Security Alert: BULGARIA

The U.S. Embassy is Sofia, Bulgaria has issued a continuous security alert to all American citizens in the capital city. See the complete warning at the Embassy’s website here:

Political unrest, protest and corona virus ministry opportunities in BULGARIA

This is the precise political and social construct in Bulgaria we had in mind in our July 1, 2020 publications on Difficulties in Doing Mission Work in Bulgaria in 2020. Now that our broad ministerial projection is taking shape almost prophetically, these difficulties are becoming more and more clear. The current developments adding to them are:

1.       Social unrest placing our church communities in the midst of political protests and COVID-related changes in the legal process.

2.       The Social Service Bill active as of July 1, 2020 though three paragraphs from the bill were dropped at the final vote dealing with: (a) personal information about children given to third parties and NGO vendors, (b) control on the proper channels of notifications via regard of social services, (c) social workers open access to children at risk to obtain needed information for the social service process.

3.      Application of the New Bill of Religion in Bulgaria in regard of: (a) national open registry of credentialed ministries, (b) access of only certain ministers to a church building, (c) special instructions for church services regarding COVID-19 and related restrictions. For example, the largest Pentecostal organization in Bulgaria sent letters to all its congregations to refrain from releasing pandemic information that has not been channeled from “the media proper sources,” as related to state media and the whole “fake news” narrative.


JULY 11, 2020: Thousands call on Bulgarian government to resign in anti-graft protests

SOFIA (Reuters) – Thousands of Bulgarians, frustrated with endemic corruption, protested on Saturday for a third day in a row, demanding the resignation of the center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the country’s chief prosecutor. Protesters, who chanted “Mafia” and “Resign” on Saturday, accuse Borissov’s third government and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev of deliberately delaying investigations into links between graft-prone officials and local oligarchs. Protests against what many called “state capture” and “mafia-style” rule were held in se veralother cities in the Balkan country. Police arrested 18 people late Friday after scuffles during the anti-corruption protests, but the demonstration Saturday was largely peaceful. Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest and most corrupt member state, has long pledged to root out graft but has yet to jail any senior officials on corruption charges. Public anger escalated following prosecutor raids on the offices of two of the Bulgarian president’s staff as part of investigations, which many saw as a targeted attack on President Rumen Radev, a vocal critic of the government. In an address to the nation Saturday, Radev said the protests showed that Bulgarians had had enough and called for the resignation of the government and the chief prosecutor.

Borissov, whose third government took office in 2017, prided himself on building new highways, boosting people’s incomes and getting the country into the euro zone’s “waiting room,” and said he does not plan to step down amid a looming coronavirus crisis. “We have done so much already, we have made so much efforts, nothing is keeping us in office except for responsibility,” Borissov said in a posting on his Facebook page. His GERB party said Radev, who was nominated for the post by opposition Socialists, was stoking a political crisis. GERB remains Bulgaria’s most popular political party, according to opinion polls. The next general elections are due in spring 2021.

At another demonstration Saturday on the Black Sea coast near Burgas, hundreds of Bulgarians demanded access to a public coastline near the summer residence of Ahmed Dogan, a businessman and senior member of the ethnic Turkish MRF party. The demonstration was organised after the head of a small liberal party was denied access to the coast by armed guards of the National Protection Service, who were protecting Dogan. Protesters say the move was a sign of toxic links between the ruling elite and shady interests in the Balkan country.

JULY 13, 2020 Bulgarian anti-graft protests want Borissov’s government out

SOFIA (Reuters) – Thousands of people turned out in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Monday for the fifth day running to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, voicing growing frustration with high-level corruption and the business tycoons they believe are benefiting. Demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 13, 2020. The banner reads: “Freedom.” Similar protests in at least 10 other cities criticised prosecutors’ failure to address genuine high-level graft, which they said was undermining the rule of law in the European Union’s poorest country. Many yelled “Mafia!” and “Resign!”.

The Balkan nation, ranked as the most corrupt EU member state by the graft watchdog Transparency International, has yet to convict a single senior official of corruption. “I am here to protest against the corruption that has engulfed this country, against the oligarchs who have slipped into each and every sphere of the public administration,” said 42-year-old protester Lachezar Lazarov. Borissov has been in office almost without a break since 2009. He has pledged to uproot high-level corruption, but critics say public institutions have weakened and the power of tycoons has grown on his watch. A parliamentary election is scheduled for next spring. Public anger broke out last week after prosecutors raided the offices of President Rumen Radev, a vehement critic of Borissov, as part of probes into two of Radev’s aides. Many saw the move as an attack on the president, who has often criticised Borissov’s centre-right government on the same grounds as the protesters and called for his resignation. The protests have shown no sign of dwindling in size and more are planned for later in the week. The opposition Socialists, who backed Radev for president, have said they will put forward a motion of no confidence in the government on Wednesday. On Monday, some of the protesters also demanded the resignation of the interior minister over police violence at Friday’s protests, when 18 people were arrested, including two young men who were taken to hospital after being beaten. The police said they were investigating.

JULY 14, 2020 Bulgaria’s opposition says state prosecutors won’t deflect anti-government protests

SOFIA (Reuters) – State prosecutors said on Tuesday a fugitive Bulgarian tycoon facing criminal charges had helped orchestrate protests against the prime minister, as demonstrations demanding the government quit because of corruption entered a sixth day. The main opposition Socialist party said state prosecutors were trying “to discredit the protests as paid and organized” but said officials would not silence demonstrators seeking to drive Prime Minister Boyko Borissov from office. “It is easy to see that there are people who sincerely want change,” the Socialist party leader Kornelia Ninova said in a statement, as thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Sofia and other cities chanting “Resign” and “Mafia”.

The Balkan nation, the poorest member of the European Union and ranked the bloc’s most corrupt state by graft watchdog Transparency International, has yet to convict a single senior official of corruption. Alongside demanding the prime minister quit, protesters have called for the resignation of the chief prosecutor, saying he has not done enough to root out high-level corruption.

The U.S. embassy in Sofia weighed in on Monday, with a statement saying: “Every nation deserves a judicial system that is non-partisan and accountable to the rule of law.”

State prosecutors dismiss accusations of bias. Borissov, who has been in power almost without break since 2009 and who has repeatedly promised to sweep out corruption, has said his government will not resign and elections would be held in spring. Senior ministers repeated that on Tuesday. Prosecutors published on Tuesday what they said was a tapped telephone call in which gambling tycoon Vasil Bozhkov told an opposition politician he had helped boost the size of the protests. The publication prompted the politician to quit the Socialists parliamentary group. Bozkhov, who fled the country to escape charges ranging from tax evasion to extortion, which he denies, said in a message on his Facebook page that he had supported the protests from the start and would continue to do so.

UPDATED JULY 16, 2020: Bulgaria PM plans govt overhaul in face of protests

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, facing a no-confidence vote in parliament and anti-corruption protests in the streets, said on Thursday that his government must stay in place to fight the coronavirus – though he may overhaul his cabinet soon. The three-times prime minister said he would consider an “enormous overhaul” of his center-right cabinet after the no-confidence vote next week, which the ruling party can survive with the support of a small populist party and independent lawmakers. He reiterated that the anti-graft protests and calls for early polls by the opposition Socialists and President Rumen Radev were undermining the Balkan country’s chances of weathering a looming coronavirus crisis that will hit incomes and jobs hard. “We are facing very hard months ahead… Who from those on the square has more experience than us, knows more or can do more?” the defiant 61-year-old said after a meeting with his junior coalition partners. “We should show at the vote that the ruling coalition has its majority in parliament. And then if they want, all opposition parties need to say how they see dealing with the epidemic and financial crisis that is coming,” he said.

Borissov said on Thursday that he had asked his finance, interior and economy ministers to step down to put an end of speculation that they were under the influence of a controversial media magnate and businessman from another political party, but that he will not accept their resignations for now. Thousands of Bulgarians have been holding protests demanding the resignation of the government and the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev over their failure to ensure the rule of law and sever links between graft-prone officials and powerful tycoons in the country. Geshev has denied any bias in his probes and has declined to step down. More anti-corruption protests are planned in Sofia and other major cities for the eight day in a row later on Thursday. Consecutive governments in the European Union’s poorest member state have pledged to put an end to a climate of impunity and impose the rule of law strictly. But the authorities have yet to jail a single senior official on corruption charges.