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Media freedom under threat in #Bulgaria

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The presidential elections in the poorest EU member state remain on the periphery of European media attention. These elections, however, are indicative of the state of a shattered Bulgarian political system that has nothing in common with the political alignment or representation of parties in the European Parliament, writes Nikolay Barekov MEP.

barekov

Nikolay Barekov MEP.

After the elections, the crisis in Bulgaria and the establishment of a buffer zone between Europe and Turkey will be on the agenda. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has made a fundamental error, caused by his desire to retain power at least as long as his mentor Angela Merkel. This is also due to his inability to assimilate, rethink, and react to the global agenda. Not surprisingly, he is the source of extremely negative comments and articles in prestigious journals, the most recent one was in Forbes magazine.

The basic technique for Borisov and his media service is to marginalize any author of criticism. As a result, the authoritative Forbes was described as the "writings of one blogger!" by the non-speaking English Bulgarian prime minister. Biased journalists, who receive their salaries from the prime minister, reviled the author as "corrupt and taking money from the opposition”.

The problem is that in Bulgaria there is no real right wing party like the Conservative party in UK, the Christian Democrats in Germany or Republicans of Sarkozy in France. The Bulgarian Prime Minister is not even a faint copy of other right wing eastern European leaders such as Viktor Orban in Hungary or Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland.

Borisov created his GERB party like the former Communist Party of the last and longest-serving communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. Borisov's career began in the Zhivkov’s Communist party as an ordinary firefighter.  Then his strange biography goes through a very dark period, carefully hidden by the media in Bulgaria, until he appears as a private bodyguard of Todor Zhivkov.

I announced shortly before the Congress of the European Conservatives in Prague shocking evidence that 75% of senior management of GERB were senior members of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP), the most faithful satellite of the former Soviet Union.

By comparison, the true heir of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party (BSP), has a much smaller percentage of ex-communists in their management. Quite naturally, the GERB presidential candidate Tsetska Tsacheva is also a former member and party activist of the Communist Party and current Chairwoman of the Bulgarian Parliament.

According to deep analysis of leading political scientists, the roots of both major parties GERB and BSP could be found 25 years ago in the Communist party. It is argued that the deceased Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov, who was the last Bulgarian politician to be killed, had the idea to separate the party from the State Security (SS) by creating two parallel structured heirs – the left Socialist Party and the right - first UDF and after its decline - GERB.

It is a fact that representatives of the CSS (Communist secret services) killed Lukanov. It is also a fact that in all major Bulgarian parties there are people related to the former communist SS and the sinister Soviet KGB.

Most curious is the fact that agents who have served the communists in SS are in the top echelon of the two opposites - the party of the Turkish minority MRF and VMRO, whose leader and presidential candidate Karakacanov is former agent form the secret services.

Karakachanov already labelled himself as a right-wing politician, but he and his coalition partners were created in the laboratories of the SS. Today they are agents of influence for Russian President Putin. Extreme right Bulgarian nationalists have never condemned the Russian invasion of Crimea and did not support Ukraine.

Although he was advised by his EPP party in the European Parliament to cooperate with the European Conservatives and centre-right parties in Bulgaria being the party of former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov’s Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (EPP), and my party BWC (member of the ACRE) Borisov chose after winning the election to enter into coalition with illegitimate European parties.

He made a coalition with the party of former President Parvanov (extreme left) who directly protects the interests of Putin in Bulgaria and several smaller parties of Bulgarian nationalists who also gravitate in the sphere of Russian interests.

borisov

Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov

Due to many corruption scandals in the government and resignations of MPs, Borisov and his party GERB is forced to rely on the votes of the extreme nationalist party Ataka, whose leader is known by European politicians and Bulgarian citizens for convictions for his hooliganism, his xenophobia, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is important to note that these parties do not belong to any serious European political family.

Against this background, the Bulgarian energy dependence on Russia increases and there is a lack of any alternative sources of gas and oil. There is a risk that in a few years Bulgaria will have to rely on Russian gas imported from Turkey, as Bulgaria currently owes Russia more than 500 million euro due to the stopped project for a nuclear power plant in Belene.

There is no real opposition to GERB in the parliament, but for the presidential elections two of the three main parties - BSP and MRF nominated strong candidates.

Along with extreme nationalists, they will fight for runoff. Some senior Socialists describe the left wing candidate Gen. Rumen Radev (former Bulgarian air force commander) as “cat in a bag” but for the ordinary citizens, he is an honorable man with a perfect career in the army who has completed numerous courses in NATO and the United States. In contrast to the rapid rise of Borisov with the protection of politicians, Radev has built alone his career and people like him for his direct speaking and uncompromising criticism towards the intellectually unsophisticated actions of the prime minister.

He has the best chances amongst the opposition to become a president. It will cause pre-term parliamentary elections, because the country is currently immersed in political chaos. Many soiled right wing voters declared that they would vote for the left wing Radev against right wing Tsacheva.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is supported by the minority of Bulgarian Turks, is a member of the ALDE group in the EP and will be a decisive factor which will tip the runoff between left candidate Gen. Radev and candidate of GERB Tsacheva.

Like Putin, Borisov promised the Bulgarians stability, but instead delivers post-communist stagnation. During his almost eight years in power he has not taken any serious steps toward judicial or any other reform. Consequently, Bulgaria is the last country under constant monitoring by the European commission.

Huge loans that the government accumulated over the last two years will in 2017 to exceed 15 billion euro. This will be the first "right wing" government that governs in a left wing fashion, spending external money indiscriminately and leading Bulgaria towards financial collapse.

Special attention in Bulgaria should be paid to the judiciary and media freedom. Bulgarian media, large televisions and newspapers are practically dependent on the government. According to "Reporters without Borders - media freedom 2009” Bulgaria ranked in 68th place but in 2016 occupies 113th place. It means that during the governance of Boyko Borisov media freedom has collapsed twice. At the same time, he cynically stated that there was no "bigger democrat than him" and that journalists have no grounds even to think of one criticism of him.

The newspaper market is in full decline and last year a few of the oldest publications went into bankruptcy. Opposite to the serious press, some yellow newspapers are widely spread and instead of political analysis and commentary, deal with rumors and slanders against awkward to the government politicians. Tabloids acts as an image maker and PR of Prime Minister Borisov, who takes the law into his hands and ruins the image of every politician who opposes him.

To outward appearance, large television channels in Bulgaria are owned by Western media concerns, but the two national television’s editorial policy is managed behind the scenes by journalists close to the government. It will not be wrong to say that the key journalists who form public opinion in Bulgaria by two private TV (Nova TV and BTV) have a parallel business, sponsored by the government, often from EU funds.

It should be emphasized that the Bulgarian government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov buys media influence and journalists with EU funds. This happens because the lack of a stable economy stagnates the advertising market and virtually all private television channels operate at a loss and are not able to make any profit in order to support themselves.

Recently Borisov told journalists on TV, even without being asked, that one prominent Bulgarian oligarch and investor personally influenced the selection of the economic and financial team of ministers in the first government. The oligarch felt scandal and reacted immediately, but the above-mentioned journalists and the most media turned a deaf ear!

There are several major information sites that try to be a corrective to the politicians, but are obscured by yellow gossip news agencies, which are close to the government.

In media terms, the greatest critic of Borisov is the well-known caricaturist named Komarnitski. He publishes every day cartoons in a newspaper with a small circulation but enjoys great interest on the Internet. Absurdly enough, even with all his power the prime minister often gets nervous because of him.

It is imperative the European Commission continues the monitoring of Bulgaria in the field of media freedom because the money of the European taxpayer, as already noted, is being spent to buy media calm and criminal trade with influence.

In fact, the censorship in Bulgaria has reached North Korean levels. With regard to the "Chieftain" nothing can be said except only positive epithets and praise for his successes. On the other hand, for his diminishing opponents only discrediting, insulting epithets and qualifications are published.

In reality, in Bulgaria serious journalists are not challenging government power but "correct" already scrawny opposition by further crushing it. Journalists from major media attack i opposition leaders seen inconvenient for the government and constantly vaunt Borissov’s successes on the world scene.

The truth is that the campaign for the presidential election began with huge failure, namely the second nomination in the face of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva for Secretary-General of the United Nations. With this ridiculous move Borisov devastated the chances of both Bulgarian candidates. Currently Bulgarian political life is a mixture of insults and invective mutual attacks between politicians, who are either in power or play the role of opposition.

The danger is that Bulgaria is serving as a bad example for the rich and developed European countries. In other words, not every country who joints the EU can achieve high democratic and economic standards.

Many analysts believe that Borisov is a puppet of the European leaders Juncker and Merkel. He calls them "bosses". The danger is that Bulgaria will be turned into a buffer zone between Europe and Turkey to serve as “territory - reservoir” for refugees, who Erdogan is ready to overflow at any moment in Europe.

In order to stop Erdogan’s racketeering European leaders are ready to build a buffer zone between their countries and Turkey. Meanwhile Borisov agrees to offer his services as long as the Europeans do not deal with the lack of democracy, rule of law and failure to comply with European standards in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is emerging as a very bad example of a political class that enjoys the benefits of EU funds, but does nothing for the good life of its citizens. On the contrary, democracy is being ruined and the political elites became obscenely rich. The repressive state machine is often used to take the law in its own hands with inconvenient opponents. The confidence in all institutions is ruined.

The recent good news is that the Chief Prosecutor of Bulgaria has launched several investigations against key politicians from the major parties and brought charges of corruption against two energy ministers - one member of GERB and the other - the BSP. Does he have enough time and will he be able to resist the political pressure in order to come to complete the investigation of thefts and frauds?

It should be noted that the lack of a pluralistic media environment distorts the presidential campaign. Instead of talks on the main issues, we hear only insults and personal attacks.

No serious party or serious presidential candidate cannot respond to the key issues facing society, namely:

How will Bulgaria emerge from the severe political crisis and stalled reforms in the area of law, healthcare and public administration?

 Does Bulgaria have a response to the destiny drawn by European leaders destiny to become a reservoir for refugees and a buffer zone between Europe and Turkey?

Bulgarians only know that in order to please the "bosses" as Prime Minister calls them, and not be asked to account for grand corruption in the management of EU funds, the government is ready to do all what Europe asks them.

What will the response of the Bulgarian political elite be to the growing claims of Russian influence in Bulgarian politics and economy as a result of the aggressive expansionist policy of Russian President Putin?

Boyko Borisov and his opponents have contradictory policy towards Russia. Borisov himself often fawning and praising Putin from Sofia and on the contrary from Brussels acting as a hawk against him. This hypocrisy makes even his loyal American partners withdraw their confidence from him.

In fact, President Rosen Plevneliev who oppose Russia and Putin's policies was suspended and removed from the election campaign for a second term by his own party GERB. It is interesting if the "European rulers", as Borissov calls them - namely Chancellor Merkel, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the EPP Joseph Daul -, have asked Borisov what is his real policy towards Russia and the full energy dependence of Bulgaria on Russian gas, oil and uranium.

The oil market in Bulgaria is entirely dominated by the Russian company "Lukoil" and since GERB came to power after BSP, the Russian monopoly in petroleum remained at 100%

Bulgaria is a country with an aging population and is practically on the verge of a demographic disaster. Over 2 million. Bulgarians have fled their country for economic reasons. One third of the Bulgarian population today consists of Muslims and people of Turkish and Roma ethnic origin. This serves only as an ideological platform of ultra-nationalists, but none of the Bulgarian politicians actually debate this and do nothing with regard to this problem. The politicians rely on easily obtaining the votes of poor people and those of minorities.

Ahead of Bulgaria and its politicians are many unknowns. GERB is expected to lose the elections because of their unconvincing government. The pre-term parliamentary elections do not indicate that there will be a way out of the worst political gridlock.

Ten years ago, at the time of Bulgaria’s entrance into the European Union, the prominent British MEP, and rapporteur for Bulgaria, Geoffrey van Orden made the metaphorical comparison to Bulgaria as a swamp full of crocodiles. Billions of euros of European funds were spent since then, but the swamp became even more grim, the crocodiles grew enormously and began to eat each other...

It is expected that the economic and political crisis in Bulgaria will become such a problem soon as to cause debate in the European Parliament. The European Commission and the European Council will have to decide whether to apply precision surgery to Bulgaria in order to fight the corruption and oligarchy or to activate Plan " B ", where Bulgaria is likely to be isolated and fall into the third category in the future EU.

Nikolay Barekov MEP is a former journalist of long standing at the most watched Bulgarian television bTV, political analyst, Director of News and CEO licensed from CNN News7 and TV 7, leader of the Political party “Bulgaria without censorship”, Member of the European Parliament, member of ITRE committee, deputy member of ENVI committee, member of Iran delegation.

 

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Kristian Vigenin: 'A semi-mafia model of government in Bulgaria must be overcome'

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The current government in Bulgaria and the GERB party must be removed from power, says National Assembly of Bulgaria Vice President Kristian Vigenin (pictured). In this interview he drew parallels between the protests in Bulgaria and Belarus. Mr Vigenin pointed out that the current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov came to parliament only twice this year and his actions are unconstitutional,write Polina Demchenko and Vladyslav Grabovskyi.

In the Morning Block on the BNT TV channel you claimed you would become the “inner voice” of the protesters in parliament. What is this voice?

The main demands of the protest are the resignation of the Boyko Borisov government and the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev, also the holding of early elections, which must be organized by the service government. We declared that we, as a party, as a parliamentary group, will be the voice of the protesters within parliament, and since the time we support their demands with the parliamentary instruments that we have at our disposal, we are trying to support the demands of the protest.

Mr. Vigenin, did you take part in the protest?

I and a lot of my colleagues are participating in the protest rather more than citizens. In fact, we act as a link between the protests on the streets by the people and the parliament. For the first time, a very broad form is demonstrated between representatives of different from each other, formations, which, together with the support of the president, want real changes in Bulgaria, that the motto passed through the first protest, is relevant to this day, the forces of ”Mutri” are out!”.

(It is worth noting that the credo said by Kristian Vigenin, is translated as “Bandits out!”; or “Down with the bandits!”; The word “mutra” has its own meaning in Bulgarian, which can be roughly translated as a classic bandit from the nineties.)

We believe that this semi-mafia model of government that has been built in Bulgaria, the model that the mafia controls all institutions, must be overcome, and for this to happen, the current government and the GERB party must be removed from power. This is the overall picture.

And if the GERB party does not stop existing, does not resign? What the reaction of citizens might be to your mind?

The protests have been going on for three month, people do not get tired of protesting. It is more and more difficult to hold on to the authorities, because apparently it is closing in on the defensive, in isolation. At the same time, it is becoming more and more difficult for them in parliament, as we, as the second largest parliamentary group, decided not to register, in fact not to participate, but rather to sabotage the activities of the National Assembly.

Several times it was not possible to recruit the required number of deputies by the beginning of the meeting, since at least 121 people’s representatives were presented to attend. And they are increasingly counting on political forces. For example, on September 16, the parliament, after all, began working, as we gathered. But even then, the president’s activities were on the edge.

We were here, but did not register, and one of the other political groups did not register neither. In such an environment, when the protests outside and the fickle work of the Assembly inside, it is believed that the GERB will not survive for long. But we still have to wait and see the outcome. In addition, the politician added that today the opinion in parliament is very dependent on one small formation, whose chairman was sentenced to a 4-year term in parliament for extortion and racketeering. This sets the mood for itself in parliament.

The Bulgarian president said that the current Cabinet of Ministers is the role of the Prime Minister’s attendants. Do you agree with this statement?

In fact, this is so, I said that the management of the GERB party has turned into an appendage of the executive branch. Parliament executes everything that the government orders, specifically the prime minister, the chairman of the GERB party. At the same time, the prime minister does not come to report to parliament.

The questions that we introduce into the quality of control in relation to it are deviation. This year, Boyko Borisov came to parliament only twice, although the prime ministers came to the country literally in a week and answered questions from the people’s representatives. Borisov’s actions are unconstitutional, since the supreme body in Bulgaria is the National Assembly.

And how does he remain prime minister without fulfilling his duties?

This is how he understands his responsibilities and does not think that he should notify the Bulgarian parliament. Usually, when there are comparatively important questions, Boyko Borisov sends someone from the deputy prime ministers, but he thinks that he is “above that”.

One gets the impression that the so-called “game” is designed to ensure that President Rumen Radev is re-elected. Is it so?

The President is still the most popular political figure in Bulgaria. Protests began in defense of the presidential institution when the chief prosecutor sent his subordinates to the presidency. People perceived this as an encroachment on the presidential institution and an encroachment on the president himself.

Rumen Radev is not shy and not afraid to point out the mistakes of the Prime Minister and the executive branch in general, to point out problems in the system. Of course, those whose mistakes he points out do not like this. They are doing everything they can to push him into the corner of the political arena, but they fail. People, including representatives of right-wing political formations, see hope in him. They believe that he can overcome this oligarchic, mafia model of government in Bulgaria.

How can you characterize the system that is currently built in Bulgaria?

I think that the citizens of Ukraine would easily understand it, since I see that the Ukrainian and Bulgarian systems of government are similar. I am not talking about any specific political situations in Ukraine, but I am talking about the fact that in fact big business and oligarchy control management. I believe that this hinders the development of the country, and we must get rid of this.

In Ukraine, in 2014, Kiev hosted the Revolution of Dignity - Euromaidan. It all started with the same peaceful rallies and protests, and ended with the “Heavenly Hundred”. How to prevent such a sad outcome? After all, judging by the mood of your protesters, they are not going to retreat.

Similarities can be found in both situations. But, I do not think that we have the prerequisites for the escalation of protests. I believe that the fact that Bulgaria is a part of the European Union, the long traversed path in democratization, and the establishment of institutions will help us cope without violence. But one cannot deny the fact that one day violence happened in our country, first of all, by the police, which, in truth, was unexpected for the citizens of Bulgaria.

I believe the violence was deliberately and deliberately provoked by the government. They did this in order to scare the protesters and remove the barriers and barricades that were built at several intersections in the center of Sofia. Of course, here in Sofia, the protests are not as large-scale as they were in Kiev in 2014. The tents, which were dismantled by the police, gave additional motivation and confidence to people that they can achieve something more. Now these barriers are gone. Large protests are organized once a week, the organizers call them “People’s Uprising”.

In general, small promotions take place every day. So, by 7-8 pm, people gather in front of the “National Assembly” building. The next big protest is “People’s Assembly” is scheduled for September 22, the Independence Day of Bulgaria.

Thus, symbolically, people want to show that they can be independent from the mafia and “mutras” (bandits).

Vigenin explained what “mutra” is groups of so-called “bandits” appeared in the early 90s, in Bulgaria. These guys were strong and armed, so they were called “mutra”. Over time, they faded into the background, economic and political life improved. But the Bulgarian prime minister, according to Vigenin, takes its roots precisely from those “dashing” 90s. His past was questionable, which is why protesters call him “mutra”.

As a rule, a leader surrounds himself with people who are close in spirit, those with whom he is used to work. Boyko Borisov did just that. He and his adherents have built a system in which the “mutras” have returned, but not with weapons and bats, but with the mechanisms of state power, but they are doing the same. This both outrages people and makes them protest.

How do you see the development of events?

If we follow normal political logic, then it is necessary that the Prime Minister resigns. He was supposed to do it back in July. In this case, the political environment in which we live in the following way - everything depends on the the prime minister. At the moment he is not interested in what is good for the state, he is not interested in what is good for his own party, but rather he is trying to guarantee himself that he will survive.

Speaking about the word “will survive” you need to understand that it is not only about the political situation, but also about personal security after he leaves power. Borisov will continue to look for such guarantees of security for himself, but no one gives him such guarantees, so he continues to remain at his post and continues to persist as long as it is convenient for him. This is how I personally see the situation; it is quite difficult to understandwhat exactly is going on in the head of the Prime Minister. It all depends on his personal decision, since in the GERB party all decisions are made by him alone.

You said that you often attend protest actions. Can you share your impression of what you see there? What kind of people are there, with what ideas did they come to protest?

Yes, different people come to protest, talk to me. Those who sympathize with us, the socialists, are also protesting, there are also representatives of the right-wing parties, with whom we are political opponents. It so happened that we ended up on the same side of the barricades to speak. As President Rumen Radev said: “We are not talking about the left versus the right, we are talking about respectable people against the mafia.”

And among the venerable people were socialists, right-wingers, and liberals, and this really feels like something new in Bulgarian politics. Of course, the BSP party also made mistakes in the past. But people from every party, adherents of every political leader, are ready to sacrifice, help in overcoming the current government and its legacy. They are ready to set a new course for Bulgaria, as for a free, real European state, in which there will be freedom of speech, freedom of the media - these are things that we are increasingly lacking.

Kristian Vigenin recalled the year 1989, when the leader of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov, was removed. This event marked the beginning of the “Gentle Revolution” in the country. Vigenin was then 14-15 years old, he had quite vivid impressions from that year.

There is a feeling that everything is repeated. The feeling of lack of freedom, and the desire for real democracy in Bulgaria, that young people need something different, which their parents could not achieve. As if history had made a circle and the year is 1989 again, which in itself is a rather difficult diagnosis of what happened during those years in Bulgaria. And this is all disappointing, because of the situation in our country that is the part of the European Union.

How does the European Union react to what is happening in your country?

The European Union and European leaders are simply silent. This week there will be a discussion in the European Parliament about what is happening in Bulgaria, after three months the people began to protest.

In conjunction, protests are taking place in Belarus. Do you see similarities in these situations?

Maybe, the protests in Bulgaria has a milder nature, but there are similarities between what is happening here and what is happening in Belarus. Something funny (curious ?) happened. The Prime Minister of Bulgaria, in an attempt to buy himself political time, proposed to develop a new constitution for the country. This is a way to start a process that will allow him to stay in power for a few more months. Literally a day or two later, Lukashenko proposed the same thing in Belarus. This further reinforced the impression that authoritarian leaders have the same set of tools and use them in the same way.

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the authors alone and do not represent any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Commission complains about lack of results in the fight against corruption in #Bulgaria

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Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová led discussions in the European Parliament’s debate on the rule of law in Bulgaria (5 October). Jourová said that she was aware of the protests that have been taking place over the last three months and is following the situation closely. Jourová said the demonstrations show that citizens attach great importance to an independent judiciary and good governance.
She said that the Commission will not lift the ‘Control and Verification Mechanism’ (CVM) that checks Bulgaria’s progress in making reforms to its judiciary and fighting organized crime, she added that she would take the views of the European Council and Parliament into account in any further reports. Fighting corruption European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said that while Bulgaria’s structures were in place they needed to deliver efficiently.
Reynders said surveys show a very low level of public trust in Bulgaria’s anti-corruption institutions and a belief that government lacked the political will to do this in practice. Manfred Weber MEP, Chair of the European Peoples’ Party defended Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s record, adding that he was supportive of the rule of law mechanism in European Council discussions. Weber acknowledges that the rule of law in Bulgaria “is not perfect” and that, there is still much to be done, but said that the government’s fate should be decided next year in elections.
Ramona Strugariu MEP (Renew Europe Group) made one of the more powerful interventions in the debate, saying that when she was demonstrating in the cold winter of 2017 in Bucharest - against government corruption in Romania - the support of President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans support made her feel that someone was listening to the Romanians who wanted reform. Strugariu said: “I am here today to ask for this voice from the Commission and of the Council and of this house because the Bulgarian people need it. Because it matters to them. It is really important to them.”
To fellow MEPs who were endorsing Prime Minister Borissov, she asked: “Do you know who you are endorsing? Because you are endorsing people facing serious allegations of corruption, money laundering and fraud with European money? I have seen women dragged outside by the police and pictures of children sprayed with tear gas, is this protection? Are you sure that this is the person to endorse?”

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#Bulgaria - 'We don't want to be under the Mafia and corruption' Minekov

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Ahead of a debate on the rule of law in Bulgaria (5 October), protestors and MEPs gathered outside the parliament to call for systemic change and new elections in Bulgaria. EU Reporter spoke to some of those involved. Professor Vladislav Minekov, has been labelled as one of the ‘Poisonous Trio’ by the oligarch-owned Bulgarian media. Asked what was keeping protestors on the streets ninety days after the first impromptu protest on 9 July, he said that Bulgarians don’t want to live under the Mafia. Minekov welcomed that the European Parliament was grappling with this important question, saying that Bulgarians had the impression that the EU and the world was overlooking what was happening in Bulgaria.

One of six MEPs we interviewed, Clare Daly MEP (Ireland), compared the current Bulgarian government to vampires feeding off EU money, “sucking the lifeblood out of Bulgarian society,” she said that the European Peoples’ Party, in particular, had protected Borissov’s government for too long and that it was time to face up to the blatant corruption and failure to adhere to the rule of law. 'Brussels for Bulgaria' has organized weekly protests in Brussels since the protests began in July.

One of the organizers, Elena Bojilova, said that Bulgarians abroad want to show solidarity with their fellow countrymen: “We've had people join us from other cities from Ghent, from Antwerp.” Bojilova explained that this phenomenon was also occurring in many other countries, “in Vienna, in London, in Canada in the United States, other European capitals. The fact that we are not physically in Bulgaria does not prevent us from supporting the efforts of our countrymen, and we fully support their demands which are for the resignation of the government, resignation of the Prosecutor General, reform rule of law and basically cleaning up the

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