Twelve years ago, when Julia Nenkova was appointed deputy mayor of Sofia, the then mayor and current prime minister Boyko Borissov said that her main responsibility would be to "watch the mayor's back". Watching Borissov's back is obviously Nenkova's present role at the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC), Bulgaria's anti-trust authority.
Nenkova had extensive experience and "watched the mayor's back" during the tenure of Borissov's predecessor Stefan Sofiyanski, when she headed the legal affairs department at the Sofia municipal government. Later, she earned Borissov's trust, who appointed her as his deputy in Sofia, replacing no other than his right-hand man Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who left the town hall to lead Borissov's GERB party upon its formation at the end of 2006.
In 2010, prime minister Borissov gave Nenkova another key post - she became head of the Privatisation Agency. A year later, the government agency completed one of its most controversial deals, selling tobacco company Bulgartabak Holding to Austria-registered BT Invest, the ownership of which was unclear. Actually, Delyan Peevski, a member of parliament from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and a media mogul who supports every government, and his former business partner Tsvetan Vasilev, then owner of now bankrupt Corpbank, controlled BT Invest.
Nenkova was responsible for arranging the prerequisites for Bulgartabak's privatization, which included requirements for the purchase of domestically grown tobacco. As a consequence, there was a lack of interest from foreign investors, and the company - formerly a global tobacco monopoly - was sold to the local favorite.
In mid-2016, Parliament elected Nenkova to her influential post at the CPC. She was the only candidate for the position, while the remaining six members of the regulator were elected following behind-the-scenes deals that involved all political parties represented in the National Assembly at the time. For this reason, the CPC was not staffed by experts, but by people with questionable biographies or individuals faithful to the party that had nominated them.
Considering this deployment, the decisions of the CPC on some of its most important cases at the beginning of its mandate in 2016 are no surprise. Up to this point, their top investigation has been a fuel cartel probe. Initially, the CPC announced it had irrefutable proof of the existence of a cartel agreement (including correspondence among local fuel retailers detailing price-fixing), only to later effect a 180-degree turn and fail to see any irregularities with the gasoline and diesel markets. The commission also probed Veselin Mareshki, when the leader of Volya, a small party formed by the pharmacy chain owner emerged as opposition to GERB in Parliament after the 2017 early election. The regulator then fined Mareshki's company Farmnet 500,000 levs for unfair competition. Prosecutor General Sotir Tstatsarov sought to revoke Mareshki's parliamentary immunity on the same grounds.