Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin has nominated Branimir Radev, a former secret agent of the country’s communist-era security services, for EU’s vacancy as special representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Bulgarian news website Mediapool.bg reported on February 7.
Radev was revealed to have worked as a secret agent of the State Security and an informant in the Sliven department of the military counter-intelligence service since 1971, as part of the Dossier Commission’s disclosure on senior diplomatic staff in December 2010. The commission is the body charged by law with identifying people who were involved with the country’s communist-era secret service, the State Security.
Radev was serving as Bulgaria’s ambassador in Georgia at the time of the disclosure and was among the ambassadors recalled by then-foreign minister Nikolai Mladenov in 2011. The centre-right cabinet at the time said that it would not appoint people with State Security background to senior diplomatic positions – a move that won the support of the EU, which will hardly be thrilled by Vigenin’s nomination, Mediapool.bg said.
Mladenov’s policy, however, encountered strong opposition from the diplomatic staff involved and the socialist party, the direct successor of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The socialists argued that such a move was equal to lustration, which Bulgaria’s constitution does not allow.
When the socialists became part of Bulgaria’s ruling coalition in May 2013, Vigenin repudiated his predecessor’s policy, saying in his first interview as minister that “the way these people were humiliated is one of the most shameful deeds of the previous government and its foreign minister. We’ll see to it that the veteran diplomats will be assessed in compliance with their personal skills and make them as useful as possible for the ministry”.
Vigenin was soon rebuked by President Rossen Plevneliev, who said that he would not sign the decrees appointing former State Security agents or collaborators to diplomatic postings – under Bulgarian law, the foreign ministry nominates ambassadors, but it is the president who formally appoints them.
To bypass the president’s opposition, Vigenin has been appointing people with State Security backgrounds to positions that did not require presidential approval – including all the senior positions at the Foreign Ministry, as Bulgaria’s representatives in international organisations and as heads of diplomatic missions, making them first in line to serve as charge d’affaires in the absence of a permanent ambassador (a scenario that has already been played out with several such appointments).
Vigenin’s policy, which Mediapool.bg termed “the revanche of former communist services”, has also created tension in the Bulgarian diplomatic corps, as the younger staff are prevented from raising through the ranks because of the numerous appointments of people with State Security backgrounds, some of them approaching or even past the retirement age, the report said.
(Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: mfa.bg)