Bulgaria’s Government approved on December 30 the re-organisation plan of the Customs Agency’s operations, which envisions closing down the customs office in Svilengrad, south-eastern Bulgaria, and the creation of a new unit tasked with improving the security of the agency’s IT systems.
“The closure of the Svilengrad customs office targets prevention of corruption practices and improving operations by optimising human and financial resources, which will be directed towards a more efficient execution of the customs administration’s control functions,” the Cabinet’s media service said in a statement.
The Government decision comes after a year that saw several large-scale arrests of customs officials at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint at the border with Turkey, managed by the Svilengrad customs office.
This prompted the Finance Ministry to suggest a re-organisation of the Customs Agency operations earlier this month. Although a number of customs officers would lose their jobs, the agency’s staff numbers are expected to remain unchanged because of the creation of the new unit, reports in Bulgarian media said.
In Svilengrad, the plan was met with opposition from local town councillors, who said that the customs office was one of the largest employers in the municipality, Bulgarian National Radio reported (BNR). Some councillors threatened to organise protests against the Cabinet’s decision.
“The municipal council believes that the structural reform must be carried out here, on the spot. In addition to the corruption practices, it must be known that the Svilengrad customs office has made a great contribution to the collection of Budget revenue,” BNR quoted the head of the town council, Nikola Dinkov, as saying.
Asked about the Cabinet decision after the meeting on December 30, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that “it is not the job of the Finance Ministry and the Customs Agency to create employment, but to collect revenue. Job creation is the purview of other ministries.”
The closing of the Svilengrad customs office will move the management of the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint, which handles the bulk of the traffic between Bulgaria and Turkey, to another Customs Agency office, either in Plovdiv or Bourgas.