The week: A prosecutor-general heads out, an EUcommissioner comes in, and an American president drops by

The week: A prosecutor-general heads out, an EUcommissioner comes in, and an American president drops by

© Георги Кожухаров

Here we are at the end of a very exciting week. To understand just how fast things have spiraled, let me break it down for you in installments.

First, GERB leader Boyko Borissov said he was discussing a cabinet with the pro-reformist parties and mulling a mechanism for control over the Prosecutor General (a prime condition for reform in the justice system, for EU-funds and for normalization in society). Then the said PG - Ivan Geshev, had his car bombed - seemingly an attack on law & order which was intended as a signal to Borissov.

And then things got out of control.

It turned out the fake (let's now call it out openly for what it was) attack was so botched it didn't even withstand the scant scrutiny Geshev's subordinates allowed for. The explosives were not as big as heralded, the damage was minimal, no family members were in the car and it turned out that the Israeli bomb expert ushered to the scene by Geshev's deputy had been brought into the country several hours beforehand.

Usually, even after a stitch-up like that, the first line of Geshev's defense is presenting a united front to the media denying the reality and insisting we're not seeing what we are (happened countless times). But this time something cracked.

His deputy Borislav Sarafov, also head of the National Investigative Unit, gave not one but two interviews, in which he openly criticized the PG. "Maybe it's time I say something to him. The way the prosecution got involved in politics is valid vice versa. The Prosecution needs to change the way it speaks, get out of parliament and Roma ghettos and return to the courthouse," said Sarafov, drawing sighs from all over the political and journalistic sectors.

To call this unusual is an understatement. For a deputy prosecutor to turn like that on his boss is a major event, and for someone like Sarafov, who has his own positions in the judicial system and has been a deputy PG for quite some time, this marks a new and unexpected battlefield. But there is more to that story.

I highly doubt Sarafov would have risked it, had he not sensed blood. This week a famous name from the 90s, who is still one of the largest players in the insurance business, and a let's call him security expert Alexey Petrov, said Geshev needs to resign, to allow for an investigation into the matter. This would "unblock the country", said Petrov. I don't have much sympathy for Mr. Petrov, but it's a strange time when he states what politicians were afraid to say.

A day later Borissov's nominee for Prime Minister - the European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel called openly for Geshev's resignation. And behold - the almighty Turkish MRF party which secretly pulls the strings in the judicial system for decades, agreed.

And here we are. To understand the current absurd situation, let me sum it up: the Prosecutor-General almost certainly faked an attack on himself to present himself as a victim, but his own subordinates, as well as politicians, turned on him and said "enough is enough, game's up".

Suddenly Ivan Geshev seems a lone figure, ready to be toppled. This still has to go to the Supreme Judicial Council and be voted on, of course, but since it is politically controlled and most of its members are up for reelection by Parliament, this is not a very big obstacle if GERB and MRF are fine with it.

Sounds too good to be true, yet this is Bulgaria and this is, probably, not a fairytale. So a word to the wise.

My experience shows that the status-quo only takes a step back if it knows it can take two forward. Neither Borissov (who is silent on the matter), nor MRF, nor Sarafov are knights in shining armor, fresh to the scene. This looks much more like an operation to dump a bad asset, rather than a wholehearted justice reform.

Or, to put it in another way: Geshev might be just the sacrifice needed for a new government to be born.

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@Martin Dimitrov & Evgeni Ahmadzai


Enter: Gabriel from Brussels

So, as already mentioned, there is a new name on the political table. Traditionally it is ex-PMs and high-ranking officials from EU member states who go to Brussels to advance their careers. In Bulgaria, however, things went the other way around and now Sofia's European Commissioner - Mariya Gabriel - has been nominated for interim Prime Minister by Boyko Borissov's GERB.

The move is quite smart - Borissov pulls out the last of his international cards and simultaneously secures recognition from abroad and from his wanna-be reform partners.

Mariya who?

Gabriel (born Nedeltcheva) has been just a face and a distant name to Bulgarian voters. Her only real asset here is that she's not implicated in any recent misdemeanors. There was a small real-estate scandal back in 2012, when the Bivol investigative website found out she had rented a municipality-owned central apartment in Sofia at well below the market price to "stock her luggage" (her own words).

But, apart from that, her only role in internal politics was to introduce Borissov when he tours her native Southeast and act as a liaison between him and Manfred Weber from the European People's Party.

She practically spent her entire working career after university in Brussels - first as an MEP (2009-2017) and then as a Digitalization and Innovation Commissioner (2017 - present).

So, what are the options now?

In any case, in the coming days Ms Gabriel will try to win a majority of MPs for her cause. There are (mathematically) three scenarios for her to secure enough support:

  • A GERB-WCC-DB partnership, which will have a majority of 134 MPs (out of 121 needed). This seems to be the preferred option for GERB, as it torpedoes their main opponents and preserves their pro-EU/NATO credentials; but it will be destructive for WCC-DB, who built their raison d'etre around dismissing Borissov;

  • A GERB-BSP-MRF partnership, which will have 128 MPs. This is sub-optimal for GERB - BSP is openly pro-Russian and they don't want to get associated with it, and MRF is the only "greater" evil in terms of corruption reputation, so this would largely be seen as a "mafia" coalition by most Bulgarians;
  • A GERB-BSP-MRF-TISP coalition - this will have 139 MPs and the only way in which it might be different is that the presence of a fourth party would give a greater sense that GERB are pressing for a "government of national salvation."

  • As you know, we've predicted several times Borissov will go for the second option as this is the shortest way to power and keeps him on the wheel before the local elections. With Gabriel in the front and Geshev sacrificed, he now lays out the red carpet and waits for guests. The only question mark is what will BSP leader Kornelia Ninova ask in return. The rumor has it - at least 2 ministerial seats.

    In any case, follow KInsights next week for the latest political developments!

    Another thing we've touted: anti-EU trends in Bulgaria

    Bulgaria is among at least ten EU countries where anti-EU parties have been growing stronger, according to this year's cultural compass of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). What is more, the country is in the "dark red" zone - only alongside Victor Orban's Hungary - when it comes to anti-European risks because of the added complications of growing popular distrust in the EU, rising fears over costs of living, the heated internal political context, as well as low levels of media freedom and media literacy, the ECFR cultural compass claims. Read the whole report on the ECFR website.


    New date for the Euro adoption: 1 January 2025

    Bulgaria is making progress with technical preparations for euro adoption on 1 January 2025, but meeting the inflation and budget deficit criteria remains a challenge, according to a discussion on Bulgaria's accession to the euro area organized by the Economic and Social Council to the Council of Ministers earlier this week.

    When it comes to pledges, everyone is in favor of the euro - business, politicians and trade unions. The ball, however, will be in the hands of the MPs again in a month's time, when, according to the finance ministry's statements, the draft law on adopting the euro is expected to be submitted to parliament for consideration.



    Is the contraction in the industrial sector, compared to the previous year. The leader in decline is Energy, yet for the first time manufacturing is also entering the red, which means exports will also fall and consumption will remain the sole engine of growth this year.




    The Austrian company of the German chip maker Infineon launched a partnership with the Technical University of Sofia to train PhD students. The initiative is part of the European IPCEI microelectronics project.



    The newest seed fund in the Bulgarian startup ecosystem told Capital weekly it has pledged to invest 25 mln euro in new companies in the next five years.


    Sin Cars

    The shares of the Ruse-based car manufacturer rose by more than 8%, albeit with minimal turnover, after the company announced 4 orders for the delivery of the electric car L City.


    Antoan Vill

    In July, the tailoring company (also from Ruse) will move into a new distribution center that will provide greater efficiency, lower costs, greater productivity and better working conditions, according to the company director Antoaneta Antonova, who told Capital weekly this will be the first phase of a 1 million levs investment.


    Coal is over

    Well, not literally, but the state-owned "Maritza Iztok 2" has seen profits contract by 30% in the first quarter of 2023. Demand is also collapsing - since April, the plant has been operating with barely 15% of its capacity. This is mainly due to the high cost of its electricity.

    Nuclear keeps profiting

    The almost back to normal energy prices have affected the Nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, as the company's profit fell five times in 2023 Q1 compared to the same period in the previous year when the plant reported a positive financial result of almost one billion levs.

    Nevertheless, the nuclear plant's first-quarter report shows that despite significantly lower electricity prices on the market the company continues to earn huge amounts from power generation. Large part of the money goes straight for compensating the business. Revenues from the sale of electricity practically fell by half from last year - they are now 807 million levs, while in the first quarter of 2022 they were 1.5 billion levs.


    Shells for Ukraine, from Bulgaria, via Brussels

    Just a few hours after one of the largest air strikes against the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on 9 May, MEPs voted through an "urgent procedure" the European Commission's proposal to create an Ammunition Support Act (ASAP). The regulation provides for the urgent supply of ammunition for Ukraine's needs through local production in Europe and helping member states to replenish their stockpiles by implementing targeted measures. To this end, 500 million euro will be mobilized as soon as possible in the form of grants.

    Bulgarian companies (public and private) will have the opportunity to join this scheme until mid-2025, without being selected by a national authority or institution.

    Joint Gas Purchasing

    The Commission has launched the first and long promised international tender for joint gas purchasing, under the EU Energy Platform. Some 107 companies have so far subscribed to participate in it via the recently created AggregateEU mechanism; 77 European companies have submitted requests for a total volume of some 11.6 billion cubic meters of gas. LNG demand represents approximately 2.7 bcm, while almost 8.9 bcm is requested for delivery via pipeline



    Zdravko Dimitrov

    Plovdiv's mayor is in the last 6 months of his rule and he's obviously planning to sell whatever he can - the latest one is a desire to give 35 million levs to a private company in return for a big parcel in a city park.

    Kiril Domuschiev

    The businessmen and leader of one of the employer's associations has invited former US president Bill Clinton to Sofia, in order to show his good ties to the US (which by the way is helpful just in case his name gets too tightly connected to the Magnitsky-sanctioned Vladislav Goranov who for years was a close friend)


    10 November

    Is the deadline for households to apply for the new mechanism for home solar systems. There are 240 million levs for this. Each household can apply for 15 thousand levs for solar panels and 2000 levs for solar boiler-heaters.



    Have you noticed Bulgaria is missing from this year's Eurovision? Yep, that's because the national TV doesn't want to spend money on it. If you ask why Bulgaria is abdicating given that this is the first year in which Eurovision is going global (with the US now also able to vote), well, last year BNT claimed that it was a useless expenditure at a "time of war". Or at least that's what they say, though the process of selecting a national song to represent Bulgaria hasn't been entirely straightforward in recent years



    The top contemporary dance event in Bulgaria returns to the City under the hills for the 15th time next week (19 May) until 2 June, with dozens of world-class performances by choreographers such as Oona Doherty, Ayelen Parolin and Gergana Dimitrova. Find out the full program here


    Милиционерщина (Police arbitrariness)

    One of the best known socialist-era phrases is милиционерщина, which loosely translates as police arbitrariness and unwarranted excess by a totally unchecked repressive apparatus. We got reminded of it yet again this week after Plovdiv police made a drugs swoop on the city's biggest nightclub in which more than 400 people were having a weekend rave.

    All 400 people were thoroughly searched, with several dozen of them being forced to undress completely in the bathroom.

    But there is a bit more to this than meets the eye: the city's nightclubs are controlled by the same people and rumor has it they are connected to a well-known trafficker in Dubai. So expect a bit more on this front in the next few weeks.

    Here it is, your weekly moment of zen:

    The only sitting US president to visit Bulgaria returns for the first time since 1999.

    Here we are at the end of a very exciting week. To understand just how fast things have spiraled, let me break it down for you in installments.

    First, GERB leader Boyko Borissov said he was discussing a cabinet with the pro-reformist parties and mulling a mechanism for control over the Prosecutor General (a prime condition for reform in the justice system, for EU-funds and for normalization in society). Then the said PG - Ivan Geshev, had his car bombed - seemingly an attack on law & order which was intended as a signal to Borissov.

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