In what has become practically an annual ritual, Bulgaria’s National Assembly on September 2 again rejected proposals from socialist and nationalist MPs to close the Dossier Commission, the body charged by law with disclosing people who worked for the communist-era State Security and military intelligence.
At the same time, MPs adopted the first reading of amendments that will widen the categories of people to be checked for affiliation to Bulgaria’s communist-era secret services, to include candidate district mayors and deputy district mayors.
Velizar Enchev, who in 2014 was elected as an MP for the nationalist Patriotic Front but now sits as an independent, tabled a proposal to close down the commission. This was rejected.
Atanas Merdzhanov, of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party – lineal successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party that held the country in its thrall for decades – tabled what has become a customary BSP proposal, to shut down the commission and replace it with an “Institute for National Memory” where only scholars could study the records. This was rejected.
Metodi Andreev, of centre-right GERB, Parliament’s largest party, tabled amendments providing for assessors who sit with judges in first-instance criminal trials to be checked for affiliation to State Security and “Bulgarian People’s Army” military intelligence.
He also tabled amendments to check heads of departments in some important regulatory authorities, and for all these checks not to require the consent of the inspected individual. These amendments were accepted at first reading.
As is customary in debates in Bulgaria’s Parliament about these issues closely linked to the communist past, matters became heated, especially as Andreev took to the speaker’s podium to read extracts from the files.
Andreev read the transcript of the plenum of the central committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, from when State Security was set up, when communist government head Todor Zhivkov explained that State Security would be subordinated to the Soviet Union’s KGB.
Andreev read parts of the dossier of “Agent Radulov” – the BSP MP Tasko Ermenkov. This angered Ermenkov, who went to the speaker’s podium and said that in the hall, there were people who were nostalgic about the lessons of the Bulgarian Communist Party and threw out lists of the type Andreev was reading.
Ermenkov said that during the voting of such laws in Parliament, a doctor from the Military Hospital should be present, because it could lead to fatalities.
BSP MP Valentin Ivanov compared the reading by Andreev of the files with dissociative disorder and said that it reminded him of speeches by Zhivkov. The biggest hypocrisy was on the part of the right-wing parties in Bulgaria’s Parliament, Ivanov said, because they had “many members” with State Security records.
Andreev and Reformist Bloc MPs Petar Slavov and Martin Dimitrov proposed that anyone with access to classified information of the state would be checked by the Dossier Commission.
Andreev said that before the second reading of the amendments, a further change would be proposed, that before anyone took up an important public office, they would be checked by the Dossier Commission.
The Dossier Commission was established by statute in 2006. It has investigated and announced the identities of hundreds of Bulgarians in various categories of public life with State Security pasts – in the Foreign Ministry, numerous government and state agencies, the media, trade unions, business associations, opinion polling agencies, candidates for election to president, to Parliament, to local government, as well as the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and leaderships of other religious bodies.
(Photo: Bulgaria’s National Assembly: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)