Protestors have rallied for more than 70 consecutive days in the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria’s administrative capital. Even though fragmented in its political affiliation, protest participants have all been united in demanding the resignation of prime-minister Boyko Borisov’s cabinet as well as the departure of Ivan Geshev from the chief prosecutor position.
The poorest member state of the EU has failed to battle corruption after it acceded to the block. Nationwide protests have been sparked after numerous political acts by a local progressive reformist Hristo Ivanov, voicing the prime-minister’s ties to the strongman in Bulgarian politics, Ahmed Dogan, and the oligarch Delyan Peevski, a local media tycoon.
Bulgaria holds the 111th position in press freedom in the “Reporters without borders” annual report.
After months of hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians taking up the streets, international recognition of the movement has finally started to be displayed. Numerous members of the European Parliament, foreign consulates, including the annual American report, and numerous major international investigative committees on human rights have all voiced and criticized the lack of political will in Bulgaria to tackle corruption and initiate the much needed judicial reform. Boyko Borissov is currently being investigated by Spanish police due to being linked to an “international money laundering scheme” in the wealthy Spanish province of Catalunia.
The government facing scrutiny due to coronavirus handling
The Bulgarian government has failed to provide economic reassurance in its response to the current recession which has yet to take its course due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After initial political instability, the PM acted on providing government subsidy, firstly to government employees, and pensioners in an attempt to put out public tension. Even though the two groups practically haven’t lost any of their liquidity in the current recession, public sector employees and elderly citizens represent have of the population makeup. Bulgaria has the largest public-sector personnel & pensioners per capita in the EU, thus making the two demographic groups the largest electorate clubs. After the initially perceived by many as unnecessary government handouts, the Finance ministry initiated an economic-recovery plan which favored businesses close to national authorities as well as corruption rings. By doing so the current administration has essentially placed its domestic political security above the national economic interest.
The Balkan syndrome
In the Balkans in general, it is an often occurrence for regional and national policies to defy economic logic in the name of political consolidation. Bulgaria currently has a 750 million euro surplus in its national budget and has secured a loan of 2.5 billion euros. Despite the agreement terms being considerably favorable in contrast to previous government loans, there are growing worries that government spending will be waged uncontrollably for political gain due to upcoming elections.
“Over 10 billion in local currency lost due to corruption” according to Hristo Ivanov, founder of the anti-corruption party “Movement Yes Bulgaria”
Bulgaria has been accused of creating black holes in terms of public financial flow tracking. The state has invested over 1.5 billion in public spending to deliver progress in the modernization and digitalization of its public sector. This investment accounts for a little under 1/4 of the national budget and has failed to bestow any results. The former finance minister Vladislav Goranov has admitted to more than 350 million euros in tax evasion by Vasil Bojkov, a former ally of the current government which is in political exile in Dubai due to disputes with current public officials in power. The pro-EU anti-corruption party of “Movement Yes Bulgaria” has raised awareness and public debate on how the government had permitted tax fraud to occur in the first place. Instead of an adequate state response, the government proceeded to nationalize the Bulgarian national Lottery which was previously in the hands of the exiled businessman Vasil Bojkov.
Bulgaria’s questionable relationship with Erdogan’s hybrid regime
After the failed military coup in Turkey against Turkish president Erdogan, Bulgaria remains the only EU country to refuse political asylum to Turkish citizens of the opposition. Not only has it indirectly sabotaged asylum seekers but it has gone out its way to deliver fleeing citizens back to Turkey by breaching international legal guidelines. The Venice Commission has already addressed this act as “defying individuals of their human rights”. The solidarity expressed by Boyko Borissov with the help of former chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov is in direct violation of the common foreign EU policy stance against Turkey’s regime.
Bulgaria’s decay in international affairs
After the recently displayed resistance of the European People’s party to show support for Borissov’s national party “GERB” which is currently a part of the EU parliament group, it is becoming visible that the Bulgarian PM is loosing international political support. On top of that, there has been expressed criticism by the first ever elected EU chief prosecutor Laura Covesi, which already has a long history of convicting corrupt Easter-European politicians. Representatives of the current ruling political establishment are to be officially questioned in a European Parliament session on the 5th of October in regards to the current state of democracy and human rights.
In the past, Boyko Borissov’s initial hint on being keen to step down from power has transitioned into a determined unwillingness to resign raising even further allegations against him, concerning his subordination to corruption in the face of the often accused faces of the politician Ahmed Dogan and the oligarch Delyan Peevski. The numerous corruption scandals and the atrocious human rights violations both in the domestic and international scene have led to a steep decline of international recognition now expressed by both the EU and across the Atlantic by the United States. It is only a matter of time before the political grip of the current government crumbles due to rising pressure from all sides.
Author: Zlatin Kurshumov, published in Chicago Illinois.