The head of the Bulgarian Parliament’s internal affairs committee, Atanas Merdzhanov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, has said that he wants to see the Dossier Commission – the body charged with disclosing former State Security agents in public life – closed down and turned into an Institute of National Remembrance that simply stores documents.
Merdzhanov’s statements to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio came a few days after reserve office associations that bring together people from the former communist-era State Security and military intelligence called for the closure of the Dossier Commission.
Since it was established by statute in 2006, the Dossier Commission has identified large numbers of State Security people in contemporary public life, including in positions of influence in various ministries, state agencies, the judiciary, banks, business associations, trade unions, municipality, public and private media, universities and religious organisations.
It also has identified politicians with State Security backgrounds, including then-president Georgi Purvanov, the current and former leaders of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – Lyutvi Mestan and Ahmed Dogan, as well as current and former members of Parliament.
The previous Parliament extended its brief to enable the commission to identify credit millionaires with links to State Security, as well as State Security people in the post-Zhivkov intelligence services.
The lineal successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party, the BSP, has co-operated in resisting the activities of the commission, including in Constitutional Court challenges.
Bulgarian law makes no provision for lustration of people identified as having worked for the communist-era secret services. Attempts by the former centre-right government, notably at the Foreign Ministry of the time, to clean the top ranks of diplomacy of State Security people were met with resistance and, in some cases, court action. The current BSP government has been restoring State Security people to top offices.
Echoing the message of the reserve officers, Merdzhanov said that the Dossier Commission, instead of having a positive role, created dividing lines in Bulgarian society.
The importance of the law for Bulgarian society had long passed, and there was no real benefit from the commission, he said.
Merdzhanov said, however, that the issue was not now on the agenda of Parliament because – he said – the BSP had “strong commitments to tax and social laws”.
But in any case, there should be a discussion whether the commission should continue in its current form “and whether it would be more appropriate and useful for it to gradually become the Institute for National Remembrance, which would store the objective reality of the recent and distant past”.
In their objections to the current existence of the Dossier Commission, the reserve officers said that its time had past, demanded to know how it met European best practice to protect national security, said that it was used to “blackmail” people at election time and said that the opening of the dossiers was “genocide of the Bulgarian people”.
Retired colonel Goran Simeonov, head of the association of retired intelligence officers, claimed that the Dossier Commission’s activities harmed co-operation between Bulgarian special services and their peers and he complained that commission members got higher pay than heads of secret services in Bulgaria.
As the site desebg.com pointed out, the pay of the Dossier Commission is decided by Parliament, including by the votes of the BSP and MRF, while these parties also have nominated members of the commission.
Earlier, media reports said that idea of closing the commission had been discussed by BSP leader Sergei Stanishev and Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the BSP government.
The Dossier Commission is among state-funded bodies currently facing a 10 per cent cut in its budget for 2014.
In 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that the Dossier Commission conformed with the constitution and said that the statute that created the commission, as well as its activities, contributed to the public’s right to make informed choices.
Desebg.com noted that at an international forum in Sofia in 2012, representatives of similar organisations from other European countries praised the high standard of the work of Bulgaria’s Dossier Commission.
Informed commentators noted that should an attempt be made to legislate the Dossier Commission out of existence, or out of its current form, such a move would likely be met with a veto by President Rossen Plevneliev.
(Photo: Christa Richert/sxc.hu)