Bulgaria’s caretaker government has replaced all members of the Consumer Protection Commission, in a move the former members say is unconstitutional and unlawful but which the caretaker Economy Minister says was justified because the commission was a “political cudgel”.
The caretaker government’s decision, taken on September 19, saw the departure of commission chairperson Ivan Frenkev and members Nikolai Mravov and Velina Velikova.
Stoil Alipiev has been appointed to head the body and Angel Dzhalev and Konstantin Arabadzhiev have been appointed as members.
In August, after the caretaker government took office, Frenkev alleged at a news conference that there was political pressure on the commission. He accused the Economy Ministry of trying to obstruct the commission’s work by initiating investigations into it.
At the time, the ministry responded that the investigations were not at its initiative, but were in response to complaints from the public.
In a statement after the September 19 decision, Frenkev, Mravov and Velikova said that the caretaker government appointed by President Roumen Radev had committed another unprecedented violation of the law by terminating the term of all members of the commission with no legal reason.
A caretaker government changing a body that had been legally elected to a five-year term by a regular Cabinet was “unprecedented in European practice,” they said.
The statement said that this was gross interference in the independence of the regulators.
“Moreover, in the last year, the commission has shown concrete results in its activities for consumer protection, becoming one of the most visible institutions in the country.”
The statement said that the caretaker government headed by Gulub Donev had once again made a decision that exceeded the powers conferred by the constitution on a caretaker administration.
The former members said that they would lodge court action and appeal to the European institutions (the statement did not specify which ones).
On September 20, caretaker Economy Minister Nikola Stoyanov told Bulgarian National Television that the commission had operated as a “political cudgel”.
According to Stoyanov, there had been several reports of illegal appointments of people, including a person with a criminal past related to serious violations of the law.
Stoyanov alleged that Frenkev had been appointed in breach of the law. Frenkev was not qualified to hold the post and the appointment by the former government had not followed the correct procedure, according to Stoyanov.
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