Two days after Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister and nationalist leader Valeri Simeonov led high-profile raids on night clubs and hotels in Black Sea coastal resort Sunny Beach, the country’s tourism minister effectively distanced herself from the actions.
Since the start of Bulgaria’s summer 2017 tourism season, Simeonov has made action against places of entertainment in Sunny Beach his trademark issue, pledging action against – among other things – noise and tax evasion.
This past weekend, as the holiday season approached its peak in the crowded resort, he led two nights of raids conducted jointly by teams from the police, the revenue agency, and the food, health and labour inspectorates.
At one club, Simeonov was jeered by partygoers, who shouted insults and calls for him to resign. The deputy prime minister, who is one of the co-leaders of the United Patriots, the grouping of far-right and ultra-nationalist parties that is the minority partner in the coalition government, has been extensively lampooned on Facebook about the raids.
Speaking on August 14, Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova, a member of government majority partner GERB, said that the national resorts were “the image of Bulgarian tourism and we have to be very careful how we present them to the world”.
Angelkova said that at the end of last year, the details of the status of the national resorts had begun to be discussed in detail.
This included identifying different areas where various activities could be carried out. All changes would be made in co-operation with the tourism industry, she said.
“It is very important to me that the activities carried out there are to be regulated. Because in this way we can guarantee the quality of the tourist product. All other occasional, sporadic events lead to a negative representation of our country as a tourist destination, rather than vice versa.”
Angelkova said that currently a “special vision” for temporary stalls was being prepared. This could be implemented immediately and there was no need for a change to the law, she said.
Temporary stalls set up without permission or in violation of zoning requirements have been among Simeonov’s targets.
The Tourism Ministry had no connection to Simeonov’s midnight activities, Angelkova said.