It was, I suppose, inevitable. As Chekhov pointed out, if there is a gun on the wall in the first act, it will at some point go off. Meaning, if you appoint someone as brutal, dictatorial, law-breaking and simplistic as Ivan Geshev to a position of absolute power, you are creating an uncontrollable monster. And when you want to control it, it will turn on you.
So I can't claim to be anything other than pleased at the implosion we witnessed in the prosecutor's office this week. And yet the sheer speed with which it came about is breathtaking. Let's leave aside the theatrics of Geshev (the slow tearing up of his resignation letter, the Trumpian "I will clear the political rubbish") and focus on the revelations.
The chief prosecutor announced that a former prime minister was urging him to step down and had threatened his family, while admitting there are political cases kept "in folders" for further use. An hour later his deputy announced his boss was "mentally unstable" and requested personal protection because he said he feared for his life. Since Geshev also demanded the resignation of his own deputy, we can safely say that the whole prosecution service has imploded and is broken.
So even if there were "recordings and evidence" as promised by Geshev against politicians, to whom would they be handed? The investigation would have to be carried out by an institution perceived to be biased and manipulated.
It's a sad irony that Geshev might live to regret that no one outside his powers could act as an independent investigator.
But let's get real.
There will probably not be anything substantial as evidence anyway. I regard Geshev's move as an act of self-defense and an opening salvo (or a bid) against his recent partners in crime, and not the action of some loose cannon who's about to go "Giovanni Falcone" on them.
"I have this weapon and I'm not afraid to use it", he says. He doesn't have anything to lose - if disbanded, he faces either legal charges, or a visit from some old friends in Dubai. His former partners, however, are reasonable people with long experience in blackmail and score-settling.So expect: more secret phone-calls, SMSs, and money changing hands (and bags).
Don't expect: more photos of Borissov lying naked on top of gold and cash (the investigation into his locker, pictured above, went nowhere).
But having said this, I am still happy. I'll explain.
We've spent the years since the big anti-corruption eruption in 2020 in a state of flux between hope and disillusionment. Lost somewhere amongst the ruins of those castles of sand, many people seem to have forgotten what is it that protests were. Wait a minute, they will say, but Mr. Borissov is a legitimate political player and a figure to be respected. How bad can a GERB model be, after all?
Well, it's THAT bad. Messages were flowing, behind the scenes control of faceless magistrates was ongoing, cases were settled, or kept in lockers for future use, people were extorted, politicians were directed, strings were pulled. It wasn't that we didn't know this. It was that we tend to forget it.
The country didn't break this week. It was already broken, it just fell apart very publicly. Let's see who picks up the remains.
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@Martin Dimitrov & Monika Varbanova
POLITCS THIS WEEK
Or more like: what a week!
On Monday, after Geshev's show, BSP told GERB that they can't support Mariya Gabriel's cabinet. But it wasn't because GERB were implicated in a massive corruption and state-capture. It was because it was unclear what the now former Eurocommissioner proposed in terms of policies (not untrue) and because of the gender ideology that connects GERB and WCC-DB.
On the same day, Gabriel got trashed by Politico in an article, where she was described as a "party soldier," "lacking gravitas" and as a boss who "pushes her staff to breaking point." Gabriel, meanwhile, resigned as a Commissioner, to start a political role back home (there were rumors surrounding that resignation, but believe me, we've checked and so far it looks as if she did it on her own accord and in line with the regulations).
She might be left empty-handed however - there is still a chance for a cabinet next week but I'd put it on under 10%.
The next day the reformists from WCC-DB virtually killed her prospects of becoming PM as they finally decided at an internal council not to back her nomination and the first mandate to form a cabinet;
The cherry on top of that whole mayhem was that, despite the total meltdown, both Mariya Gabriel and WCC-DB pressed on with their (likely futile) attempts to push through their respective cabinets. Although we all know we are most likely going to a new round of early elections very soon
The consolation figure: Stoyu Stoev
Despite the tensions between the two leading factions, the "gentlemen's agreement" brokered two weeks ago seems to be partly holding. Under the terms, WCC-DB would support Rossen Zhelyazkov (GERB) to become speaker of Parliament - which they did - and GERB would support WCC-DB's nomination for chairman of the justice affairs committee in Parliament, a key organ for the much-needed judicial reform.
The problem? The post went to 30-year-old Stoyu Stoev, an inexperienced and totally unknown lawyer from the ranks of WCC who has never said or done anything notable regarding the topic. In his first interview after his appointment, Mr Stoev did little to dispel these concerns.
So, a little work done?
What matters after all is - will this Parliament accomplish anything before disbanding? It looks as if at least the law for control over the Prosecution General will pass. What else will be completed (if anything), remains to be seen.
Economic slowdown is already visible
While the Bulgarian economy will keep growing this year, it will be by a mere 1.5% amid a slowdown in consumption and exports. That's according to the newly released spring macroeconomic forecast the European Commission released earlier this week. In it, GDP growth is revised slightly upwards by 0.1 percentage point.
2023 is set to be one of the weakest years for the Bulgarian economy in a decade. Against this backdrop, inflation expectations have risen once again. While the post-pandemic recovery boom is already fading, the negative effects of high inflation and rising interest rates are becoming more pronounced. After posting minimal growth in the first quarter, the economy will effectively stagnate, Brussels forecasts.
The slowdown is already visible - In the first three months of the year, GDP increased by 2% on an annual basis and by 0.4% on a quarterly basis, flash data from the National Statistics Institute (NSI) released on Tuesday show.
But worry not: 2024 is fairly positive - 2.4%.
After reaching 14% in March, inflation slowed further in April. The decline comes mainly from food and fuel.
2 billion euro
The amount of EU Cohesion funds Bulgaria has to spend by the end of this year - or risk losing. If experience is anything to go by, I'd say rail transport and water projects are way behind schedule and will be transferred to the next period.
One of the factories of the state-owned military production consortium marked a 300% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2023 over higher than planned sales of military items (launchers, shells, etc.). While the results of some of the other factories in this group are not so good, they are a definite improvement on years of stagnation.
The German manufacturer of air conditioning systems for cars BHTC, which entered Bulgaria 10 years ago, is preparing a new expansion of its plant in the industrial zone in Bozhurishte with an estimated investment of 10-20 million euro. This comes after the company built a second building in 2019, significantly increasing its turnover and workforce.
Marketing & PR
The communication agency was selected as PR Agency of the Year in this year's 13th edition of the BAPRA Bright Awards, organized by the Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies (BAPRA).
Only a year after opening its factory in Plovdiv, the manufacturer of optical products Optix invested in a new base in Panagyurishte. The new location will allow it to expand operations and the total investment will reach BGN 20 million.
EU Customs Reform - The initiative announced on Wednesday is to target Online Sellers like Amazon, Alibaba, Aliexpress. Proposals aim to ensure trading platforms follow the bloc's rules. In addition, they would have to charge customs duties and VAT at the time of purchase, so consumers will no longer face hidden charges or unexpected paperwork when the parcel arrives. The proposal will abolish the current exception under which goods valued at less than €150 are exempt from customs duty. Brussels will also create a single hub for importers and will use AI.
Schengen enlargement - The Commission is presenting the second State of Schengen Report. This report is part of the Commission's initiative to further reinforce the Schengen governance through a yearly reporting exercise presenting the state of Schengen, identifying challenges and best practices, as well as priority areas for action (including enlargement). The State of Schengen Report will serve as the basis for political discussions and steer at the Schengen Council on 8 June 2023.
WATCH OUT FOR:
The long-exiled lottery oligarch decided to chip in on his longstanding grudge against Mr. Borissov and announced he is willing to return to Bulgaria as a "protected witness" to testify against the former PM. He called Mr Geshev - a nemesis of his - a "repented sinner" who could be "more valuable than a saint".
The former deputy minister of economy from GERB who was sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act by the USA in June 2021, was acquitted at the first instance by the Blagoevgrad District Court in a case over the alleged misuse of EU funds dedicated for the construction of a guest house. Yet another triumph of local justice over foreign meddling, no doubt.
The caretaker minister of regional development sparked a protest this week by opening up the process of completing the highway to Greece through a natural reserve. His ministry also claimed they can't pay the remaining 50% they promised to more than 200 municipalities for projects already started last year.
6-9 June 2024
Is the date for the next European Parliament Elections. In case you wondered if we are going to skip a year without a vote.
Fund of funds
Bisser Petkov, the social minister in the third Borissov cabinet, and Alexander Petkov, the former deputy minister for defense in one of the caretaker cabinets of President Rumen Radev, became part of the management and supervisory board of the fund, which will distribute 1.3 billion levs to startup companies in the coming years.
8-years too late and at almost double the initial cost of 38 million levs, the second largest seaside city finally got its sports arena - it has 6000 seats and looks like a ladybug. It also can qualify for the European championship of malpractice, since at least two companies walked away with tons of public money from it.
The air-base will host the F-16 when they arrive. It needs, however, some upgrading before that, including some secret infrastructure. Turns out Bulgarian companies tasked with this will not manage, so it looks like there will be a delay and some foreign help in that.
Here it is, your weekly moment of zen - Alexander Vezenkov becomes the MVP of European basketball