site.btaMedia Review: June 9
24 Chasa reports that new Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov will appoint a record number of advisers to his political cabinet, 20 in total. Deputy Prime Minister Mariya Gabriel will have 14. There are still 34 advisor positions in total, but previously they have been divided between the prime minister and four deputy prime ministers, while now the are only divided between Denkov and Gabriel as sole Deputy Prime Minister.
Trud, Telegraph and Sega report that, with 207 votes in favor, none against and no abstentions, the National Assembly adopted the additional budget extension. Finance Minister Assen Vassilev stated that at the moment there are more than BGN 10 billion in the treasury, so "any talk of bankruptcy is untenable". A new budget act may be adopted as early as July 31, said Vassilev, who pledged to quickly submit a draft budget with a 3% deficit to Parliament.
Sega added that the debates surrounding the budget extension began with a dispute between GERB and Continue the Change on whether the caretaker government should have submitted a budget for 2023 in the autumn of last year, or if the delay was beneficial. GERB doubted that it is possible to reduce the deficit to 3% and at the same time have "policies for the people" in the budget, as promised by Vassilev. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) stated that they will argue against the reduction of the deficit to 3%. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) did not fail to mock the arguments between Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) and GERB.
Sega, Mediapool, Trud, Duma and 24 Chasa reported on Thursday's conflict in the National Assembly due to MRF MP Delyan Peevski being elected Wednesday to the parliamentary Constitutional Affairs Committee. Peevski, the only Bulgarian MP sanctioned for corruption under the Magnitsky Act, was elected with the votes of his own party, GERB-UDF and There Is Such a People. Trud and Duma stress that the Vazrazhdane party indirectly helped this along by not participating in the vote. CC-DB was opposed in general, but the formation's leaders abstained from voting. On Thursday, their group stated that they will look for a way to remove him from the committee GERB-UDF has been silent for now, Sega notes.
24 Chasa notes that the MRF were the first to table a ready-made project for constitutional changes. It was launched more than a year ago, in February and has received approval from European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova in Brussels, the party said, adding that Delyan Peevski is in fact the author of this project and should be on the committee.
24 Chasa quotes GERB's Desislava Atanasova, who stressed that changes in the Constitution were one of the main commitments made to the Bulgarian citizens. She pointed out that each of the parties in Parliament has declared that they will participate, and added that she would like President Rumen Radev to present his draft, which he has been talking about for years. Regarding Peevski's controversial election, Atanasova said that each parliamentary group makes its own decisions and no one else can interfere in them directly or indirectly.
In a bTV interview, Vazrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov said that his party has been talking about constitutional changes for three years, and accused CC-DB of presenting their ideas as their own, and asking MRF for support instead of Vazrazhdane. Kostadinov defined the MRF project for changes to the Constitution as dangerous. "They want to remove the requirement of not having dual citizenship for a high state position - MP, minister, prime minister, president. It is a threat to national security," he argued.
Sega writes that CC-DB demanded stricter sanctions for MPs who do not respect the order in the plenary hall. The specific reason was the behavior of the Vazrazhdane MPs who on Wednesday did not allow Yavor Bozhankov to speak from the parliamentary rostrum.
Duma quotes BSP leader Korneliya Ninova, who said that for the last month and a half, the "parallel state" has been regrouping to survive and continue to rule. This happened because of an unnatural political, but possibly natural economic, alliance of interests between CC-DB and GERB-UDF, joined by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Ninova noted that only on their second day they are already fighting each other. She stated that, in the meantime, the BSP has been conducting social policy.
24 Chasa quoted breakaway independent MP Radostin Vasilev, who said that the newly established government cannot function normally. "We are witnessing a huge hypocrisy - not a single member of Parliament showed any initiative to consider stripping Boyko Borissov's political immunity. Yesterday GERB and MRF, with the help of Vazrazhdane and TISP, elected Delyan Peevski as a member of Constitutional Affairs Committee, today they all deny it," he added.
Theleraph publishes an interview with political expert Dimitar Ganev, who said regarding the longevity of the newly formed Cabinet that a big test for it will be the local elections in the autumn and and the European Parliament elections next year. He also commented that GERB-UDF and CC-DB certainly paid a political price for the formation of this Cabinet and may yet pay. Now, they have to achieve quick results in order to justify the high political price. The first point of focus would be Bulgaria's entry into the Schengen area, as there is no way they can do magic with the budget, because they are limited by the deficit to 3% due to the criteria for the Eurozone. So the only thing the Cabinet should focus on is Schengen. Ganev also argued that this Cabinet will have a similar antagonistic relation with President Radev as Borissov's previous cabinet did, and noted that Radev has already made such indications. Ganev said that people have forgotten Radev's confrontational style, as the two caretaker governments in that past two years were appointed by him.
Mediapool reports that nearly 22% of the signatures that the Vazrazhdane party collected for convening a referendum on the adoption of the euro, were invalid. A total of 21.9% of the signatures were with wrong personal data, of minors, of prisoners or of deceased people, confirmed the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works. Thus, the total number of valid signatures was 470,973. By law, a national referendum required the signatures of no less than 400,000 Bulgarian citizens. This condition has been fulfilled, as the Vazrazhdane said on Wednesday.
Sega, Mediapool and 24 Chasa report that Bulgarian socialists and leaders of the Vazrazhdane political party gathered at a reception at the Russian Embassy in Sofia, organized on the occasion of the upcoming Russia Day (June 12). At the event, Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova criticized the authorities in this country for "confidently sticking to the anti-Russian narrative" and "dragging the country into the conflict in Ukraine". Mitrofanova expressed confidence that the current "state of affairs will improve with time" and that the diplomatic relations between the two countries will receive their new development.
Sega writes that 47% of Bulgarians believe that Russia is a necessary partner with which the country should cooperate strategically, according to a study by the European Council on Foreign Relations. Some 18% of respondents believe that Russia is an ally that shares Bulgaria's interests and values, and 17% say that Moscow is an adversary with whom we are in conflict.
Trud writes that in the coming days, the European Commission will officially ask Bulgaria to nominate a new Bulgarian European Commissioner. This transpired from a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and EC President Ursula von der Leyen. The two leaders are planning an in-person meeting, which will most likely take place in Brussels before the regular meeting of the European Council, scheduled for June 29 and 30.
24 Chasa writes that Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel,had her first telephone conversation with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. She said on Twitter that she expects to work in close partnership and to continue the excellent cooperation.
Mediapool notes that on Thursday, the EC provided new financial assistance to Romania and Bulgaria for the implementation of already launched pilot projects for border management. The aid for this country is EUR 45 million, and for Romania - EUR 10.8 million. The funds will be added to national programmes under the Border Management and Visa Instrument), part of the Integrated Border Management Fund. The official announcement from Brussels also said that the European Commission welcomes the progress made in the last three months since the launch of the pilot projects in Bulgaria and Romania in the field of asylum, return, border management and international cooperation.
Mediapool reports that 31 projects from 7 EU member states received a total of EUR 2.4 billion on Thursday to modernize energy systems, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency from the Community Modernization Fund. Bulgaria received EUR 197 million to modernize its electricity transmission network with the aim of accelerating the electrification of transport, the implementation of storage, as well as the decarbonization and decentralization of energy consumption and production.
Trud, Sega, Mediapool, 24 Chasa write that, at the request of Bulgaria, Greek planes may be involved in the protection of its airspace. The procedure was initiated within NATO and is not surprising given the maintenance problems of the old Soviet MiG-29 fighters that Bulgaria is dealing with. The information was reported by the Greek publication Kathimerini, and was later confirmed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence.
Mediapool writes that the Defense Ministry has provided the new Minister of Defence Todor Tagarev and Parliament with an analysis of what the Bulgarian army has in stock, but the decision of what weapons to send to Ukraine is political, commented Chief of Defence. Admiral Emil Eftimov. Tagarev cautiously commented on what new military aid Bulgaria can provide to Ukraine, at this stage he did not give specific information. However, he said that he will ask for permission from Parliament for new tranches to Kiev, even though the decision of last year's National Assembly assumed that military aid would not be a one-time act.
SUPREME JUDICIAL COUNCIL CONSIDERS PROSECUTOR GENERAL DISMISSAL
A main topic in most publications on Friday, including Duma, Trud, Telegraph, Sega, Mediapool and 24 Chasa is Thursday's Jupreme Judicial Council (SJC) meeting regarding the motions to dismiss Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev from his post.
The plenary session lasted over 14 hours. The SJC decided to terminate the first motion to remove Geshev from office, which is related to possible misconduct by Geshev in relation to the investigation of the explosion that went off near his motorcade on May 1. The motion had been merged with a second one in relation to a statement by Geshev, in which he used the phrase "political garbage" while talking about Bulgarian MPs, thus undermining the prestige of the judiciary.
Trud and 24 Chasa write that the meeting included hearings of the director of the Deputy Prosecutor General and National Investigation Service (NIS) Director Borislav Sarafov and his deputy Yasen Todorov in connection with the emotional state of Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev due to the explosion. Geshev explained that an emotional state can lead to aggression and the use of different means of expression, while arguing his use of the "political garbage" phrase.
Trud and 24 Chasa quote Todorov, who said during his hearing that Geshev told him that for some time there had been pressure on him to leave and that he had been offered various diplomatic posts. Geshev told Todorov that he would not resign. He worried that if he did, there would be pressure on magistrates believed to be close to him. Geshev said to Todorov that if he did not resign there would probably be amendments to the Penal Code so that he would be removed.
Trud, 24 Chasa and Telegraph also quote Sarafov (who has had a tumultuous relationship with Geshev in the media in the past month) who said that after the explosion, Geshev behaved at first in a friendly manner, and then in a belligerent manner with him. Sarafov explained that until May 15 they had normal, collegial relations. After that, he couldn't believe the aggression that Geshev radiated towards him during his briefing. The two had known each other for over 30 years, were fellow students.
24 Chasa clarifies that the first motion was dismissed, due to sufficient evidence that Geshev did not interfere in the explosion investigation by calling for the Israeli expert that came to observe the investigation, and that the expert did not interfere with the proceedings and remained at a respectable distance.
The plenary session of the Supreme Judicial Council will continue with the examination of the second motion for the removal Geshev on Monday.
Telegraph ponders whether Geshev will be removed immediately, or the President will "save him". The publication explains that In the event that the SJC removes Geshev, he can continue to perform his functions for a long time. Everything depends on when the President will sign a decree for his release. It can be signed immediately or a month later. If the decree is nevertheless signed and Geshev's mandate is terminated, one of his deputies will have to fulfill his duties until a new prosecutor general is elected.
Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and NOVA's morning programmes both focus mainly on the procedure for dismissing the prosecutor general, hosting discussions with lawyers and legal experts. On BNT, Lawyer Petromir Kanchev pointed out that a big part of the SJC meeting was dedicated to claryfying the "emotions of the Prosecutor General", despite the magistracy having more significant issues. Lawyer Gigova stated that in her opinion, even when he was nominated for the position, Ivan Geshev did not meet the requirements to occupy this position and everything that is happening proves this. The power of the Prosecutor General should be reduced significantly, including through changes to the Constitution, said CC-DB MP Vladislav Panev, who argued that, Geshev is backed into a corner and is looking for a way out of the situation by attacking members of the National Assembly.
On the air of NOVA, the discussion was more focused on changing the SJC composition, reforms and transparent procedures, as well as the need for a broad public debate among professional guilds on the matter.
Duma reports that Bulgaria has the highest costs in the EU for its courts as a share of GDP, according to data presented by the European Commission. For 2019-2021, these costs were equal to about 0.7% of GDP. This country also has one of the highest salaries for supreme judges and senior prosecutors compared to the average salary. Bulgaria ranks fourth in the EU in terms of the number of judges and ninth in terms of the number of lawyers relative to the population. A survey conducted among citizens shows that a low percentage of citizens and companies trust the independence of the Bulgarian courts. Political and other external influence on the system were outlined as the main reasons for this distrust.
Trud, Telegraph, Sega and Mediapool report that Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev submitted to the 49th National Assembly the last part of the evidence materials received in connection the so-called Barcelonagate case, which concerns GERB leader Boyko Borissov. The additional materials constitute evidence relevant to the submitted request for permission to prosecute Borissov. On June 2, Geshev demanded that GERB leader Boyko Borisov's parliamentary immunity be lifted so that he could be charged with money laundering. Boyko Borisov has already announced that he does not intend to voluntarily give up his immunity.
Telegraph reports that there will be an increase in the price of household electricity, Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) head Ivan Ivanov reported before the relevant parliamentary committee. He explained that former caretaker energy minister Rossen Hristov is to blame for this, as in the last days of his post, he signed off on the inclusion of expensive electricity produced by TPP Maritsa-East 2 in the general mix. Ivanov added that this was done in order to help the coal plant, which is operating at a loss. The EWRC head is not sure that the new Minister of Energy Rumen Radev could cancel the order of his predecessor. This will directly affect consumers.
In a NOVA interview, Victor Minchev from the Free Energy Market association commented that electricity will become more expensive until a permanent solution is found for the Maritsa East 2 TPP. "It will be cheaper for us to pay salaries to the workers at the TPP without it actually working", commented the energy expert. He noted that the Matritsa TPPs have been ineffective and expensive for a long time, producing electricity at about three times the average market price, and that former minister Rosen Hristov tried to appease the unions and the people involved with his order. Minchev argued that the energy transition plans have been stalled because of the political impasse in recent years.
Duma reports that the price of agricultural land in this country has increased more than 6 times over the last 10 years, according to data of the Bulgarian Association of Agricultural Landowners. Fragmented land and lack of irrigation continue to be the biggest problem for Bulgarian agriculture. The agricultural land in the country is over 5.2 million hectares, 69% of it is arable. Interest in buying land is growing and the proof is that there is almost no primary supply, prices are also rising. If in 2010 a hectare of land cost an average of BGN 287, then in 2022 the price was BGN 2,787. Bulgaria continues to be the European country with the most fragmented agricultural land. There are 9 million agricultural properties in the country.