Can You Navigate Bulgaria’s Media Jungle?

Earlier this summer, I was invited to share my thoughts on media freedom in Bulgaria as part of a project promoting free speech in Eastern Europe. I am very grateful for this opportunity because sharing your opinion without censorship is a luxury and a privilege which many people do not have these days. This is especially valid when you talk about media.

I was hesitating how best to approach the topic as there are so many clichés floating around to which I do not subscribe at all. I believe that many reports on Bulgaria are biased because they do not pinpoint the very core and origin of the problem. At the end, I decided to merely paint the picture that I see. No sugar-coated, misinformed reports, no euphemisms, no quick fix solutions. You can read my commentary “Bulgaria’s media jungle: the good, the bad, and the ugly” for New Eastern Europe here.

On Elections and Political Suicide

Shortly after the snap parliamentary elections in July, I shared my thoughts on Bulgaria’s future with New Eastern Europe. It appears that one of the parties, which many hoped to provide an alternative to the current dire state of affairs, may have been hijacked by Bulgaria’s deep state. As a result, instead of cooperating with other opposition parties like many expected, it indulges in disruptive behavior. It seems that not only it does not mind committing political suicide in the process, but also hopes that other opposition parties do the same.

In Bulgaria, we usually use the term ‘deep state’ to refer to the network built by Bulgaria’s communist secret services (Darzahvna sigurnost) which was never dismantled because full lustration – disclosing the names of all agents of this network and their activities – was not implemented. Darzhavna sigurnost had become a state within the state, essentially governing the country in the final stages of communism. This network may have evolved and adapted to the post-communist reality, but its values have remained the same.

Dismantling Borissov’s autocracy is surely what many players behind the curtain hope to avoid.

You can read my article ‘Snap elections in Bulgaria: who is ready for political suicide?’ here.

The Implications of Bulgaria’s Wiretapping Scandal

Earlier this month, I was invited to write a commentary about the raid which the Prosecutor’s Office orchestrated against the Ministry of Interior. The Prosecutor’s Office attacked the ministry shortly after the Minister of Interior Boyko Rashkov made public statements that the opposition had been illegally wiretapped after the start of mass protests in 2020, which, in essence, exposes the criminal activity of the Prosecutor’s Office.

I was compelled to tell the very sad tale of what Bulgarians who are inconvenient for the Prosecutor’s Office or the status quo endure. Framing, raiding, tampering with evidence, criminalizing facts which cannot constitute a crime, etc. are signature practices of the Prosecutor’s Office which flourished under General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev. At this stage, the reality in Bulgaria is truly Kafkaesque.

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The Short-Lived 45th Bulgarian National Assembly

Believe it or not, many foreign scholars and civil society members are also interested in the abuses of Bulgaria’s General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev. The mass protests against him and Borissov’s third government in 2020 made more people aware of the rule of law decay in Bulgaria.

Unsurprisingly, when the 45th Bulgarian National Assembly started functioning in April 2021, I received an email from a colleague asking me if it were true that Ivan Geshev would be removed from office.

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Elections and Drama

In my latest article for New Eastern Europe published shortly after the parliamentary elections which took place on April 4th, 2021, I discuss the importance of these specific elections, the likely scenarios, and the reluctance with which Boyko Borissov will eventually transfer power.

Even before the Parliament was convened, I argued: “In parallel, the opposition is fragmented, so while preferable, they may not be able to form a government either. This means that the most likely scenario is a caretaker government and new parliamentary elections this year.” I also contended: “The future may be uncertain at this stage, but the election results are actually a massive victory for Bulgaria’s civil society.”

You can read the full text of my article ‘Dramatic parliamentary elections in Bulgaria: will Borissov transfer power peacefully?’ here.

Parliamentary Elections in Bulgaria

On 4 April 2021 or in 4 days, Bulgarian citizens will vote for a new Parliament. Unusual elections, considering Bulgarians have been protesting against Boyko Borissov’s government for 8 months and Borissov did everything possible to avoid early elections, which means these are the first parliamentary elections organized by a government led by Boyko Borissov. I have written an article for Res Publica about the incredibly high stakes which was published earlier today. I republish it here with the permission of the editors.

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Колосалният БВП в предизборната кошница на ГЕРБ

Предизборните кошници често са пълни с привидно вкусни плодове, които след избори се оказват кисели или даже – отровни. Днес ще ви разкажа за колосалния БВП от предизборната кошница на ГЕРБ.

Когато медии с претенции повтарят пропагандни послания без грам критика – noblesse oblige, както казват във Франция.

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Sexism and Violence against Women in Bulgaria

At the beginning of this year, I was invited to write an article about women’s rights for a project promoting independent digital media in the Central and East European region funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and coordinated by Notes from Poland.

My article titled “Sexism and violence against women. Will this nightmare in Bulgaria end?” focuses on the discrepancy between the promises of Boyko Borissov’s government to protect women from violence and the reality on the ground. Sexist attitudes, often deemed at the core of violence against women, prevail even at the highest ranks of government. Meanwhile, Bulgarian legislation provides very little protection for victims of such abuses.

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COVID-19 in Autocratic Bulgaria

At the end of 2020, I was invited to write a country report on Bulgaria about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on democracy in the past year. The report is part of a project facilitated by Democracy Reporting International, Horizon-2020 RECONNECT, and the Verfassungsblog which focuses on more than 70 jurisdictions.

My conclusions are rather grim. I argue that “the elections on 4 April 2021 are of pivotal importance for Bulgaria’s rule of law” since “Borissov has built a framework for abusing the COVID-19 challenges for political benefits”. I also make that case that “if he remains in power, he will surely take advantage of [the framework he has built]”.

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The Struggle for the Rule of Law in Bulgaria: My Interview for the Global Liberty Alliance

In February this year, Mr. Jason Poblete, President of the Global Liberty Alliance, a non-governmental organization in the USA which defends human rights, invited me for an interview. He was interested to learn more about the rule of law decay and human rights abuses in Bulgaria, including how and why I started my journey in defending human rights.

We scheduled the interview for March, but as it turns out, the timing was perfect because on the day of the interview, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee issued an unprecedented joint statement emphasizing that “…persistent corruption, declining media freedom, politicization of the judiciary, and other threats to the rule of law pose[d] serious challenges to the U.S.-Bulgaria bilateral relationship.”

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The Shenanigans of the Konrad Adenauer and Hanns Seidel Political Foundations in Bulgaria

A scandal which erupted in Bulgaria today motivated me to tell you the story of the illegal activity of two German political foundations – the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Hanns Seidel Stiftung. In the concrete case which appalled me, the Konrad Adenauer political foundation commissioned an edition dedicated to Bulgarian politics in 2020, hired an editor who is a respected journalist and approved all authors and their topics. However, it refused to publish the edition in the end because it deemed that the articles written by experts were “against the government”.

Of course, this is an example of censorship, but this censorship is just the cherry in a toxic cocktail which Bulgaria has been drinking since 2006 when Boyko Borissov’s GERB party was created. Let me give you its recipe.

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Публикуваните цитати от решението на ICSID недвусмислено показват, че България се е споразумяла със Суверенния фонд на Оман

Тази седмица Центърът за разрешаване на инвестиционни спорове към Световната банка (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, познат като ICSID) най-сетне публикува excerpts (цитати) от арбитражното решение по дело No. ARB/15/43 (Суверенният фонд на Оман срещу България). Те недвусмислено показват, че България се е споразумяла с втория най-голям акционер в КТБ.

Това решение касае всички български граждани. Българските данъкоплатци заслужават да научат колко са платили, за да компенсират щетите на Суверенния фонд на Оман. Въпросът, разбира се, не е само материален – очевидно, за да търси споразумение, българската държава индиректно признава вина по случая КТБ. Имайки предвид и ресурса, който беше впрегнат от правителството на Бойко Борисов, за да излъже българските граждани, и участието на медии с претенции като Дневник и КлубЗ в дезинформационната кампания, човек може да си даде сметка колко нездрава е средата в България.

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The EU Accession of the Western Balkans: The Perspective of a Neighbor

The editors of the Res Publica Blog – a project of the Institute of Communications Studies in Macedonia – recently asked me to share my views on the prospects for EU accession of Western Balkan countries, as part of the “Tales from the Region” blogging initiative. Considering how much ink has been spilled on this issue, I thought it was more appropriate to reason in the reverse – can the Western Balkans learn anything from the experience of new EU Member States like Bulgaria? I republish my article in full on my own blog with Res Publica‘s permission.

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On Bulgaria’s Notorious Veto on Macedonia’s EU Accession Talks

At the end of 2020, I was asked to share my thoughts on Bulgaria’s veto on Macedonia’s accession talks for EU membership for the Res Publica Blog – a project of the Institute of Communications Studies in Macedonia whose aim is to fight disinformation through research. The project is financed by the British Embassy in North Macedonia and publishes primarily academic writers. I republish my article in full on my own blog with the permission of the editors of Res Publica. As you will see, I do not share the views of the Bulgarian government – I find they belong to a different era.

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An Autocratic Christmas, An Autocratic Winter

Despite more than 160 days of protests, Boyko Borissov’s government stubbornly refuses to resign. Moreover, it has engaged in yet another assault against the rule of law. In my latest piece for the Verfassungsblog, I showcase how Borissov’s government is trying to mislead the European Commission that it has taken its concerns in Bulgaria’s report under the new Rule of Law Mechanism seriously. In essence, Bulgaria’s government has put forward an action plan consisting of various steps – many of them are irrelevant to the Commission’s concerns, even a greater number are anti-constitutional. You can read my piece titled “Borissov’s Latest Plan to Avoid True Reforms: On Bad Habits, the CVM, and the New Rule of Law Mechanism” here.

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An Interview for the Green European Journal

In late October, I was contacted by the Green European Journal, the independent publication of the Green European Foundation, which is one of the political foundations at an EU level. They wanted to learn more about Bulgaria’s longstanding challenges in the area of the rule of law. We talked for an hour about diverse issues – from corruption and rule of law decay, through rigged elections and scandals, to the future alternatives for Bulgaria, including the role of the Greens. I was surprised that they published our conversation almost in its entirety. You can read my interview here.

100 Days of Protests Exposing Bulgaria’s Rule of Law Decay

Bulgarians have been protesting against Boyko Borissov’s third government and General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev for more than 100 days. Beyond exposing the rampant corruption and the rule of law decay in the country, what have the protests achieved? Most importantly – what lies ahead, considering the European People’s Party continues to support its loyal autocrat? I ponder these questions in my latest article for New Eastern Europe – “Bulgaria: 100 days of protests”.

Surely, one of the longstanding problems of Bulgaria’s justice system, which the protests have also showcased, is the lack of accountability of the General Prosecutor, coupled with the excessive powers of the Prosecutor’s Office s/he leads. I was honored to be interviewed for a an episode of the new podcast of Verfassungsblog and the German Bar Association, “Let’s Talk about the Rule of Law”, about the role that prosecutor’s offices should have – their relationship with the executive, the checks and balances to which they should be subjected, etc. José Manuel Santos Pais, President of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE), Prof. Thomas Groß, and I had a fascinating discussion. You can listen to episode 5 of the new “Let’s Talk about the Rule of Law” podcast here.

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The Commission’s Rule of Law Reports: A Diagnosis or an Autopsy?

On 5 October 2020, the German Marshall Fund of the United States held a webinar dedicated to the first rule of law reports released by the European Commission under the new, much anticipated Rule of Law Mechanism. While the event was announced much before the publication of the reports, its title gave away the fears of rule of law experts – “Assessing the State of Rule of Law in the European Union: Diagnosis or Autopsy?”

I was honored to be invited to serve as one of the panelists along with Prof. Laurent Pech, Prof. Petra Bard, Anna Wójcik, who is the co-founder of Rule of Law in Poland, and Joachim Herrmann from the Cabinet of Commissioner Dreynders. As one could expect, the rule of law experts on the panel entertain very different views on the usefulness and the objectivity of these rule of law reports compared to the formal position of the European Commission. All of us seem to concur that the Commission spares hard truths for governments and that the reports rely heavily on euphemisms. I do believe that the criticism the Commission received was constructive and may benefit its own assessments in the future.

If you are interested in the debate, you can watch the recording on YouTube here. Prof. Pech discussed the general deficiencies of this mechanism while the rest of us critically evaluated the country chapters on Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria:

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When Standards are Dual

Bulgaria’s fiery summer of protests led to a stormy fall. Sadly, there is a bitter feeling of dual standards in the air.

The government is clearly uncomfortable with the protests, so it resorted to a shameful trick typical of autocratic regimes – violence. Sadly, the EU Commission chose to look the other way. You can read my article “Protests in Bulgaria: will the EU at least condemn the violence?” for The Brussels Times here.

In stark contrast to the nonchalance of the EU Commission, the EU Parliament took some interest in Bulgaria’s democratic backsliding. At a hearing of the LIBE Committee dedicated to the rule of law decay in Bulgaria, however, Commissioner Vera Jourova, whose portfolio includes values and transparency in the EU, was afraid to depart from her institutional point of view and maintained that Bulgaria had been making steady progress under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism which monitors the country in the areas of rule of law, corruption, and organized crime. You can read my article “On Coins, Parallel Universes and the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” for the Verfassungsblog in which I showcase the pitfalls of this mechanism and the hypocrisy of the EU Commission.

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An Explosive Summer

The mass protests in Bulgaria of 2020 will be remembered for many reasons – the persistence of citizens, the fact that right-wingers and left-wingers stand together against corruption and autocracy, the police violence, the arrogance and political games of Borissov’s government and his GERB party and, sadly, the silence of EU institutions.

In August, I published my article entitled “Protests in Bulgaria: EU values, wherefore art thou?” with New Eastern Europe. I showcase the ambiguous reaction by EU institutions towards the protests and the dual standards regarding the rule of law which become more and more visible.

I was also interviewed for the Talk Eastern Europe podcast in early August about the protests and the perspectives ahead. As the hosts noted, Bulgaria is rarely covered by international media, so few people abroad are aware of the gravity of the political disaster which struck. You can listen to my interview here.

If you follow me, you know I often write about Bulgaria’s rule of law decay.

You can find a list of my blog posts and some of my articles for the media here! You can follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass!

A Grand National Assembly or Grand Bulgarian Chicanery?

Earlier this month I was invited to comment on Boyko Borissov’s latest ideas for constitutional reform by the Verfassungsblog. Those following the decline of Bulgaria’s rule of law and those who have respect for constitutionalism will not be surprised by my conclusions. Borissov is abusing the Bulgarian legal concept of a grand national assembly to prevent fairer elections. GERB’s proposal for a new constitution lacks merit. It is largely based on the current Constitution. The few amendments it introduces are of questionable value: they are ill-drafted or designed to deliver a blow to parliamentarism. You can read my full contribution entitled “A Grand National Assembly or Grand National Chicanery?” here.

Bulgaria’s Ignored Rule of Law Crisis

Earlier this month, I wrote an article for the blog of the #FBPE movement (Follow Back, Pro-European) about the challenges which Bulgaria faces in the area of rule of law and why the mass protests started. The hashtag was first used by Mr. Hendrik Klaassens in response to Brexit, but it quickly transformed into a movement. Currently, FBPE is even a word defined in English dictionaries. I am very grateful that they are now turning their eyes to and following the rule of law crises in Eastern Europe. You can read my contribution “Bulgaria’s Ignored Rule of Law Crisis” here.

If you follow me, you know I often write about Bulgaria’s rule of law decay.

You can find a list of my blog posts and some of my articles for the media here!

Will Borissov’s Government Survive This Summer?

As you probably know, mass protests erupted in Bulgaria on 9 July 2020 after Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office raided Bulgaria’s Presidency in an attempt to orchestrate a coup. Bulgarians demand the immediate resignation of Boyko Boriossov’s government and controversial General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev who engages in politically motivated prosecutions in violation of the Constitution, the ECHR, and the EU Charter. President Rumen Radev is the only critic of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov who has a high position in the state and Bulgaria’s Presidency is essentially the only institution which has not been fully captured. In June 2020, way before the protests started, I wrote this article for New Eastern Europe: “Bulgaria: will Borissov’s government survive this summer?”. It does not cover the protests, but I think it will further showcase to you why citizens are on the streets. Nearly 100,000 people protested in Sofia on 15 July 2020. We are about to see if my title is prophetic.

COVID-19 and Autocracy

Could the COVID-19 crisis serve as an excuse to solidify autocracy? In countries in which the rule of law is undermined such as Bulgaria, this seems very likely. Earlier this month I contributed to an online Symposium hosted by the Verfassungsblog dedicated to states of emergency and democracy. You can read my contribution here.

Bulgaria, a Rule of Law Crisis in All but Name

In January 2020, Transparency International reconfirmed Bulgaria as the most corrupt EU member in its authoritative Corruption Perceptions Index. This is a good, but sad occasion to inform you about my latest media articles:

  • In December 2019, I warned that Bulgaria was sabotaging the work of the future European Public Prosecutor in an article for Euronews. As you can imagine, the government was quite unhappy and responded with a libelous article published in their favorite tabloid (24 Chasa). If you cannot attack the argument, attack the author.
  • In February 2020, I raised concern about the water crisis in Pernik, which I deem to be an illustration of what the lack of rule of law leads to, in an article for New Eastern Europe. The health and safety of more than 100,000 European Union citizens is at peril as a result of incompetence and negligence, but international media and EU policy-makers ignore this disaster.
  • In February 2020, I showcased Bulgaria’s 10-year cat-and-mouse game with the Council of Europe in an article for the Verfassungsblog. Bulgaria has been refusing to comply with a decision by the European Court of Human Rights for a decade because it requires a reform of an institution which experts consider one of the biggest threats to the rule of law – Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office.

All of these events provide further evidence that Bulgaria is a rule of law crisis in all but name – an argument I have made for the EUobserver in 2018. Sadly, this is possible because of the complicity of EU institutions.

For the latest updates on Bulgaria’s rule of law, follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass!

Bulgaria’s Economic “Model” Promotes Poverty

How do you find writing inspiration? I often get inspired when I debate topics with others. Recently, a new opinionated follower on Twitter lectured me on how people in Bulgaria live better than before because they spend more and travel more. When I asked her which people she had in mind, she sent me some articles from Bulgarian media whose quality is questionable to say the least.

I am certain that there are many people who fall for this play with data, which is borderline propaganda, so here is an article about Bulgaria’s economic model, which is anchored in promoting poverty. Some myths propagated by Boyko Borissov’s government should be shattered once and for all.

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Could Football Be a Litmus Test for the Rule of Law? My Latest Article for Euronews

Were you shocked by the racist abuse at the Bulgaria-England Euro qualifier? I never thought I would combine my interest in football with my concern for Bulgaria’s rule of law, but I felt compelled to take a stand. I have a huge admiration for people in professional sports because sports illustrate many of the qualities we aspire to – commitment, discipline, and hard work. Most of all, sports inspire us, ordinary people. The name of the game for true fans will always be football, but in Bulgaria, corruption is the bigger game. My commentary for Euronews entitled “Racism at the heart of Bulgarian football is becoming a litmus test for the rule of law” can be found here.

From a CVM Report Which Scandalized Civil Society to Secret Arrests Soviet-Style

Here are the two latest articles I wrote for the Verfassungsblog:

If you are interested in daily updates on the rule of law in Bulgaria and the EU, follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass.

More reactions to Bulgaria’s CVM:

Vlog Post: The Failure of Bulgaria’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM)

In this video post, I explain how and why the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) failed in Bulgaria. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union (EU) in 2007, they did not entirely fulfill the criteria on the rule of law. That is why, they were placed under this mechanism, so that they could catch up with other Member States. Twelve years later, little progress (if any) has been achieved.

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From von der Leyen’s visit to Bulgaria to Bulgaria’s Ministries of Truth

Here are the two latest pieces I wrote for mainstream media which expose the continuing crackdown on human rights in Bulgaria:

  • “Bulgaria: Why did von der Leyen endorse bad politics?” for the EUobserver. I dissect von der Leyen’s unjustified praise for Bulgaria’s government which leaves many questions left unanswered both in Brussels and in Sofia;

You can follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass!

Bulgaria’s Government Attacked Me in a Special Press Release on a Friday Night because I Exposed Its Lies

On 11 and 21 August 2019 I published two posts on my personal blog in which, through legal reasoning, I showcased how Bulgaria’s government purposefully misinforms the general public about the outcome in a case against Bulgaria before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) (SGRF v Bulgaria, Case No. ARB/15/43). Some of the few independent media which are left covered the second post in Bulgarian, which attracted public attention. On Friday night, 23 August 2019, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Finance published an unprecedented press release on its website in which it attacked me and my blog (Figure 1). Instead of providing a substantive answer to my legal opinion, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Finance said that my claims were “speculations” crafted by me and my father.

I have never heard of a state institution issuing a special press release about somebody’s academic blog post on a Friday night. As a scholar, I was not impressed by their ad hominem comments whose underlying purpose, it appears, is to attempt to discredit me before society as a whole. My father has not participated in the drafting of my articles: he has his own website where he publishes his criticism against the regime.

I do believe, however, that this press release constitutes harassment and that it is aimed at intimidating me. This serves as further evidence of the lack of rule of law in Bulgaria. In this post I summarize:

  • the government’s lies which attracted my attention
  • the research I have carried out
  • why the government is afraid of the truth
  • how harassing critics is a national policy

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! How Bulgaria Deliberately Misinformed the General Public about the Outcome in ICSID Case No. ARB/15/43 (SGRF v Bulgaria)

In my previous article entitled “An Arbitration Mystery and Bulgaria’s Rule of Law: How Arnold & Porter Gave Away the Existence of a Secret Deal”, which I published on 11 August 2019, I explained how Arnold & Porter unwittingly disclosed that Bulgaria and the State General Reserve Fund Oman (SGRF) secretly settled their dispute before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) over Corporate Commercial Bank (Case No. ARB/15/43). I also underlined that there would be more clarity about what happened behind the curtain after we learned on what grounds ICSID declared the case “concluded”. On 13 August 2019, the arbitral tribunal rendered its Award and the case was indeed marked as concluded.

Shortly after, Bulgaria’s corrupt government engaged in yet another mass disinformation campaign in which it claimed it won the case. However, the full procedural details of the case as published on ICSID’s website, coupled with Arnold & Porter’s statement about the case, prove that the parties settled and just asked the arbitral tribunal to record their settlement as an Award and rule on costs.

The Bulgarian government relies on the fact that an average person does not have a background in international arbitration, and Investor-State arbitration in particular. Luckily, not only ICSID itself has made a move towards better transparency by making the procedural history of each case public, but also many scholars have delved into ICSID’s case law and practice and have shed light on the application of ICSID’s procedural rules. This article may get technical, but if you are curious about this case, bear with me.

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Paradoxes of Bulgaria’s Rule Of Law

Here are three articles on three different subjects which evidence the lack of rule of law in Bulgaria:

If you are interested in daily updates on Bulgaria’s declining rule of law, you can follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass

Bulgaria’s Dangerous Flirtation with the Far-Right

While Manfred Weber vows to save the European Union from nationalists and populists together with Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Borissov, he forgets that GERB is in a coalition with three far-right parties. Xenophobic rhetoric and policies have become common in Bulgaria and the ghost of corruption lurks behind. My latest piece for New Eastern Europe can be found here.

If interested in the rise of the far-right on an EU level, you can read my comments on the Orban-Salvini meeting for Expresso (Portugal) here.

Is Bulgaria’s Rule of Law about to Die under the European Commission’s Nose?

While the President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court Lozan Panov laments the disintegration of the country’s rule of law, the European Commission praises the country’s progress in the same area. What is the price of complicity?

On 17 April 2019, the President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov was the keynote speaker at a yearly event dedicated to court independence. Since his appointment as the highest-ranking judge in Bulgaria, Panov has been outspoken about the abuses to which he has been subjected because he refuses to comply with political orders. The speech he gave at this conference, however, stands out due to its pessimism.

You can read my article dedicated to Judge Panov’s speech for the Verfassungsblog here.

8 Worrisome Charts on the Grim State of Bulgaria’s Rule of Law

In my article “All You Need to Know about Bulgaria’s Rule of Law in 10 Charts,” I showcased how corruption and the crackdown on human rights and freedoms have detrimental and far-reaching consequences for Bulgaria and for the EU. Since the article attracted much interest, here are 8 more charts, which may be helpful in understanding what went wrong in Bulgaria and which add new nuances to the rather grim picture of the current state of the country’s rule of law.

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How to Harass Inconvenient Opponents of the Government: Bulgaria’s Playbook

Since a Twitter thread I started to draw attention to this dreadful topic attracted interest, I think it is time for a more detailed guide to understanding the mechanisms of harassing inconvenient opponents, which Bulgaria’s government traditionally employs.

Bulgaria has a long, sad history of framing people who are inconvenient for some reason – prosecutors, judges, businessmen who do not support the government, journalists who do not portray the government in the light it wants, civil servants who refuse to follow ludicrous political orders, etc. Unsurprisingly, it has lost hundreds of cases before the European Court of Human Rights because of violations of the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. The practice, however, seems to have intensified in the past five years under the nose of the EU Commission, which is supposed to monitor Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.

Here is a prototypical scenario:

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All You Need to Know about Bulgaria’s Rule of Law in 10 Charts

On 23 August 2017, I launched radosvetavassileva.blog to shed light on the lack of rule of law, the systemic and deliberate human rights abuses, and the rampant corruption in Bulgaria (most corrupt EU member according to Transparency International!). For one year, my approach towards analyzing these pressing issues has been predominantly legal: I have commented current events from the perspective of the legal framework, including Bulgaria’s international obligations, I have explained inconsistencies in case law, and I have raised concern about dangerous law reforms aimed at transforming Bulgaria into an autocratic State.

If you live in a democracy, however, it is surely difficult to imagine the full range of consequences and long-term effects of abuses in countries like Bulgaria. In turn, if you live in Bulgaria, maybe it is hard to visualize how the abuses other people experience affect YOU personally.

This time I will demonstrate what the lack of rule of law and corruption ‘look like’ with 10 simple graphs/tables. I will start with the more visible and direct consequences and move towards the more indirect effects, which are equally disturbing.

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Criminal Corporate Raiding in Bulgaria

Criminal corporate raiding and legal nihilism are concepts coined to reflect Russian reality. Yet, the illegal takeover of private businesses and selective prosecution are common in some EU member states like Bulgaria, too. Of course, Bulgaria, which is currently presiding the Council of the EU, isn’t the average newcomer. In contrast to other former-communist countries in Eastern Europe which made their way to the EU, Bulgaria didn’t face a revolution. The Bulgarian communist regime fell under the pressure of its own weight – one wing of the omnipotent Communist Party trumped another. And this made all the difference.

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On How Bulgaria’s Corrupt Authorities Abuse Interpol’s Red Notice for Violent Political Vendettas

Hello! My name is Radosveta Vassileva and I am a legal scholar based in the UK. I happen to be a Bulgarian national. Recently, in August 2017, I visited my parents in Serbia for my father’s birthday. My parents are refugees there—they have been politically persecuted by Bulgaria as my father exposed corruption at the highest levels of government. When I went to register with the Serbian police as any foreigner who intends to stay in Serbia for more than one day is obliged to have a registration, the officer told me politely that they had to arrest me because Bulgaria had put me on Interpol’s Red Notice list. Needless to say, I was stunned and horrified. How did a young legal scholar and doctor of law end up on this “special” list, but most of all—how is it possible for a European Union Member State to abuse European legal instruments and Interpol’s Red Notice list to target political and economic opponents? If you are curious, keep reading! This is a story of violent abuse of law and human rights by corrupt Bulgarian officials. This is a frightening tale of how Bulgaria’s corrupt authorities can put you on Interpol’s Red Notice list even before they bring nonsensical charges against you and before they summon you in violation of both Bulgarian and European law! Yes, they are that arrogant, ruthless, and vengeful. Read More

Лозан Панов и “смачкването” на делата срещу отнемането на лиценза на КТБ от ВАС

Съдия, който се е опълчил на мафията, трябва да бъде подкрепен. Председател на Върховен касационен съд, който призовава магистрати да не ги е страх, който публично разкрива тормоза, на който той и други магистрати са подложени, който информира институции относно разпада на върховенството на правото в България, безспорно отстоява честта на тогата и се бори за независимост на съдебната система. Такива магистрати, за съжаление, са изключение.

Но когато такъв съдия влиза в политиката, както самият Лозан Панов казва, “нещата изглеждат по различен начин”. Наскоро г-н Панов се кандидатира за президент на Република България. В серия интервюта той изпраща политически послания и – нещо, което е съвсем естествено – дава аргументи в полза на своята кандидатура. Основното послание, изведено от БНР от последната му изява там, е: “Не участвам в сделки, нямам цена и в съдебната система бях в ролята на ничий”. Освен това, г-н Панов е изключително критичен към настоящия президент Румен Радев, тъй като, според него, Радев изживял “конституционния си катарзис” след като “преторианската гвардия” на Иван Гешев е почукала на вратата му.

Думите на Панов създават високи очаквания сред мнозина избиратели. В този план, е добре той да разсее някои съмнения и да даде отговор на някои въпроси относно събития и странни съвпадения в периода декември 2014 г.- февруари 2015 г., една година преди да каже публично “Не на страха”, защото, както казва самият Панов, “мълчанието ни превръща в страхливци”.

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