Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov swung the axe on January 28 2013, dismissing Education Minister Sergei Ignatov in the wake of irregularities found at the Scientific Research Fund – an episode that the same day also cost the job of the fund’s chief executive, Hristo Petrov – and announcing that he would ask the Cabinet to approve the dismissal of State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) Angel Semerdzhiev.
Ignatov became Education Minister in 2009 after the first holder of that portfolio in the Borissov Cabinet, Yordanka Fandukova, was elected mayor of Sofia to succeed Borissov after he was elected Prime Minister.
The events that led to the resignations of Petrov and Ignatov revolved around the findings of a report on the Bulgarian Science Fund, which falls under the Ministry of Education. The report, details of which are expected to be released publicly in coming days, contains about 60 recommendations and observations.
News of Petrov’s resignation emerged after a January 28 meeting between Borissov, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Simeon Dyankov and a group of scientists to discuss the report. Bulgarian media said that Ignatov was not invited to attend the meeting.
A few hours later, it was announced by the government media service that Ignatov was resigning.
There had been allegations in recent months of favouritism in the awarding of funds for scientific projects. Ignatov consistently had defended officials’ decisions about the use of the funds.
The Education Ministry has been given a week to respond to the recommendations in the report. Scientists, who protested earlier about the use of the fund, agreed at the January 28 meeting to postpone further protests for 10 days, pending changes arising from the report.
According to the government media service, the dismissal of Semerdzhiev was being proposed because of poor progress in drafting administrative regulations related to the third energy liberalisation packaged. These delays have led the European Commission to refer Bulgaria to the European Court of Justice.
The regulations are required to amend ordinances regulating the prices of electricity and natural gas, on the licensing of activities in the energy sector and access to transmission and distribution networks. Changes are required in connection with the transposition of EU rules for the internal energy market.
In the past six months, Bulgaria’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Ministry has sent three letters to the commission of which Semerdzhiev was in charge to speed up the procedures of adoption of the changes, precisely because Bulgaria was threatened with court proceedings by the European Commission.
Semerdzhiev has sent a letter to Borissov requesting acceptance of his resignation as head and as a member of the commission, which Borissov will put to the Cabinet on January 30.
(Main photo, of Boiko Borissov: Council of the European Union)