I'm a freak. I like history way more than news. I delve into small details, rather than great schemes. I'd rather read the 270-year comparison of food prices in Bulgaria, than what's gonna happen with inflation this year. In short, I believe long-term trends are a more reliable (and more interesting) guide than the exhausting 24/7 news cycle which leaves you breathless.
By the way, it turns out this news-aversion is global. I work in the news industry so I shouldn't really be saying this, but I think it's good that people (mostly young) are avoiding news more and more. In his book "Human kind" Rutger Bergman states that this constant news cycle which exhausts every topic and fuels itself on ever more fringe stories is one of the reasons why many people tend to see others as bad and fear the world. We see matters blown out of proportion just for the sake of some news producer and we tend to believe this is how things actually are.
Which leads me to the present Bulgarian situation.
If you are like me, you probably got lost in the news of the last few weeks. Whatever is happening, it's hard to compile it in one place and explain it easily and the news networks blew it far out of proportion.
So we need to take a step back. There was an interview with the famous Dutch football player Ruud Gulit who became a coach. He explained that he watches football in a totally different way from most people. "For the first 10-20 minutes I just watch formations, how and where players are moving, I hardly ever notice the ball", said Gulit (I'm paraphrasing by memory).
So let's take our eyes off the ball here for a while and watch formations. Some are clear: there is a government, it has a majority and it will probably last for some months (though I still maintain it will not reach rotation). The Prosecutor-General is out, and a war is going on for who's gonna inherit the service. Two formations are growing stronger: the unannounced President's party and the pro-Russian Vazrazhdane (Revival). Both are against the government, and like to play with popular sentiment to win support: keeping Bulgaria unaligned in the Russo-Ukrainian war, staying out of the eurozone.
Some formations, however, are not so clear. What is going on with the underground war between figures from the 90s? Which are the camps in the Prosecution service, whom are they loyal to, and who else is taking the fall after Geshev? Now that Boyko Borissov's star is on the wane, is GERB going to fall apart? And will that happen before or after the local elections?
Plenty of uncertainty here.
So let's rather look at recent history for a guide. I was tempted to make a parallel with the Weimer republic: a careless president, rival groups fighting in the streets, political failures, constant elections and oligarchs everywhere. But that would be going too far, though I certainly hear voices saying we're nurturing fascism. Instead, I'll offer a more fitting example.
Exactly 10 years ago, I was out on the streets of Sofia together with tens of thousands of people, to protest against Delyan Peevski's appointment as head of National Security. Peevski, at that time, was the concentrated power of the captured state: he owned the media, the prosecution service and was about to head the security apparatus.
We managed to stop him, but only formally and his people meanwhile silently created a system for siphoning most of the EU money flowing into Bulgaria. When GERB returned to power a year later, Peevski negotiated with Borissov and thus the corrupted system we've been living in for the past 10 years was born. We got out-maneuvered and it would be another 7 years before the next protests began.
Two lessons here. First, working with Peevski and Borissov is always a dead end and any change they agree to will always benefit them. Second, Bulgarian politics is a smoke and mirror game. You might believe something is important while at the same time someone is planning to game the system. So keep your hopes down and just go along for the ride for the moment. Things can go astray at any moment.
This newsletter is helped byMartin Dimitrov & Monika Varbanova
POLITCS THIS WEEKCadres decide everything
This famous quote by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin on the importance of having trusted people in key positions perfectly describes the first weeks in power for any Bulgarian government. The Denkov-Gabriel rotational cabinet ran into some serious trouble here. As the synchronized resignations (likely induced by President Rumen Radev) of most deputy ministers and all regional governors hit, the new cabinet is far from filling all the seats.
The WCC-DB coalition lacks enough manpower and willing allies to fill the positions they want to, indicating a potential lack of trust in the longevity of this government.
Main point: who gets to decide
Finance Minister Assen Vassilev wanted to send Violeta Lorer, his former deputy in the first Petkov cabinet and wife of WCC politician Daniel Lorer, to the board of directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB). Vassilev has every right to do so: the position is unpaid and Ms Lorer's professional qualities are self-evident, while the Finance minister gets the final say in this.
Yet this caused an uproar with the media slamming it as nepotism, with GERB screaming foul. Just imagine what will happen when all the 80 positions in the regulators come up for grabs.
If you want nothing done, hand it to a committeeAfter three hours of debate on Wednesday and with 186 votes "for" and 32 "against", the National Assembly established a temporary committee to decide whether the immunities of MPs Boyko Borissov and Daniel Alexandrov from GERB, Kiril Petkov from WCC and Dimitar Avramov from MRF should be lifted. Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev asked Parliament to lift their immunity from prosecution, so they could be held criminally liable on various charges.
The proposal for the formation of the commission was submitted by the parliamentary group of WCC-DB and was supported by GERB, Vazrazhdane and MRF. The special commission will work until 18 July 2023, but will have no president, as no party wanted to have their member nominated as one.
Speaking of Geshev, he's gone
As we wrote on Tuesday, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev was swiftly dismissed by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for his comment that the "political trash" ought to be thrown out of Parliament. The President signed this into reality, putting an end to this chapter.
Mr Geshev promised to continue fighting against his removal and to expose "interesting" facts regarding the Barcelonagate scandal in the European Parliament's rule of law committee (LIBE) the next day. Like most promises in his career, this proved disappointing: nothing came out of his 30-minute discussion with the MEPs.
The only mildly interesting fact was his meeting with three European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) MEPs instead of returning to Sofia to be questioned by Bulgarian parliamentarians. It is not unlikely that the next step for the disgruntled prosecutor will be to join a new conservative-patriotic movement.
But not without a parting gift
Only in the first three days after the new investigation mechanism of the Prosecutor General and his deputies came into force, the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) received the first five signals against Mr Geshev and the Director of the National Investigation Service Borislav Sarafov, who is also Deputy Prosecutor General. Three of the signals are against Mr Geshev and have been filed by citizens, while the two signals against Mr Sarafov come from the prosecution itself.
And to give you an idea of how exactly this rotten system "worked" in recent years, there is no better illustration than the story of "NAP leaks": the hacking of tax data for millions of Bulgarians, which led nowhere.
ECONOMICS Water everywhere: floods, Black sea and the Ukrainian dam
Meanwhile, we're drowning in rainwater, after suffering biblical downpours in the Western part of the country. The city of Berkovitsa has been washed away, while Sofia is on the brink, watching as the water levels rise. Since this is now a constant climate threat, I'd suggest we judge our mayors in the autumn on their ability to clean river beds, fine rule-breakers and actually maintain the safety of the city.
Treasury to target deficit below 3% this year
The Finance Ministry is working out a budget for this year that will have a deficit of 3% of GDP according to the European methodology and even below 3% on a cash basis according to Deputy Finance Minister Georgi Klisurski, who spoke during a meeting of the budget committee in Parliament this week. The motion passed, albeit with slight modifications, the extension of the budget extension law, which the state is to work with until the adoption of a normal financial plan for this year. The goal is for that to happen by the end of July.
Figures:0.1% The deflation of consumer prices in May compared to the previous month. It comes thanks to cheaper fuel, transport and tourism services.
The Canadian gold mining company, which owns the Chelopech and Krumovgrad mines, will be able to acquire 75% of the rights to the Iglika area in southeastern Bulgaria, where exploration for copper and gold is being carried out.
BRUSSELSDigital Schengen Visas
Political agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Council this week, allowing for the digitalization of the Schengen visa procedure. The idea is to modernize two main aspects of the visa procedure: the digitalization of the visa sticker and the digitalization of the visa application, by setting up an EU online Visa application platform.
First AI legislation in the EUOn Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act. The latter is the first EU legislation to set rules that would ensure that AI developed and used in Europe is fully in line with EU rights and values. MEPs also expanded the list to include bans on intrusive and discriminatory uses of AI, such as: "Real-time" remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces; "Post" remote biometric identification systems, with the only exception of law enforcement for the prosecution of serious crimes and only after judicial authorization; biometric categorization systems using sensitive characteristics (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, political orientation) etc.
WATCH OUT FORPeople Ivan Demerdzhiev
The ex-Interior Minister is gearing up for a new position - he's probably going to run for Plovdiv Mayor, supported by the President. The battle for the second city will be ferocious, as plenty more players are entering the field.
CEO of the company owner of Business park Sofia, which is begging to work on upgrading its current infrastructure to accommodate artists, culture and other initiatives. The park is Sofia's first-ever private public space and is already a prime example of what business can do to improve a city.
An appeal in a long-dragging court case against the procedure for appointment of National TV (BNT) director general Emil Koshlukov could prolong his mandate by at least a year, as the media regulator SEM would be unable to restart the procedure to find his heir, Dnevnik.bg reported on Thursday.
When a new mayoral candidate for Sofia is due to be announced by the governing parties of WCC-DB.
25 June - 2 July
Bulgaria's mountain resort of Bansko will host a digital nomad festival, which will bring together freelancers and experts in various fields. Check it out here.
The next global climate summit could be in Sunny Beach, and the Environment Ministry is lobbying hard for this, as were two previous cabinets. Yet there is a significant obstacle - Russia will vote against any EU member state hosting the summit.
Where the Bundestag votes for a resolution admitting Macedonian language, culture and identity, in a move seen as a victory for Skopje's foreign policy. North Macedonia wants to stop Bulgaria posing new conditions before the opening of the negotiations for EU membership, while it is yet to fulfill its primary obligation: changing the Constitution to admit ethnic Bulgarians.
Word of the weekМатури - matriculation
Last week's release of the disastrous matriculation results of high school graduates has sparked discussions about the failure of the Bulgarian public education system. The students' average score in the only compulsory exam - in Bulgarian language and literature - is "Very good" 3.93 (out of a maximum of 6), or just over 50 score points out of 100 - the lowest recorded results in the history of matriculation exams. In fact, if the evaluation system was like a Western one, the average grade would be just above the passing rate. If a compulsory Mathematics test is included, the results would be even worse. Typically, all sides blame each other - teachers blame the students, students - the inadequate teaching, the Ministry of Education - the effects of the pandemic.
And we dare say that the kids are (probably) right. Any system which examines them on a world long gone, is bound to fail.