The Dossier Commission, which exposes people in Bulgaria who used to work for communist-era secret service State Security, appears to be getting too close for comfort as its explores ties between the former service, credit millionaires and people who benefitted from privatisations.
This much emerges from an interview given by Dossier Commission member Ekaterina Boncheva to Bulgarian-language daily Trud.
Since it was set up by statute in 2006, the commission has named hundreds of people in various areas of public life – government departments, trade unions, the media, religious organisations and business associations – who worked for State Security.
More recently, after amendments to the law approved while the former centre-right government was in power, the commission has been naming State Security people in the banking sector as well as credit millionaires.
Now, with a Bulgarian Socialist Party government back in power, in alliance with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and with the tacit support of ultra-nationalists Ataka, some voices in the ruling axis have been seeking to curtail the commission or even, as BSP MP Atanas Merdzhanov wants to see, for the commission to be closed down and turned into an “institute of national memory”.
There is no legislation currently on the table to close the commission, but Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the BSP government, has spoken of the commission being closed “once it has done its work”.
Asked in the interview why there were calls now for the commission to be closed or to have its format changed, given that in 2006 the law creating it was adopted with a BSP-MRF majority, Boncheva said that the attacks aimed at the closure of the commission came from the BSP, although there had been no official statement from the party, only statements from individual members.
The topic of opening the files of State Security had never been dear to the BSP, which had approved the 2006 law only because of domestic and external public pressure.
There were now several reasons for a campaign against the commission, she said.
First, the commission had begun dealing with the most sensitive part of the transition, that dealing with the economy. Further, the documentation showed the size and impact of State Security, “and this truth also hurts”.
Third, two important agencies, the National Intelligence Service and Military Intelligence, were being extremely slow in handing over documentation, “that is, someone is trying to hide people in high positions”.
Boncheva said that she had unofficial information that since the law allowed disclosures connected to the privatisation of municipal and state enterprises, people associated with State Security and privatisations were organising against the commission and seeking political support.
Asked to respond to Merdzhanov’s allegation that the commission was being used for political purposes, Boncheva said that this was “practically impossible” given that the nine members of the commission were nominated by different political parties. “Who among us would conspire with another?”
She said that anyone familiar with the work of the committee would know that it kept to the law and reported to Parliament every six months.
Asked when the committee would receive all the necessary documents, Boncheva said that this was a question for the National Intelligence Service and Military Intelligence, not the commission.
“And when Oresharski told us to hurry up our work, he should have said that to them, not to us.”
She said that she invited Oresharski to see what the commission had done and what remained for it to do.
“I do not think he spoke about the commission with malice, he is simply not adequately informed,” Boncheva said.
Since it began work, the commission has checked 165 000 Bulgarians, of whom the identities of 600 have been disclosed. Some had not been disclosed because they were dead, and the law forbids the naming of former State Security people who are deceased. Under article 32 of the law on the Dossier Commission, some identities had not been disclosed for reasons of continuing operations.
The results of the check into the current Cabinet have not been announced. Work on this was still underway, according to a recent statement by commission head Emil Kostadinov.
Some cabinet members, including Oresharski – among other things, a former finance minister – who was shown not to have worked for State Security (separately, it emerged recently that his brother had). In turn, some members of the current cabinet are not subject to checking because they are younger than the age threshold set in the law.
(Photo: Christa Richert/ sxc.hu)