Mediapool Weekly: June 16 – June 22, 2018


PM Boyko Borisov

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov Calls for the EU to Close its Borders to Migrants Immediately

PM Boyko Borissov took to Parliament to express his position on European migrant policy on Friday. Borissov apparently felt provoked by BSP leader Kornelia Ninova, who read a declaration in Parliament that the PM has not notified anyone of the position he will be holding during the European meeting dedicated to EU migrant policy in Brussels on Sunday. Ninova expressed suspicions that the PM will agree for Bulgaria to house more migrants in exchange for more funding.

Borissov said that he will be insisting the EU immediately shuts down its borders to migrants and to review the status of migrants already residing in the EU. He will propose for those fleeing war to be situated in camps outside EU territory till the conflicts in their home countries are resolved and for the economic migrants to be returned to their countries of origin, instead of – as it is now – to the country of entrance to the EU.

Our position is nationally responsible and clear to everyone”, he said and reminded again that he has maintained this position during all meetings of the Council of the EU and has warned time and again the rest of EU leaders that the current policies will lead to this.

They didn’t believe me back then; European humanity above all etc. It is without a doubt that Europe is most humane in this regard. If you remember well, I was the first to say that we must build shelter and security centers outside EU territory, closer to where the conflict zones are. Some colleagues accused me that this idea is beneficial to Turkey and those who are fighting in Syria. Yes, but there are 2 million refugees in Jordan, they are not in Europe and we are paying for this, the EU”, he concluded.

The Prosecutor’s Office Sets Down Two More Failures – Against Borshosh and Semerzhiev

The Prosecutor’s Office began this week the same way it ended the last: by failing in emblematic cases against people in high positions of power.

The Sofia City Court dismissed the case against the Executive Director of the National Palace of Culture (NDK) Miroslav Borshosh because the bill of indictment is not clear about what his charges are exactly.

At the same time another chambers of the same court ruled in favor of former Health Minister from Ognyan Gerzhikov’s provisional government Ilko Semerzhiev. The court dropped the charges against him for threatening the head of the Drugs Executive Agency Asena Stoimenova while in office. The motives for the ruling will be known within a month.

According to the prosecutors’ case Semerdzhiev pressured and threatened Stoimenova to appoint Boyan Doganov as deputy head of the Agency. Doganov is a member of several consultant companies in pharmaceuticals, which puts him in a position of conflict of interest with regards to the Agency.

Because of this Stoimenova had refused to appoint him. The Prosecutor’s Office alleges that following her refusal Semerdzhiev threatened to fire her if she does not comply and hire Doganov as her deputy.

According to the prosecution Semerddziev told Stoimenova, “I can fire you, and I can do other things to you, too.”

Back then, after the scandal Semerdzhiev announced he was a victim of a cartel between pharmaceutical companies and the Agency. Stoimenova remained head of the Agency after the pharmaceutical branch defended her.

As for the case against Borshosh, judge Stefan Milev of the Sofia City Court dismissed the case due to an impossibility to understand what the actual charges are, as stated in the bill of indictment. He spent almost half an hour listing all the mistakes and inconcistencies in the bill of indictment.

 

The ruling may be appealed. The supervising prosecutor in the case told reporters he is yet unsure of how they will proceed.

Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) Gave Out Money in Bags to A Ring of People Close to Power

Capital Weekly reports this week about the network of people and companies close to power that have been on an unofficial payroll from KTB. The information is revealed through witnesses’ testimonies in the mega trial for the bankruptcy of KTB. A number of politicians, high government officials, journalists, consultants and others are named in the testimonies. The reporting reveals also that “the firm” - as former Chairman of the Supervisory Board of KTB and principal accused in the case, Tsvetan Vassilev likes to call his network of connected people - made a habit of giving out significant sums in bags.

According to the testimonies the sums that were given out in this fashion amount to millions and the instances far outreach the publicly known cases such as the infamous backing of Nikolay Barekov’s political project with bags of money.

The testimonies of Vassilev’s once right hand man Biser Lasov and one of KTB’s treasurers Yulia Ilieva contain tens of names of public figures and account for millions of leva given out in return for favors and/or support. All of names are in one way or another close to or support of the government, be it government officials, politicians, publishers, editors, journalists. A lot of funds were directed at reporters, journalists, editors and/or media outlets as well. Those, listed in the reporting have been notoriously favorable towards the government.

Interestingly, although the testimonies are from one and the same witnesses, the prosecutor’s office credits only some of them. Of all the people named by the two witnesses only several have been subjected to inquiries. The criteria by which some names are followed-up on, and others – most at that – are not is unclear.

Deputy Social Minister Rositsa Dimitrova Resigns Over Expensive Work Trip to New York City

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov accepted Deputy Social Minister Rositsa Dimitrova’s resignation following an overpriced work trip to New York City for a conference on social policy. Dimitrova traveled to New York with a last minute ticket that cost approximately 8300 leva. The trip stirred controversy especially as it took place amidst mounting protests from parents of children with disabilities against the government’s failure in social policy.

Government officials underlined that the resignation was not for the trip itself. Dimitrova also was clear to journalists that while she acknowledges the price of the ticket was high, she did not regret making the trip. Instead she had resigned because of the public attention and outrage the story had created.

Yes, it is expensive, and I don’t like that it is so expensive. But I am not part of these procedures and I do not decide what kind of tickets are purchased.

Dimitrova and other members of government – most notably Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB’s deputy chair and deputy PM Valeri Simeonov – saw a ploy behind the stir up to remove her. Tsvetanov told journalists that they would not allow to lose her expertise and will find a new position for her. Most likely that would be within deputy PM Valeri Simeonov’s team.

He was openly against PM Borisov accepting Dimitrova’s resignation and argued that it “is not the mothers’ [of children with disabilities] business how much the deputy minister’s airline ticket costs”. He went on to say that it is not so often that such professionals work in the government and that they should not be so easily expendable. He said he had voiced his disagreement to PM Boyko Borissov.


Maya Manolova

Public Defender Maya Manolova’s Bill for Personal Assistance Failed to Get Support from National Council


The bill was drafted by the public defender Maya Manolova and had the support of protesting parents with children with disabilities. The bill was aimed at meeting the most important demand of the month-long protests: a personal assistance act for people with disabilities.


Maya Manolova threatened she would resign should the bill not be passed promptly through Parliament.


The bill first went through the National Council for Integration of People with Disabilities. The Council, however, deemed the bill “amateur” and focusing on “one social group alone” while “neglecting all the others’ issues” and thus “paving a way for contradictions in implementation” in the future. The bill was criticized mainly for not providing sutainable policy solutions “across the board”.


Maya Manolova said the bill was drafted by her team together with the protesting mothers of children with disabilities.


“The bill is fair and allows for all people with disabilities to receive personal assistance”.


In comparison she highlighted that under the current legislation only 14’000 of all 77’000 eligible people with disabilities for personal assistance actually receive it.


“What we are proposing is … that with an additional 100 million leva 77’000 people will be able to receive personal assistance, which is five times more than now, and not for 2 hours but according to the needs.”


She was definite that the “current status quo, which the National Council for People with Disabilities supports is discriminatory”.


“I will not allow for this protest of mothers of children with disabilities, which has moved everyone can be used to serve someone else’s agenda”.


The president of the Podkrepa union called the bill “amateur” and politically motivated. The Financial Ministry and business representatives also did not give their support for the bill.


Meanwhile the deputy head of the National Council for People with Disabilities said that “[it] cannot give support for a bill that provides assistance for just 77’000 people with disabilities and not for all who need it”.


The pressure between the protesters and different national level representative organizations for people with disabilities has been growing for some time. The protesters claim that the organizations are boycotting all institutional efforts to come up with solutions to the problems.


Amidst the crisis the national representative organizations issued statements that they would be “following up of signals from [their] partners” that the protesters are paid by “NGOs with foreign financing”.


The rhetoric has become a norm in Bulgaria since the massive antigovernment protests from 2013. Since then a common talking point by any government organization which for some reason is protested against, is that protesters are paid by foreign entities via domestic NGOs. The go-to ‘financer’ in these scenarios is foremost George Soros and the America for Bulgaria Foundation as a close second.


Leader of the bulgarian Socialist Party Kornelia Ninova

Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Proposes Parliament Cancel Summer Break

BSP proposes that Parliament does not take a summer break before it passes the three bills that deal with the problems of children with disabilities. The bills in question are the bill for personal assistance, the bill for people with disabilities and the bill for social services.

In BSP leader Kornelia Ninova’s words there will be enough funding to solve these problems once GERB stops stealing.

It is inhumane and not normal for MPs to lay on the beaches while mothers of these children are sleeping in tents [in front of Parliament]”, she said referring to the month-long tent protests of parents of children with disabilities.

A Fourth Bank Intends to Finance the CEZ Deal

Apart from the three known banks that allegedly are ready to finance the Pazardzik-based company Inercom to acquire CEZ, there is apparently a forth. The deal that spiked outrage in Bulgaria and raised eyebrows in the Czech Republic is still in the works with Inercom owner Ginka Varbakova having to secure 340 million euro for one of Bulgaria’s three power distribution companies by November, 2018.

Reaching the final deal, however, becomes more and more questionable with time. According to Mediapool sources the negotiations with some of the banks are going very badly or have even failed.

The information about a fourth bank came from a letter from the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB). Mediapool has a copy to the letter, which is sent in accordance with regulations by the temporary parliamentary committee for the CEZ deal for the committee to be informed of any involvement of Bulgarian banks in the deal.

Following an inquiry by BNB, four banks have confirmed interest in the future deal. BNB does not name the banks as the information is privileged but according to sources it is likely that three of them are UniCredit Bulbank, First Investment Bank and the state-owned Bulgarian Bank for Development. The alleged fourth is unknown.


The agreement was sighned by Ivan Ivanov and Grete Odegaard 

The Funding for Energy Efficient Projects Doubles

Subsidies for energy efficient projects will double after the Energy Ministry signed an agreement with the European Stability Mechanism’s for funding the Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Security Program.

The program’s budget is 33 million euro of which 28 million are subsidized. The amount subsidized for the previous program period was 15,6 million euro. The program’s objective is to lower power consumption in order to reach the European climate change goals.

The Head of the Executive Agency for Transplants Resigns

The head of the Executive Agency for transplants (IAT) Mariana Simeonova, M.D. has submitted her resignation in connection with protests by patients who are on waiting lists for lung transplants abroad.

Specifically, the protests are due to these patients having been denied access to medical treatment abroad and the institutions being apparently unable to provide a solution to the problem.

However, patient organizations voiced their support for Simeonova, underlining that “any shuffle in the IAT’s management at this point will lead to further delay or even indefinite suspension of the negotiations and process of renewing the contract with the European clinic that will take over the lung transplant cases.”

A protest at the Ministry of Health is scheduled for June 29.

Health Minister Kiril Ananiev has not yet accepted the Simeonova’s resignation. Officials explained that Ananiev is waiting for the results from an expert assessment of the Agency that he has ordered. He will decide whether to accept the resignation after he reviews the results.


The arrest of the Mladost’s former mayor Dessislava Ivancheva

Former Mladost Mayor Dessislava Ivancheva to Sue Bulgaria for Humiliating Arrest

Mladost’s former mayor Dessislava Ivancheva will sue Bulgaria at the European Human Rights Court for the humiliating way she and her deputy were arrested and for the way they were treated during the court proceedings and incarceration that followed.

During the arrest the two women were held for nearly 7 hours handcuffed on a busy intersection in the center country capitol. Officials had to call an ambulance at one point because Ivancheva’s deputy, Bilyana Petrova, fell ill.

The court in Strasburg will judge the circumstances of the arrest, the court proceedings that followed, as well as the ruling by the Special Court (and the reaffirmation by the Special Appeal Court) to remove Ivancheva from office.

The chief claim, however, is violations of Ivancheva and Petrova’s right to due process. On the one hand, there are complaints about the humiliating way the women were treated, and on the other – delayed accesses of the defendants to attorneys, biased announcements by officials to the public, suggesting their guilt etc.

Meanwhile the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov has filed a question to the Chairman of the Special Appeals Court as to why Ivancheva and Petrova were held in handcuffs during the court sessions. Panov highlighted that defendants are held in cuffs during court proceedings only in special cases, as provided in the law, in which the person or persons pose an immediate and real security risk.

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