Bulgaria’s Denkov coalition government: meet the ministers

Bulgaria’s Parliament voted on June 6 to elect a government headed by Nikolai Denkov, following weeks of talks between We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (WCC-DB) and GERB-UDF coalitions, the two largest parliamentary groups in the 49th National Assembly.

The agreement between WCC-DB and GERB-UDF envisages the Cabinet serving at least 18 months in office. Denkov will be Prime Minister for the first nine months, after which GERB-UDF’s Maria Gabriel is to be elected to the post.

The new Cabinet features one deputy prime minister, a departure from recent governments, which had as many as five. It also sees one fewer minister, with the elimination of the EU funds management portfolio. The CVs of the Cabinet members are as follows:

Prime Minister – Nikolai Denkov

Education Minister in Kiril Petkov’s government in 2021-2022 and held the same position in caretaker governments in 2017 and 2021, having also served as deputy education minister in 2014-2016. Denkov is a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and holds a PhD in physical chemistry, serving as dean of the chemical engineering faculty of Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski in 2008-2015.

Deputy PM and Foreign Minister – Maria Gabriel

Previously Bulgaria’s European Commissioner, with the portfolios of digital economy (2017-2019) and innovation (2019-2023), she resigned the position when nominated as GERB-UDF’s prime minister-designate last month. Prior to that, she was a member of European Parliament from 2009 to 2017. Holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from Sciences Po Bordeaux.

Finance Minister – Assen Vassilev

Held the same position in the Petkov Cabinet in 2021-2022 and was previously caretaker finance minister in May-September 2021, and economy minister in a caretaker Cabinet in 2013. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard College, as well as a JD/MBA joint degree in law and business administration from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School.

Interior Minister – Kalin Stoyanov

Joined the Interior Ministry as economic police investigator in the Bourgas district in 2003, he rose through the ranks and was appointed head of the chief directorate for fighting organised crime in May 2021. Holds a bachelor’s degree from the Interior Ministry Academy in Sofia and a master’s degree in law from Bourgas Free University.

Defence Minister – Todor Tagarev

Held the same position in a caretaker Cabinet in 2013 and has served as the head of defence planning at the Defence Ministry and later head of armaments policy. A senior cybernetics researcher, he participated in a number of Nato and European Defence Agency expert groups. He is a graduate of military schools in Bulgaria, Russia and the US.

Justice Minister – Atanas Slavov

Civil activist and outspoken proponent of judiciary reform, he has been a member of Parliament since 2021, serving as head of the constitutional affairs committee in the short-lived 48th National Assembly. He holds a PhD degree in constitutional law from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and a PhD in law from University of Glasgow.

Labour and Social Policy Minister – Ivanka Shalapatova

An expert in early childhood development and children’s rights, she has extensive experience in non-profit organisations management. Served as deputy labour and social policy minister in a caretaker Cabinet in 2013. Holds a PhD in social activities from the South-West University Neofit Rilski in Blagoevgrad.

Energy Minister – Roumen Radev

Namesake of Bulgaria’s president, he is the chair of the board of directors of Asarel-Investments, deputy head of employer group Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria, as well as a fuel cell and hydrogen industry group. Holds a degree in physics from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and finance from University of National and World Economics in Sofia.

Regional Development Minister – Andrei Tsekov

Deputy finance minister in the Petkov Cabinet in 2021-2022, he has two decades of private sector experience managing large corporate structures and investment flows. Holds a degree in law from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and teaches contract law at the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia.

Economy and Industry Minister – Bogdan Bogdanov

Previously executive director of the InvestBulgaria Agency since 2022, he has a decade of experience in the private sector, focusing on business development. Holds master’s degrees in finance from University of National and World Economics in Sofia and Nottingham Trent University in UK.

Health Minister – Hristo Hinkov

Head of the health ministry’s national centre for public health and analyses in 2014-2022, which he joined in 2001. Prior to that, he was deputy head of the National Health Insurance Fund, in charge of education and human resources, in 1999-2001. Holds a medical doctor degree and worked for more than a decade as a psychiatrist at the Pirogov emergency hospital in Sofia.

Environment and Waters Minister – Yulian Popov

Held the same position in a caretaker Cabinet in 2013 and was previously chief adviser to the European Climate Foundation of Central and Eastern Europe. Author of two books and many articles on sustainability, energy policies of the European Union and human rights.

Agriculture Minister – Kiril Vatev

Owner of one of Bulgaria’s largest meat-processing companies, he has three decades of experience in the private sector, serving several terms as the head of the meat-processing industry group. A graduate in wrestling from the National Sports Academy in Sofia.

Transport and Communications Minister – Georgi Gvozdeikov

Aviation engineer and graduate of Bulgaria’s Air Force Academy Georgi Benkovski in Dolna Mitropolia. An active participant in establishing Bulgaria’s first air ambulance service, he was also deputy head of the transport committee in the 47th National Assembly in 2021-2022.

E-government Minister – Alexander Yolovski

Deputy e-government minister in the Petkov Cabinet in 2021-2022, he has also held positions in the state IT firm Informatsionno Obslujvane and the state agency for e-government. Holds a degree in political science from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski.

Tourism Minister – Zaritsa Dinkova

Deputy foreign minister in two caretaker Cabinets in 2021, she has also worked in international project management for UN and EU. Holds a master’s degree in international relations from Complutense University of Madrid.

Growth and Innovation Minister – Milena Stoicheva

Executive director of the Bulgarian branch of non-profit organisation Junior Achievement, she has two decades of experience in the private sector. Holds a degree from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski.

Education Minister – Galin Tsokov

Professor of education management and deputy dean of pedagogy faculty at Plovdiv University Paisii Hilendarski. Holds a PhD and master’s degree in pedagogy from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski.

Culture Minister – Krastyu Krastev

Head of Plovdiv Drama Theatre since 2010 and head of Smolyan Drama Theatre Nikolai Haitov before that. Graduate of National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia.

Sports Minister – Dimitar Iliev

Eight-time winner of Bulgarian rally racing championship during a career that spanned from 1994 to 2013. An expert in road safety, he teaches at the National Sports Academy Vassil Levski.

(Top photo: Nikolai Denkov’s Cabinet swears its oath of office in Parliament on June 6. Minister photos: government.bg)

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