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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.

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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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Austria

Central and Eastern Europe rocked by political turmoil

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The region has seen some exciting yet far from benevolent turn of events, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

Austria has seen Chancellor Sebastian Kurz resigning following corruption accusations. The announcement came days after prosecutors began a criminal investigation into allegations he used public money to pay off pollsters and journalists for favorable coverage.

The allegations relate to the period between 2016 and 2018, when funds from the Ministry of Finance were allegedly used to manipulate opinion polls in favor of his party. At that time, Sebastian Kurz was not yet chancellor, but he was part of the Government. According to prosecutors, a media group allegedly "received money" in exchange for these popularity polls. That group referred to is, according to the Austrian press, the tabloid Österreich.

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One of Europe’s youngest leaders, Kurz became the leader of the Austrian Conservative Party in May 2017 and led his party to victory in the elections later that year, becoming, at the age of 31, one of the youngest democratically elected heads of government. He has been replaced by Alexander Schallenberg as Austria’s Chancellor.

In neighboring Czech Republic, Prime Minister Babis surprisingly loses the elections in front of a progressive, pro-European coalition. One of the alliance's parties is the Pirate Party, founded in 2009. Babis appeared this week in the Pandora Papers, with 20 million euros put in undeclared offshore to buy a castle in France. For the first time in 30 years, the Czech Communist Party will not be in parliament, failing to get the required 5%. The Communists supported Babis' government.

In Poland tens of thousands took to the streets in support of European Union membership after a court ruling that parts of EU law are incompatible with the constitution raised concerns the country could eventually leave the bloc.

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Polish Constitutional Court ruled that some articles in EU treaties are incompatible with the country's constitution, calling into question a key principle of European integration and fueling an anti-EU rhetoric from the ruling party.

Hungary and Poland, countries led by conservative governments, have repeatedly been criticized by Brussels for violating "rule of law" and "European values".

In the south-eastern part of the continent, in Romania, the liberal government was ousted following a no-confidence vote overwhelmingly endorsed by parliament. The cabinet, led by Florin Cîţu, faced the largest coalition ever created against an incumbent government. The no-confidence motion needed 234 votes to pass, but got 281 - the largest number of votes ever recorded in Romania for such a motion. Another first for the ousted cabinet was also that two motions of no confidence were simultaneously tabled against it.

The political crises which began over a month ago, after the reformist USR party backed down from the centre-right coalition, saw not only the Social Democrat Party which tabled the motion and populist Alliance for the Union of Romanians opposition parties backing the vote, but also the Save Romania Union party (USR), a former governing coalition partner, vouching to oust Cîţu.

In post-communist Romania, over 40 motions of no confidence were tabled, 6 were adopted, making Cîțu’s cabinet the sixth dismissed following a vote of no confidence.

According to the Romanian constitution, the president will now consult parliamentary parties on appointing a new prime minister. Meanwhile, Cîţu will remain as interim PM for the next 45 days.

Dacian Ciolos, a former PM himself, was designated by president Iohannis to form a new government. The designated prime minister will request, within 10 days from the appointment, a parliamentary vote of confidence. If he fails and if two consecutive prime ministerial proposals are rejected the constitution says that the president may dissolve parliament and trigger early elections. While Cîţu's National Liberal Party hopes to get the now interim PM reappointed and back into his old job, the opposition Social Democrats want early elections.

Just 10 days before being designated to form a new government Cioloș said he was not interested in the job: "I was prime minister, but now I'm not concerned about this position. I have responsibilities in the European Parliament, I have a mandate there".

But regardless of who the next PM will be, Romania's Covid crisis is only getting worse.

Further down south, Bulgaria has been in crisis mode since this summer’s legislative elections, leaving it without a regular government for months. After dissolving the parliament, President Rumen Radev has called Bulgaria's third parliamentary election this year for Nov. 14 after inconclusive polls in April and July failed to produce a government.

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Caretaker Bulgarian president conceals ecological disaster in the Black Sea

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There is criminal inaction and incompetence in Bulgaria, citizens and the media do the work of the government. A ship transporting nitrogen fertilisers Vera SU stuck on rocks off Bulgarian Black Sea coast on 20. September, not far from Kavarna. The vessel is under the Panamanian flag and sailed from Ukraine to the Bulgarian port of Varna. Check up in the Equasis system indicates that it is owned and managed by based in Turkey companies. According to experts, the most likely cause of the accident was human error.   

No casualties have occurred among the crew, which consists of Turkish and Georgian citizens. There is no fuel or waste spill in conjunction with the incident, according to the initial information of the Bulgarian authorities. The ship was guarded by Border Police and it was closely examined the crew not to leave. And there was nothing to suggest that such an incident could show the emasculation of the Bulgarian caretaker government, appointed by President Rumen Radev. Whether due to incompetence or simple negligence, for days no one paid attention to the cargo ship loaded with nitrogen fertilisers stranded off the shores of the National Archaeological Reserve Yailata.

Even as early as 21 September, it was known that there were holes in the hull of the vessel, and there were 20 tons of fuel and 3 000 tons of nitrogen fertiliser - carbamide on board. But the institutions only announced that the ship was in stable condition and there was no danger of fuel spill. Everyone was silent about the spill of nitrogen fertilisers in the sea, while fishermen and locals were worried about an environmental disaster. However, no ministry took any action. Instead of unshipping it, they tied it with ropes to the nearby rock to strengthen it.

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The civil eco-association “Let's Save Coral” published photos, which clearly showed that the ship had several holes, from which there was a spill. Probably large part of the cargo fell into the sea, environmentalists suggest. They never received any responses by the state authorities. The answers were given by a citizen - the former military diver, owner of a diving school, Nayden Nedev. Five days after the incident, he made an inspection independently from the institutions. And he alarmed: fertilisers are leaking into the sea. He even suggested how the unload the ship through mobile boats.

Nedev’s findings were released by the media. It became clear that despite assurances from the caretaker government that everything was under control, there was a spill. And namely spill of the most concentrated nitrogen fertilisers.

The Ministry of Environment and Water transferred the responsibility to the shipowner and the insurer, and Minister Assen Lichev assured that the sea water does not deviate from the norms. Pressed by media publications and public pressure, it was only on the sixth day that Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev signed an order for state structures to begin “immediate actions to release the stranded ship Vera SU”.

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Although the owners of 53 fishing vessels from the Black Sea Sunrise Association have declared their willingness to participate in the operation of unloading and drawing out the cargo ship “Vera Su”, the caretaker government has created enormous scandal.

And it would have remained hidden, and the Black Sea “fed” with 3 000 tons of carbamide, if there was not the camera of one media - Maritime.bg. On the night of 27 September, the fertiliser overload began. Livestreaming on Facebook of the media showed how in fact at least 40% of the cargo was dumped into the sea. The video went viral on social media and other medias, and apparent incompetence forced the caretaker government to seek justification. A scapegoat was found in the person of the director of the Maritime Administration, Captain Zhivko Petrov. The transport minister even suspected sabotage, but assured that several action plans had been prepared and the rescue of the ship had been ensured. And the ministries have started waiting for a “window” in which the weather will allow them to implement them, but there has not been such window up to this day.

Until now, the government of Bulgarian president Rumen Radev has not even sought assistance from the European institutions. At the same time, he makes meaningless statements, briefings and vain assurances. Interdepartmental meetings set out measures to release the stranded ship. Meanwhile, Bulgarian authorities have restricted access to the reserve area for media and visitors so that no one has visual access to the ship.

18 days after it ran aground off the shores of the nature reserve, the ship has visibly begun to sink. While the Minister of Transport was justifying himself with European law, he still had to admit that the condition of “VERA SU” was critical and the vessel was sinking. The Minister of Ecology continues to assure that there is no danger of pollution, even if all the cargo goes to sea.

Denitsa Sacheva, former Minister of Labour and Social Policy and deputy of GERB in the 45th and 46th National Assembly, alerted about the problem and the inaction of the institutions in the first days. „In the beginning, the cargo from the ship was a threat. Now the Ministry of Environment and Water claims the opposite without a study of the substance. The analysis would take maximum one day. In the end, it will be beneficial for the environment for the ship to sink”, she said. According to her, the lack of the most basic actions is indicative of the level of government not only in this crisis situation, but for the level of governing in general.

The Bulgarian EPP member of the European Parliament Emil Radev asked the European Commission whether the Bulgarian government has activated the Protection Mechanism, which allows to request support in a crisis situation from our partners in the EU.

What will be the fate of the ship and its cargo, what damage will do the sinking of 3 000 tons of carbamide in the Black Sea to the ecosystem, fisheries and tourism in the region, which provide livelihoods for tens of thousands of people - are the questions to which the caretaker government gives no answers so far. Because they will shine the huge crime that the interim government appointed by President Rumen Radev committed against the Black Sea and the people in the region.

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The re-election of pro-Russian General Radev as President of Bulgaria is threatened by professor of Latin studies

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The re-election of pro-Russian General Radev as President of Bulgaria turned out to be highly questionable after an initiative committee around the country’s pro-European right-wing forces nominated the Rector of Sofia University Prof. Anastas Gerdjikov.

The presidential elections, that will be held on 14 November, together with the parliamentary elections, were considered until recently by analysts to be foregone conclusion in favor of the current head of state Rumen Radev.

However, the inclusion of Professor Gerdjikov in the campaign returned the intrigue because of the obvious changes that his choice would bring. Gerdjikov graduated Humboldt University in Germany with master’s degree in Classical Philology and delivers lecture courses on the Latin language at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

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He is fluent in Latin, French, German, English and Russian. He is Chairman of the Council of Rectors of Higher Education Institutions in the Republic of Bulgaria. He was manager of the Scientific Research Fund in Bulgaria, as well as the deputy minister of education and science. The biggest difference between him and General Radev, however, is that the professor is esemplastic, dialogic, compromise in his actions and most of all - with clear European orientation.

The appearance of a strong competitor on the political stage apparently irritated the current president and he allowed himself to make clearly sexist comment to the journalists in Sofia. When asked about the inclusion of Prof. Gerdjikov in the elections, President Radev answered with only one sentence, directed against his main political opponent - the former Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov.

“Five years ago, Borissov hid himself behind Tsacheva’s skirt, now he is hiding behind the rector’s toga,” said Radev impatiently , and ran away from the journalists.

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According to political analysts in Bulgaria, the head of state has been obviously taken out of his comfort zone and such hysterical comments are a clear sign that he cannot control not only his anger but also his panic.  

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