On the eve of the millennium, winter was snowy, but euphoria warmed Bulgarians' hearts. Fed by good news, they had high hopes for the year 2000. In December 1999 the EU had invited Bulgaria join the community. At that time, the country had quite a pleasant international image – and not just thanks to Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihaylova, nicknamed Hubavoto Nade, or Pretty Nade. Mihaylova was elected vice president of the European People's Party, and on 26 May 2000 Bulgaria wrapped up the first four rounds of negotiations with the EU. In 2001 the country was removed from the Schengen blacklist – Bulgarians could now travel visa-free in most of Europe. Despite appearances, things weren't all that rosy. 2000 was a year of scandals that irreparably damaged the government's prestige. February 2000 On 28 February Libya accused five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor of deliberately infecting nearly 400 children with the AIDS virus. The Bulgarians were not the only ones charged. However, other nations managed to free their citizens, while Bulgarian diplomats dithered and then Prime Minister Kostov made the memorable statement: "What if they're guilty?" Attempts to solve the problem began only in the following year.Members of the Union of Democratic Forces, or SDS, criticised their leader Ivan Kostov at the party's national conference, and former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev shook up the United Democratic Forces coalition, or ODS, by accusing the prime minister of corruption.
July 2000 Israel removed the memorial plaques in the Bulgarian Forest commemorating the 50,000 Bulgarian Jews saved from the Holocaust and replaced them with a single one. The reason? The 11,000 Jews from Aegean Macedonia and Thrace – which were under Bulgarian administration in the 1940s – who were deported to death camps. The scandal flared up following a letter from Bulgarian intellectuals to Israel calling for the removal of the memorials. Signatories to the letter included Deputy Speaker of Parliament Blagovest Sendov. August 2000 The scandal of the month involved the security services. The head of counterintelligence, Gen. Atanas Atanasov, drew up a list of names of Russian and Yugoslav citizens barred from entering Bulgaria for 10 years due to national security concerns. The list included the notorious Russian investor Michael Cherniy.
September 2000 Information surfaced that Cherniy's close associates had financed the SDS before the party took power. In 1997, Cherniy had donated $80,000 to the Future for Bulgaria Foundation led by Ivan Kostov's wife, Elena.
October 2000 The SDS chief secretary Hristo Biserov as well as high-ranking party officials Yordan Tsonev and Evgeniy Bakardzhiev demanded Kostov's resignation. Instead, the upstarts found themselves kicked out and the SDS parliamentary bloc splintered.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers