The first day of February marks 76 years since the "People's Court" (an extrajudicial tribunal that tried thousands of members of the Bulgarian political elite and bourgeoisie in 1945) carried out most of its sentences. It is supposed to commemorate the victims of the totalitarian State Socialist regime, but traditionally descends into a face-off between Socialist apologists and their opponents.
It was no different this year, with most of the important news - including the relaxation of anti-pandemic measures (face masks are now the only allowed protection in closed off spaces from today, no scarfs, buffs or face shields allowed) -overshadowed by the pro- and anti-communist bickering. One story, however, dominated the headlines.
President Radev stands again
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev announced his plans to run for a second term alongside his deputy, Iliyana Yotova, during a speech marking four years since his inauguration as Head of State in January 2017. Mr Radev said he had not yet discussed his nomination with the party that formally backed him in 2016, the socialist BSP, but expects their support again. He also warned that the April Parliamentary elections may lead to a "new government of the deep state" and pleaded for Bulgarians to vote for a "powerful political alternative".
The state Road Agency on the hunt for landslides
After another road collapsed in the last few days - "Struma" highway was partially closed on Saturday because of rocks falling and a landslide - the government entered into emergency mode. From Monday the Road Agency will have to inspect every possible landslide on the Bulgarian roads to try to prevent it. This will also be done by the private companies that are tasked (for tens of millions of euro each year) with repairing and maintaining the said roads. This landslide of problems (pun intended) is turning into a growing ache for the government, already mired in corruption scandals surrounding road-tenders. Also on Monday, the deputy-minister responsible for the roads admitted that the decades-long policy of centralizing money and decentralizing responsibilities, had failed. Right now, municipalities are supposed to maintain their road-networks without having the financial capacity to do so. This, the minister hinted, might change.
Banks record 50 percent profit fall compared to 2019
Bulgarian banks made 407 million euro in profit in 2020, half of what they earned in the year before the pandemic-induced crisis hit the markets. Nine out of 24 banks - mostly the smaller players - registered net loss, while the biggest financial institutions, including the leader in the sector, Unicredit Bulbank, still had a profitable year, albeit far from their results in 2019 (107 million euro profit in 2020 versus 207 million euro in 2019 for Unicredit Bulbank). The fall in profits is mostly due to accumulated impairments and provisions by the Bulgarian Development Bank used by the government as an instrument to carry out its anti-crisis policies and the impaired retail banking segment.