Bulgaria’s Parliament appoints committees on Rosenets, police violence, former government

At its frequently stormy second sitting on July 22, Bulgaria’s new National Assembly voted to set up ad hoc committees to investigate the Rosenets controversy, police violence during last year’s anti-government protests, and to resume the committee probing alleged abuses in the use of funds by the previous government in the past five years.

The ad hoc committee on Rosenets was proposed by Democratic Bulgaria, whose co-leader Hristo Ivanov last summer attempted a beach landing near the mansion of Movement for Rights and Freedoms founder Ahmed Dogan, only to be chased away by National Protection Service staff, one of whom threw Ivanov’s Bulgarian flag to the ground.

Dogan’s seaside mansion at Rosenets. Photo via Democratic Bulgaria.
National Protection Service staff wrestle Democratic Bulgaria’s Ivailo Mirchev back to the shore during the confrontation at Rosenets.

The committee, to be headed by Democratic Bulgaria’s Kaloyan Yankov, will investigate the actions of state bodies and whether police actions during protests at Rosenets were lawful.

During debate on the motion to set up the committee, the MRF sought to deflect the thrust of the proposal by putting forward an amendment to also probe whether spatial planning legislation had been violated on the Budjaka Peninsula near Sozopol.

The MRF proposal, targeted at Bulgarian-language media publisher Ivo Prokopiev, was rejected, after Ivanov accused the MRF of attempting a filibuster and trying to kill off the Democratic Bulgaria proposal with procedural tricks.

While the debate and vote on the Rosenets committee was largely a confrontation between Democratic Bulgaria and the MRF, that on setting up a committee to investigate police use of force, tear gas and other means during anti-government protests in July and September last year became a clash between the “protest parties” and Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF group.

The ad hoc committee, proposed by Nikolai Hadzhigenov and others from the “Rise Up Bulgaria! We’re Coming” group (formerly “Rise Up! Mobsters Out!”) will also investigate the use of surveillance of the anti-government protesters, opposition leaders and members of the political parties in opposition at the time.

When Mladen Marinov, the former Interior Minister who is now a GERB MP, said: “I didn’t see police beating peaceful protesters” there was an uproar from most in the House.

When GERB nominated Marinov to be a member of the ad hoc committee, initially there was laughter, followed by an acrimonious argument after the Bulgarian Socialist Party proposed voting on his nomination separately – resulting in him being barred from the committee.

Those who wanted him barred from the committee argued that as a former Interior Minister, he would be in a conflict of interest if he served on it.

GERB countered that the move to block Marinov was a violation of Bulgarian parliamentary practice, adding that those who had participated in the protests and now would be on the committee would similarly be in conflict of interest.

Toma Bikov, GERB’s other nominee to the committee, said that he would not participate in it, following which the GERB group walked out of the House.

In the lobby, the GERB parliamentary group held a news conference, with Dessislava Antassanova saying that a new low had been reached by the “new barbarians” in the National Assembly.

The next item was the establishment of an “audit committee” to “establish abuses and violations in the spending of funds by the Cabinet, ministries, state bodies, state and municipal enterprises, companies with more than 50 per cent state and municipal participation and local authorities in the past five years”.

To be headed by Maya Manolova of the “Rise Up Bulgaria! We’re Coming” group, this is a resumption of the ad hoc committee that had the same mandate in the short-lived 45th National Assembly.

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