Democracy and rights
This text is under preparation and will be published shortly.
Law changes should stave off Islamic extremism
Adopts legislative changes which mean that all premises used for worship services and prayer meetings should be registered; The change makes it more difficult for unregistered ministers to practice their activities, for example in private homes or other premises that are not usually used for religious activities. Also decides to increase state support for the country’s two largest religious communities – Orthodox Christians and Islam; The aim is to counter Islamic extremism, and to make the country’s Muslims rely on state aid instead of foreign aid. At the same time rejects proposals for tougher legislative changes put forward by the United Patriotic Ultranationalist Party; According to these proposals, all foreign ministers would be banned as well as foreign support to Muslim communities.
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Protests force away minister
Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov leaves his post after being subject to daily protests organized by parents of children with disabilities for several weeks. The protests began in October when a number of mothers of disabled children organized a protest outside Parliament to demand better support from the community for the children. Simeonov called the mothers “a bunch of screaming women” and accused the protesters of using the children for their own gain. He also suggested that one could question whether the children were really disabled. Simeonov is one of the leaders of the ultranationalist party United Patriots sitting in the government. He has previously been caught up in controversy through rampant attacks against Roma and migrants. Alongside the protests against Simeonov, the demonstrations against high gasoline prices and low living standards have been directed at the government in recent weeks. For example, roads have been blocked across the country.
A pat on the shoulder from the European Commission
The European Commission commends Bulgaria abbreviated as BUL by Abbreviationfinder for making progress in securing the independence of the judiciary, building a regulatory framework and combating crime. In its annual report, the EU Commission notes that if the positive trend persists, Bulgaria will soon be able to escape the special supervision that the EU has exercised over Romania and Bulgaria since becoming EU members. Through this cooperation (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism), the countries had a number of goals to comply with the applicable judicial system and corruption and, in Bulgaria’s case, also organized crime. However, the Commission delivers not only praise but also some rice; The report notes that there has been a significant deterioration of the media climate in Bulgaria since the EU accession. Bulgaria now belongs to the handful of countries in Europe that receive the poorest ratingReporters Without Borders Index of Press Freedom in the World, see list here.
The government remains in place after a vote of no confidence
The government survives a vote of no confidence initiated by the Socialist Party. 133 MPs vote against the motion, which is supported by 99. The Socialist Party accuses the government of having failed to solve the problems in the healthcare sector, which are drawn with high debts and staff escapes. A discussion is underway on reforming the whole system of elements of privatization. As a single step to reduce costs in healthcare, the government has proposed, among other things, that doctors should be forced to prescribe the cheapest medicine when there are several to choose from.
Murder of a journalist raises questions
A female TV journalist is found raped and murdered at a jogging track in a park outside the city of Ruse in northern Bulgaria. The journalist, Viktoria Marinova, was the leader of a new television program. In the first episode aired a week before the murder, high-level corruption allegations were promised. This raises suspicions that Marinova was brought to life by someone who wanted to silence her but prosecutors conclude that it was a sexual murder. A young man is identified with DNA technology and arrested. The arrested person recognizes the murder and is sentenced in the spring of 2019 (see April 22, 2019).
Foreign Bulgarians demand change
Hundreds of foreign Bulgarians gather outside Parliament in Sofia to protest corruption and demand the resignation of the government. The protests are planned to last for three days. The organizers of the manifestation want to introduce a new political system, similar to that found in Switzerland where many decisions are made through legally binding referendums. Other demands that are made are elections for all leading positions and the opportunity to dismiss elected politicians.
Government reform after an accident
At the request of Prime Minister Borisov, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Transport and the Minister responsible for road works submit their farewell applications. The reason is a severe bus accident six days earlier when 17 people died when a tourist bus crashed into the ravine in bad weather. An examination of the accident site shows that the roadway consists of low quality asphalt. The task brings to life a debate about how the maintenance of the country’s roads is affected by the widespread corruption in the country. According to the AFP news agency, accusations are often made that a large part of the funds (often EU money) allocated for road repair have been emptied by people close to power. Only a small part of the money has really been used for maintenance. The number of road accidents in the country is the second highest in the EU after Romania and amounts to twice the average in Europe. The dismissal of the three ministers, all of whom belong to the majority party Gerb, is causing the coalition to wear. The smaller party, the United Patriots, believes that the ministers are being unfairly sacrificed and opposed to the government reform that is being implemented despite it.
The term gender arouses debate
The Constitutional Court explains that it is contrary to the Constitution to define gender as a social concept. “It blurs the boundary between the two established biological genders, male and female,” the court said in its statement. The issue is raised because Prime Minister Borisov has asked Parliament to approve the Istanbul Convention aimed at stopping and preventing violence against women. The convention describes gender as a social construct which has aroused strong opposition from the Orthodox Church and the country’s Muslim minority, but also from the ultranationalist United Patriots that are part of the government. United Patriots argue that a gender interpretation other than strictly biological opens to same-sex marriage and allows people to come out as transsexual. Both phenomena are controversial in Bulgaria.
Victory for partners in same-sex marriage
An Sofia administrative court is tearing up a decision by the Department of Home Affairs’ migration unit that banned an Australian woman married to a French nurse from settling in Bulgaria. The couple married in France 2016 but when they were to move to Bulgaria, the Australian woman was evicted. The Court’s decision is in line with a ruling in the European Court of Justice which states that all Member States should admit non-European partners to EU citizens, including persons in same-sex marriage. This is true even if the country in question does not approve of same-sex marriage. Such is the case in Bulgaria where public opinion on LGBTQ issues is predominantly conservative.
Nuclear power generation resumes
Decides to resume construction of a new nuclear power plant in Belene on the Danube in northern Bulgaria; The building was halted five years ago due to funding problems. The power plant was built by a Russian company that demanded the Bulgarian state for major damages when the construction was stopped. This time, the Treasury is not intended to cover the costs. The government is looking for other financiers. According to Prime Minister Borisov, a Chinese company has shown interest in the project.
President Radev visits Putin
President Radev greets his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin at his summer residence in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea. The two leaders emphasize the importance of their countries’ common Slavic roots. They express hopes for improved dialogue and increased economic cooperation.
Controversy surrounding the mayor of corruption
The country’s new anti-corruption unit strikes against Desislava Ivantjeva, one of the mayors of the capital Sofia. Ivanteva is arrested by police in the city and forced to spend several hours in front of TV cameras coated with handcuffs before being taken to the detention center. She is accused of receiving half a million euros in bribes from a developer who wanted her case dealt with quickly. Regime critics who support Ivantjeva say that evidence is lacking and that the arrest is just a demonstration on the part of the new anti-corruption agency.
Anti-corruption law is adopted without amendments
Despite the president’s objections, Parliament adopts the Anti-Corruption Act without any changes and the new anti-corruption unit can start working.
Presidential veto against the Anti-Corruption Act
President Radev vetoes the law passed by Parliament in December 2017 to combat corruption among politicians and senior civil servants (see August 2017 and December 2017). The president’s motivation for stopping the law is that the prosecution is too weak for so-called whistleblowers who hint at suspected corruption. The presidential vote means that the bill goes back to Parliament for review, but the legislators can then force the president to sign the law even if it has not been revised. According to the organization Transparency International, Bulgaria is the EU’s most corrupt member state.