Mon, 07/03/2017 - 13:04

Yet another instance of corruption, wise practical decision or new round of political buffoonery?

national palace of culture.jpg

Here are the facts. Former Construction Minister Lilyana Pavlova, who is now Minister for Bulgaria's Presidency of the EU, fired the general manager of the National Palace of Culture, or NDK, Miroslav Borshosh. Pavlova, who used to belong to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's inner circle but is now seen as being demoted to what in effect will be just a temporary ministry, cited massive wrongdoing for her decision. She said the planned reconstruction works to modernise the huge building in central Sofia lagged behind. The NDK operated without a business plan, without an investment programme, with no rules for public contracts, and had amassed losses amounting to about 20 million leva. Furthermore Borshosh, according to Pavlova who cited numerous facts and figures, failed to deliver a plan to surmount the financial difficulties which he should have done by the middle of June.

Miroslav Borshosh's political career dates back to 2001 when he was elected leader of the youth wing of the now non-existent SDS, or Union of Democratic Forces, the original anti-Communist organisation in Bulgaria post-1989. He later owned a newspaper called Novinar and an Internet news site, both of which are now defunct. It is thought that his business interests in the media intertwined with those of Delyan Peevski, the MP for the DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a media magnate, and the man whose appointment to a top security job in 2013 unleashed the mass street protests that eventually brought down the Oresharski government. Significantly, Borshosh is obviously on good terms with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov: back in 2005 he was in the public committee in support of Borisov's candidature for mayor of Sofia. In 2013 he was the producer of a Bulgarian National Television series about the 1943 rescue of the Bulgarian Jews, for which he had received a major state subsidy. There are reports that the cash was given to Borshosh after a direct intervention by the Office of the Prime Minister even though his script did not do well at the BNT public contest. Since 2014 Borshosh has been the general manager of the NDK.
Borshosh replied to Lilyana Pavlova's charges that he was opposed to implementing public contracts imposed on him.

On the following day Prime Minister Boyko Borisov reversed Pavlova's decision. Borshosh was reappointed as general manager of the NDK. Borisov then "took" the NDK from the auspices of Pavlova's ministry and "gave" it to the Culture Ministry.

In the face of this humiliation Pavlova, however, did not resign. Instead she said she was no longer interested in the NDK as she was no longer overseeing it.

Borshosh was jubilant. He thanked the prime minister profusely and intoned: "Culture has won!"

A day later, Borshosh decided to "step down" until the investigation of his handling of the NDK's finances, which had started in February 2017, was over. A new man, Angel Mitev, who headed a construction company within the Culture Ministry to restore old buildings and archaeological sites, was appointed.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB's second man, stepped in. He said on TV there was no scandal, not even a hint of it at the top of GERB. There were only "good policies" being implemented by GERB that GERB's political opponents wanted to derail by claiming the prime minister had fallen out with his former confidante, the minister for the EU presidency.

Of course, the tabloid newspapers and the Internet sites immediately seized the story, using the usual mixture of bits of truth, half-truths and outright lies. Some alleged Boyko Borisov had again backtracked in fear new instances of wrongdoing at the NDK would emerge and he did not want to compromise himself too much by continuing to support Borshosh. Others reported anonymous sources as saying some EU ambassadors had intervened threatening their prime ministers would not be attending EU Council meetings in a building so heavily entangled in corrupt practices.

Allegations, speculations, real and fake news, and conspiracy theories so beloved in Bulgaria of the 2010s, there are a few facts that raise a few questions that no one has so far answered:

Why did Prime Minister Boyko Borisov reappoint Miroslav Borshosh as the general manager of the NDK if a senior minister in his government, Lilyana Pavlova, had produced a detailed catalogue containing facts and figures of wrongdoing? If her charges are correct and the prime minister acted in spite of them, why did the National Assembly not fire him instead?

If the detailed catalogue produced by Lilyana Pavlova was wrong, then it was a lie. Why did not the prime minister fire his minister for telling him lies of that magnitude?

How can a senior government minister, Lilyana Pavlova, in charge of Bulgaria's EU presidency, no longer be interested in the NDK, a major building where most of the EU presidency events are scheduled to be held in 2018, only because she is no longer overseeing it?

Last but not least, Borshosh's words are also important. Culture has won, Borshosh said. Who or what has culture won over?

Significantly, the NDK episode indicates the way the affairs of the state and management of public property are being conducted by GERB's top leadership. An increasing number of Bulgarians tend to consider it just political buffoonery, with the prime minister appearing as a deus ex machina in some "hot" situations to administer justice over the heads of his mortal ministers.

Yet GERB is here to stay. Commanding a parliamentary majority in the National Assembly with the support of the extreme nationalists calling themselves United Patriots Boyko Borisov will probably be around for quite some time, at least until Bulgaria does become the rotating president of the EU in 2018. At least this is GERB's plan.

Issue 129

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