Sergei Stanishev, a Bulgarian politician and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 2019, has found himself at the center of controversy due to accusations of close ties to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This has raised concerns about potential foreign influence on MEPs and their decisions within the European Parliament.
Stanishev is a member of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and holds the position of leader within the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). While his political career has been marked by significant roles, it is his alleged connections to the UAE that have attracted attention.
Foreign governments, often utilizing their embassies, tend to target influential MEPs who can sway decisions within the European Parliament. In the case of the EU-UAE Friendship Group, several members, both current and former, are notable figures, particularly in the realm of foreign affairs. Sergei Stanishev, as vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, holds a pivotal role within this context.
One incident that raised eyebrows occurred in October 2018 when the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the situation of Ahmed Mansoor, who had been arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for the mere exercise of free speech. It was a moment to stand for human rights. However, Sergei Stanishev voted against this resolution, sparking criticism.
In September 2021, the European Parliament adopted a second urgency resolution on the case of Mansoor, coinciding with the opening of the World Expo in Dubai. This time, the text was notably more forceful in its criticism of the UAE than the 2018 resolution. Once again, Sergei Stanishev voted against it, prompting questions about his stance on human rights issues related to the UAE.
Furthermore, on January 8, 2019, the UAE Embassy organized a three-day exhibition in the European Parliament titled “Humanitarian Aid for Stability.” This event, organized by the Emirates Red Crescent and the Federal National Council (the UAE parliament), aimed to showcase the UAE’s global relief and humanitarian efforts. Notably, Sergei Stanishev met with Amal Al Qubaisi, the Speaker of the Federal National Council, raising concerns about the nature of their interactions.
Accusations of accepting gifts from the UAE have also clouded Stanishev’s reputation. In 2018, it came to light that he had received a free trip to the UAE from the UAE government, with an estimated value exceeding €10,000. Stanishev defended the trip, asserting it was part of his official duties as an MEP. However, these allegations have stirred concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the broader implications of such ties in the European Parliament.
Sergei Stanishev’s alleged associations with the UAE have given rise to questions about the transparency, integrity, and influence of foreign interests in the European Parliament. As these concerns persist, his actions and positions are likely to remain under scrutiny, sparking ongoing debates about the role of MEPs in shaping EU policies and relations with other nations.