Bulgaria: Wrangling over ‘frozen’ talks on a government continues

GERB-UDF’s Maria Gabriel stated conditions on May 30 for the “frozen” talks with We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria coalition on a government to resume.

Boiko Borissov’s coalition announced on May 27 that it was “freezing” the talks with WCC-DB in indignation at the contents of a recording of a WCC-DB national council meeting six days earlier, at which a deal between the two that would get a government elected was discussed.

Gabriel stated GERB-UDF’s position a day after WCC-DB received the second in a series of mandates to seek to form a government, with WCC-DB facing a deadline of June 5 at 5pm to propose the structure and line-up of a proposed government.

“Talks are not in an ice age. However, there are no rays of sunshine to melt the ice,” Gabriel said.

“There can only be conversations if the format, composition, personalities, model, principles and trust are rethought. To avoid an ice age, which, in addition to us, will totally freeze the state as well, I call on the WCC and DB to reconsider all that I have listed,” she said.

GERB deputy leader Tomislav Donchev said that what it was putting forward was not an ultimatum, but “friendly advice” that WCC-DB should change its approach.

“Take a cue from us – we have made all possible and impossible compromises,” Donchev said.

“You cannot get all the power with 15 per cent of all MPs, I mean the number of MPs of WCC-DB. It is not fair, it is not European, it is not democratic. Being responsible for forming a government for the time being, propose another format, talk to us and the other parties. Bulgaria must have a working government,” he said.

WCC-DB candidate Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov was cautious in his response, saying: “As you can see, we calmly waited a few days to see what GERB’s approach would be. In a certain sense, I expected such a reaction.

“What I can say is that conversations about such important issues should not be conducted through the media. We expect to hear from Maria Gabriel and see when we sit at the table to discuss,” Denkov said.

“We need to sit together with them to see what is hidden behind these formulations: ‘approach’, ‘composition’ and so on. We have always said, that we will talk with the other formations, but it is clear that the easiest, most constructive majority could, in this configuration of (this) Parliament, be obtained with GERB. So the first conversation should always be with them,” he said, saying that what happened with the other parliamentary groups would depend on this.

WCC co-leader Kiril Petkov said on Facebook on May 30: “We have clearly seen an attack on the parliamentary republic”.

“No one can afford to call for Bulgaria not to have a regular government, no one can put the Budget and people’s money in the background because of their personal power ambitions,” Petkov said.

His comments came against a background of President Roumen Radev, on handing WCC-DB the second mandate, saying that they should not fulfil it. Controversially, Radev said that were it up to him personally, he would not hand over the mandate to WCC-DB but had done so only because he was obliged to by the constitution.

“We will not allow Bulgaria to take a rapid course towards Eurasia and lose freedom and democracy. We need a regular and pro-European government as soon as possible. We need a stable National Assembly with a long life,” he said.

In the National Assembly on Tuesday, a special hearing was held of the heads of security service on the topic of the recording of the WCC national council meeting made public last week.

State Agency for National Security head Plamen Tonchev described as “outrageous” statements by Petkov and WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev about there being Russian assets in Bulgaria’s security and intelligence services, and their statements that changes were to be co-ordinated with foreign embassies.

Tonchev said that there was no provision in law requiring the co-ordination of the heads of special services to foreign special services or embassies.

He told the House that pre-trial proceedings had been initiated against an – unnamed – adviser to a former prime minister in connection with having co-ordinated with a citizen of North Macedonia on its accession to the EU. Tonchev alleged that the adviser had provided classified information to this citizen.

He did not directly identify which former prime minister’s adviser he was talking about, but referred to Teodora Genchovska having been foreign minister at the time, meaning that Tonchev was referring to the Petkov government. According to Tonchev, some members of that government had “definitely not acted in the national interest”.

Meanwhile, against the background of Radev’s behaviour at the May 29 mandate-handing ceremony, a protest against him is being held on May 30 at 6.30pm on the square in front of the Presidency building in Dondukov Boulevard.

The protest is entitled “Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic and a fully-fledged member of the EU and Nato”.

On Facebook, the organisers of the protest said: “The President has long shown that he does not work for the benefit of Bulgarian society and for Bulgarian interests, but for Russian ones. His caretaker governments are the longest in Bulgarian history after 1990, while at the same time pushing Russian influence in the country and separating us from the European community. We will not allow ourselves to become Belarus!”.

The protest was endorsed by WCC-DB, which called on people to “come together to protect the parliamentary republic and the European future of Bulgaria”.

(Photo of Denkov from WCC’s Facebook page and of Gabriel from the EC Audiovisual Service)

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