Bulgaria’s GERB calls for delay in electing Dossier Commission head after row over nominee

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party called on October 2 for a delay in the election of a new head of the Dossier Commission – the body charged by law with disclosing the identities of former communist-era secret service agents – after a controversy over its nominee.

GERB said last week that it would nominate one of its MPs, Anton Todorov, with the party’s parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov saying that Todorov had “good expertise”.

Unfavourable reaction to the nomination came from a cluster of centre-right and reformist parties not represented in Parliament, while 33 intellectuals, including historians, signed a public petition against Todorov’s nomination.

The deadline for nominations of a new head of the Dossier Commission is October 3. But on October 2, GERB called for repealing the National Assembly’s September 20 decision on the timeline for the election.

GERB had not formally nominated Todorov. On October 2, after GERB’s declaration, Todorov said in a Facebook post that his nomination would not happen.

Borissov’s party called for a “wide public debate” actively involving parties represented in Parliament, non-governmental and other public organisations.

The matter of exposing the entire truth about the communist regime should not be politicised and manipulated, GERB’s statement said.

GERB dismissed as “unreasonable and unacceptable” the proposal by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (lineal descendant of the Bulgarian Communist Party) to shut down the Dossier Commission.

GERB said that it was “firmly opposed” to ending the pursuit of the truth about the repressive actions of the secret services during the communist regime, “and we continue to believe that it is the duty of the Commission to guarantee the right of Bulgarian citizens to learn the whole truth about this period”.

According to the party, Bulgaria was a rule-of-law state, a member of the European Union “and a champion of the observance of European democratic values”.

“As part of the European People’s Party, GERB stands against the idea of closing the dossiers, which will lead to a limitation of democracy and the deprivation of the right and freedom of people to access information,” GERB said, adding that it was “extremely unacceptable” that former State Security people should be treated as heroes.

Earlier, Hristo Ivanov’s Yes Bulgaria party, the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, the Greens, the Bulgarian Agrarian People’s Union and DEOS – none of which have seats in Parliament – issued a joint declaration condemning the moves both by GERB and the BSP.

The parties described the actions of the BSP and GERB as being aimed at the “effective liquidation” of the Dossier Commission and called for the withdrawal of Todorov’s nomination.

They said that the Dossier Commission was the only institutional factor to uncover the role played by the repressive secret services of Bulgaria’s communist regime, and was a guarantor of the fact that the influence of former State Security functionaries on the running of the country could not be concealed.

The joint declaration described Todorov as lacking the moral qualities to take up the post. It alleged that Todorov had a track record of “the use of compromise and the manipulation of documents and archival materials with often unclean goals”.

It added that Todorov had in the past radically changed positions and this suggested that he was “ready for all sorts of, even shameful, metamorphoses”.

Earlier, reports said that some years ago, Todorov had authored a publication levelling serious allegations against, among others, Borissov, Tsvetanov and former president Rossen Plevneliev, who in 2012 became head of state after winning an election on GERBs’s ticket. Yet Todorov was now a GERB MP.

The joint statement by the five parties said that nominating a person with “such a reputation” as Todorov would “liquidate the moral capital” of the Dossier Commission and the confidence in the integrity of its work.

The statement said that both GERB and the BSP had a history of having former State Security people in their ranks and in important government positions, including in the cabinet, and both “reproduce authoritarian patterns and channel the anti-democratic influence of the Putin regime in Bulgaria”.

In their petition, sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and heads of parliamentary groups, the intellectuals called for an end to the current procedure for electing a new head of the Dossier Commission, to make way for a broad public process for nominating members and the head of the Commission.

The petition said that Todorov’s background raised very serious doubts that he was suitable to head the Commission.

The nominee to be the head of the Commission should be someone who was an excellent expert, be someone who is honest and politically unaffiliated, the petition said.

Since it began work in 2006, headed by Evtim Kostadinov, Bulgaria’s Dossier Commission has publicly identified more than 12 000 former State Security people in top government and state positions, Bulgaria’s diplomacy abroad, in the leaderships of private sector and trade union organisations, as well as in the ownership and management of public opinion survey agencies and the media, various sports associations and in the leaderships of religious groups including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as well as Jewish and Muslim community associations.

(Photo: Christa Richert/ sxc.hu)



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.