Bulgarian PM axes officials over rinderpest outbreak as farmers protest in Sofia

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov dismissed Deputy Agriculture Minister Tsvetan Dimitrov and other officials on July 18 over the handling of the ovine rinderpest outbreak, as farmers held a large protest in Sofia, demanding higher compensation for their thousands of culled sheep and goats.

Borissov’s decision to fire Dimitrov and three other officials was taken after Agriculture Minister Roumen Porozhanov met representatives of protesting farmers.

The other officials fired were the director of the livestock directorate, Zlatka Vazelova, the head of the payments directorate Georgi Pramatarov, as well as the adviser to the Agriculture Minister, Boyko Sinapov.

Outside the Cabinet office, protesters attempted to invade the building but were pushed back by a large contingent of police. They blocked traffic on Dondukov Boulevard.

Protest organisers told the media that the “de minimis” aid of 47 leva for a killed sheep or goat was unacceptable.

At the Cabinet office, Borissov and Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov rejected “fake news” allegations that the sheep and goats in Bulgaria’s Strandzha area had been slaughtered to make room for settlements for migrants who had entered the country illegally.

Karakachanov called for an investigation by the State Agency for National Security into who was behind the false rumours, and for the perpetrators to be severely punished.

Borissov defended the decision to kill the animals, saying that nowhere in Europe or elsewhere in the world would the decision have been different. The situation was regrettable but the killing was necessary to stop the contagion, he said.

If the outbreak was not stopped, the Bulgarian state could face having to pay hundreds of millions of leva to farmers, Borissov said.

At the same time, he criticised the Food Safety Agency for not showing enough humaneness in dealing with the situation.

Speaking at the start of the regular Cabinet meeting, Borissov urged the ministers to do everything necesary to respond to the ovine rinderpest outbreak.

Porozhanov dismissed the demands of the protesting farmers for higher compensation as unrealistic, and said that those protesting did not represent the entire sector.



The Sofia Globe staff

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