Row over State Security background of Bokova UN campaign team

A political controversy has erupted in Bulgaria after an MP said that half of the Foreign Ministry team appointed to handle Irina Bokova’s campaign to be the next United Nations Secretary-General had worked for the country’s communist-era secret service State Security – including the team’s head.

The former State Security agents on the team include Raiko Raichev, Foreign Ministry director on global issues, named on March 21 to head the ministry’s team to campaign for Bokova.

Metodi Andreev, an MP for Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB party – the majority partner in government and the largest party in the National Assembly – said in a television interview that these people could later become directors at the UN.

“How will that affect our Western partners?” said Andreev, a former head of Bulgaria’s statutory body empowered to identify and expose people in Bulgarian public life with State Security backgrounds.

Bulgaria’s Dossier Commission, in its investigations into State Security people, established several years ago that there had been an extremely high proportion of them at the Foreign Ministry.

Nikolai Mladenov, Bulgaria’s foreign minister from 2010 to 2013, endeavoured to get Bulgarian ambassadors identified as State Security people withdrawn from foreign capitals. Opposing him was the then-head of state, Georgi Purvanov, who as President had constitutional power over appointing and dismissing ambassadors.

It was Purvanov, now leader of a minority socialist party that participates in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government, who threatened to pull his party out of the coalition unless Borissov endorsed Bokova, who initially had been chosen as Bulgaria’s UN Secretary-General candidate by the 2013/14 government that quit after prolonged public protests demanding its resignation.

Purvanov himself has a State Security background, having been Agent Gotse.

Bokova and Purvanov.
Bokova and Purvanov.

Andreev attacked Bokova for reportedly having said that it was normal to have a staff with people who had been in the communist secret services because of “having lived with these people throughout our lives”.

He said that hundreds of thousands of Bulgarian citizens were seriously opposed to Bokova being the country’s candidate for the UN post. “In Bulgaria and worldwide, there is an intolerance for people who have served the communist secret services,” Andreev said.

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