Bulgaria is Not Listening To Civil Society

Article published on April 23, 2014
Article published on April 23, 2014

Al­most a year ago, so­ci­ety in Bul­garia protested against the gov­ern­ment. These demon­stra­tions have continued throughout the last year yet we`ve heard little about it. So Caféba­bel in­ter­viewed Zor­nitsa Stoilova, ed­i­tor of the Bul­gar­ian news­pa­per "Cap­i­tal Weekly"

Cafébabel: What is hap­pen­ing in Bul­garia and why? 

Zor­nitsa Stoilova: On 14 June 2013, about 10, 000 peo­ple came out on the streets to protest against the ap­point­ment of Delyan Peev­ski as head of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity agency. He is a mem­ber of par­lia­ment and also a mem­ber of the Turk­ish eth­nic mi­nor­ity party DPS. He and his mother own a num­ber of media out­lets, in­clud­ing news­pa­pers, TV chan­nels and web­sites that are chang­ing their ed­i­to­r­ial pol­icy in ac­cor­dance with the po­lit­i­cal party in power. Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous rule of the coali­tion be­tween the Bul­gar­ian So­cial­ist Party (BSP) and DPS Peev­ski, he served as deputy min­is­ter for the Min­istry for Dis­as­ters but he was fired for al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion. He was later cleared of these al­le­ga­tions.

In Bul­garia, Peev­ski is a sym­bol of every­thing that went wrong dur­ing our coun­try's tran­si­tion from com­mu­nism to democ­racy and a mar­ket econ­omy. That is why when his nom­i­na­tion for head of the Se­cu­rity Agency was with­drawn three days later, peo­ple con­tin­ued to protest, de­mand­ing the newly formed gov­ern­ment`s res­ig­na­tion. 

No­body be­lieved Peev­ski`s ap­point­ment was a sin­gle mis­take. His nom­i­na­tion, peo­ple claimed, showed the way of think­ing and the style of man­age­ment of the gov­ern­ment, backed by the So­cial­ist party. Most of the ap­point­ments to state po­si­tions that fol­lowed were fig­ures with com­pro­mised pasts, yet loyal to both par­ties in power.

After just three weeks in power, this gov­ern­ment no longer had the trust of the peo­ple. The two par­ties in power- the BSP and the DPS- re­fused to lis­ten to the crit­i­cal voices and ab­solutely re­fused to dis­miss the gov­ern­ment. The "Ore­sharski" cab­i­net con­tin­ued to work in an at­mos­phere of un­prece­dented mis­trust. 

CB: For how long have these demon­stra­tions been going on? 

ZS: The demon­stra­tions have con­tin­ued for more than 6 months, but are be­com­ing less num­bered as it be­comes clear the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment won`t re­sign. The pro­test­ers in­sisted on keep­ing the demon­stra­tions peace­ful, with­out any dis­plays of vi­o­lence. Right now we are at the dawn of the cam­paign for the Eu­ro­pean par­lia­mentary elec­tions. They have a dif­fer­ent mean­ing now, be­cause if the two par­ties in power fail to de­liver good re­sults, the gov­ern­ment will run out of time as well. Pro­test­ers think it is only a mat­ter of time until the gov­ern­ment is forced to re­sign. Whether it is in a month, or in a year, the loose con­struc­tion will col­lapse. 

CB: When was the last demon­stra­tion? 

ZS: The last big­ demon­stra­tion de­mand­ing the re­signation of the gov­ern­ment was on the 10th of Jan­u­ary 2014.

How­ever, the last mass protest against the gov­ern­ment was held on the 23rd of March.​ Hun­dreds of na­ture lovers gath­ered to ex­press their anger be­cause the gov­ern­ment gave per­mis­sion for con­struc­tion on one of the few re­main­ing wild beaches in Bul­garia. 

CB: How many peo­ple take part in the street protests? 

ZS: The dif­fer­ent stages of the protest man­aged to en­gage vary­ing num­bers of peo­ple.  The first two months, of course, at­tracted the biggest crowds of up to 10, 000 peo­ple march­ing in Sofia. Most of the big­ger cities in the coun­try held their own protests. In the au­tumn though there were fewer peo­ple on the streets. 

There was an im­me­di­ate dis­silu­sion­ment that the protests didn't pro­duce the de­sired re­sult - the res­ig­na­tion of the gov­ern­ment. The protests be­came large again in Oc­to­ber  when the stu­dent move­ment "Early­bird Stu­dents" took the lead in the protests and oc­cu­pied the biggest uni­ver­sity in the coun­try. This re­newed en­thu­si­asm con­tin­ued until the end of the year. 

CB: What has been the re­ac­tion of the EU? 

ZS: Well, at the be­gin­ning cer­tain EU of­fi­cials were ex­press­ing sup­port for the protest and its val­ues. That is es­pe­cially true for Vi­viane Re­ding, the vice pres­i­dent of the EU com­mis­sion. She came to Sofia at the end of July dur­ing the heart of the protests and ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for the peo­ple's right to de­mand good gov­er­nance. She said, "I hope you can build a gov­ern­ment that you can trust". But other than that this is a na­tional issue that Bul­garia must solve it­self. The EU only uses in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nisms to stress that the gov­ern­ment is falling short in im­ple­ment­ing proper re­forms in im­por­tant sec­tors.