded absurd. It sounds even more absurd today, in the midst of the hot war in Ukraine when hundreds of European men, women and children die every day.

One day, when today will be yesterday, and tomorrow will be today, when Putins and Lukashenkos will be just a shameful episode in the history of their countries, and our children will not be forced to flee alone away from the war, with a passport, tied round their necks and a phone number scribbled on their palms, then this dream will come true. It is our responsibility that a free, democratic and united Europe may live forever!