Earlier this year, Osteuropa Recht, the German academic journal focused on East European law(s), published a special issue dedicated to the fate of the Istanbul Convention in Eastern Europe. I was happy to contribute to it with a piece on Bulgaria discussing the extraordinary constitutional attack against the convention. Osteuropa Recht‘s publisher, Nomos, has decided to make my article open access, so that more people can read it. In case you are interested in my take, you can find my contribution titled “A Perfect Storm: The Extraordinary Constitutional Attack against the Istanbul Convention in Bulgaria” here.
Earlier this month, I shared my thoughts on the first-instance decision in Alexey Alchin’s extradition proceedings for the Verfassungsblog. I argued that behind this decision lurk 1) judicial incompetence as the first-instance court could not even get the applicable law right; 2) the subservience of Bulgarian judges to the omnipotent Prosecutor’s Office which has unhealthy ties with Russia’s Prosecutor’s Office; 3) overall rule of law decay.
Luckily, the second-instance court quashed the first-instance decision today. However, I am convinced that this is the case because of public pressure – a number of influential figures took an interest in the proceedings against Alchin. Had the first-instance decision gone unnoticed by civil society, the second-instance decision could have been very different.
You can read my original commentary for the Verfassungsblog titled “Extradition to Russia from an EU Member State: Judicial Incompetence, Political Bias, or Just Another Sign of Rule of Law Decay?” here.
Earlier this month, I was invited to share my thoughts on the next chapter of Bulgarian-Macedonian relations for the Res Publica Blog of the Institute of Communication Studies of North Macedonia. I republish my commentary titled ‘The Bulgarian-Macedonian Hala Meets EU Hyprocrisy’ with the permission of the editors:
The Bulgarian-Macedonian Hala Meets EU Hypocrisy
In the mythology of Slavic people living in the Balkans, the hala is a moody vicious dragon tormenting villages with thunderstorms and depriving them of harvest. While legends diverge, in some regions, it is believed that this supernatural ruthless monster eats children and hurts adults (on the hala’s numerous powers, see Ronesa Aveela, Spirits & Creatures Series Collection: Household Spirits, Rusalki, Dragons & Dragon Tales). The hala could be a metaphor for the Bulgarian-Macedonian tensions over cultural identity. Once in a while, this monster makes a sudden appearance on either side of the Bulgarian-Macedonian border and demonstrates its bad temper. According to Bulgarian mainstream beliefs, the Macedonian hala heartlessly devours Bulgarian history and threatens the fruit of Bulgarian culture. From a Macedonian perspective, the Bulgarian hala cruelly engulfs the EU future of Macedonian children and threatens Macedonian identity.
In the latest chapter of Bulgarian-Macedonian relations marked by the Bulgaria-Macedonia Friendship Treaty of 2017 and the subsequent notorious Bulgarian veto, the Bulgarian-Macedonian hala started living an EU life. However, will this EU life finally calm down the hala, especially after the bilateral protocol of July 17th, 2022 supplementing the treaty and paving the way to Macedonia’s EU negotiations?Read More
In my latest article for New Eastern Europe, I discuss the downfall of Kiril Petkov’s government which is shrouded in mystery. In Parliament, Petkov blamed four individuals for his deposition. Yet, what was their vested interest in dethroning Petkov and what is the relationship between them? Corruption, suspicions of Russian meddling, and political parties designed to steal votes from real anticorruption parties are the ingredients of what looks like a political thriller. You can read “Who is who in the Bulgarian coup?” here.
Happy to share that my book Bulgarian Private Law at Crossroads is forthcoming with Intersentia, one of the leading publishers in comparative law, next month. It marks the beginning of Intersentia’s new “Private Law around the World” series.
The book examines the fascinating and turbulent development of Bulgarian private law from the end of the 19th century to the present day and highlights its particularities from a comparative perspective. It focuses on the law of obligations (mainly, contract, tort, and unjust enrichment) and property law. It is written for those who do not have a background in Bulgarian law, but it may be interesting for Bulgarian lawyers too because I bust a series of myths about Bulgarian law propagated by Bulgarian scholarship and highlight the deficiencies of Bulgarian legislation.
This week I had the chance to share my thoughts regarding EU’s credibility in the Western Balkans for Judy Dempsey’s special edition called “Judy Asks” for Carnegie Europe. You can read my full answer to Judy’s question “Are the EU’s Enlargement Promises Credible?” here.
If interested in the EU’s treatment of the Western Balkans, consider reading:
- “What lurks behind Bulgaria’s “veto” on North Macedonia?” – an article I wrote for New Eastern Europe in 2020;
- “How friendly is the Bulgaria-Macedonia Friendship Treaty?” – an article I wrote for the Res Publica blog of the Institute of Communications Studies of North Macedonia in 2020.
You can also listen to this episode produced by the Institute of Communication Studies of North Macedonia in which researchers from Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia discuss the “EU future” of the Western Balkans. None of us sound very optimistic, sadly.
Finally, if interested in my earlier contributions to Judy Dempsey’s rubric, see my responses to the following curve balls:
On 14 April 2022, Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on Judiciary and related legislation to permanently dissolve a parallel court system built during Boyko Borissov’s first term as Prime Minister – the Specialized Criminal Court, acting as a first and second instance, and the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office supposed to fight corruption and organized crime. Even before these institutions started working, one could see that they would be politicized and used for harassment of inconvenient people. This is primarily due to the fact that they are a misplaced legal transplant – they were transplanted in a justice system with severe structural problems which remained unattended, without consideration for the specifics of the local legal culture and without evidence that they would be successful at fighting corruption. Unsurprisingly, this parallel court system established a strong record of ignoring basic principles of criminal law and violating human rights, too. Unfortunately, these troublesome developments were encouraged by the European Commission via the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) under which Bulgaria’s rule of law has been monitored since the country’s accession to the EU.
Last month, I was invited to write a commentary on the rise and fall of specialized criminal justice in Bulgaria for the Verfassungsblog – you can read my article “Bulgaria’s Failed Specialized Criminal Justice Experiment” in full here. Also, since the failure of the CVM is a long-standing research interest of mine, I am sharing my academic article ‘Threats to the Rule of Law: The Pitfalls of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” published in European Public Law (Kluwer), in case you want to learn more about the European Commission’s mistakes and omissions in the process.
Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council has been resorting to creative procedural tricks to avoid examining two requests by two Ministers of Justice for the dismissal of controversial General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev for actions and omissions in office undermining the prestige of the judiciary. Earlier this month, I wrote an article for the Verfassungsblog discussing why the Supreme Judicial Council is among the main reasons why a sitting General Prosecutor of Bulgaria can abuse his office or commit other crimes with impunity. Essentially, this body is one of the main threats to the rule of law in Bulgaria. You can read my article “Impunity: The Unbearable Difficulty of Dismissing a General Prosecutor for Abuses of Office and Other Crimes” here.
The question of Ivan Geshev’s dismissal became even more pertinent in light of the refusal of the Prosecutor’s Office to raise charges against former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who was arrested earlier in March, despite evidence gathered by Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior. Last week, I spoke to the Finnish political magazine Suomen Kuvalehti about the corruption of Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office and why it transpires that the current Chief European Prosecutor Laura Kövesi is helping to expose it. You can read their detailed article with some quotes from me here. Bulgaria’s rule of law decay is not just visible from Finland – German media critical of Angela Merkel’s CDU are also concerned about Borissov’s corruption which is being shielded by Ivan Geshev. You can read the coverage of Borissov’s arrest and its implications by Jungle World with some quotes by me here.
The arrest of Boyko Borissov, former Prime Minister of Bulgaria, made international headlines and came to the surprise of many. But was it really that surprising? In my latest commentary for New Eastern Europe, I explain in context what happened on Thursday (17 March 2022) and what the stakes are. Bulgaria’s new government is relying on creative means to expose the FrankenState built by Borissov. The former PM built a state within the state to shield his corruption and to harass his opponents. You can read my article “Bulgaria’s institutional wars” here.
Earlier this week, Res Publica, an initiative promoting free speech and fighting misinformation in the Western Balkans, published my commentary on the new Bulgarian government. I republish my article on my blog with the permission of the editors:Read More
Shortly after the November elections in Bulgaria, I wrote a piece for the #FBPE Blog discussing the implications of the results. #FBPE is a pro-European movement of people who believe in democracy and the rule of law. You can read my article below:Read More
In my latest article for the Verfassungsblog, I analyze the implications of the recent ECtHR judgement on the disciplinary proceedings against judge Miroslava Todorova (Todorova v Bulgaria). Unfortunately, the ECtHR decided in favor of Bulgaria on the two most worrisome issues – violations of the right to a fair trial and the right to private life. In her application, judge Todorova attempted to raise awareness of systemic issues of Bulgaria’s justice system. However, the Court downgraded the harassment against her to an isolated case linked to her role in a professional organization and merely found a violation of her right to free speech. In this way, the ECtHR may have limited access to relief for other judges in similar circumstances. You can read my article ‘Yellow Light for Disciplining Inconvenient Judges? The ECtHR’s Ambivalent Judgment in Todorova v Bulgaria‘ here.
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.
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.
Earlier this month, I was invited to write a commentary about the snap parliamentary elections in Bulgaria which will be held this Sunday, July 11th, 2021 for the Res Publica blog. I republish my commentary in full with the permission of the editors. Will we say bye-bye once and for all to Boyko Borissov’s autocracy?Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.”
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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]”.Read More
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.”Read More
The Institute of Communications Studies of Macedonia started a new podcast about Balkan issues. In this episode dedicated to the prospects for EU accession of the Western Balkans, they invited four experts from different countries to share their views on the “EU future” of the region – Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Macedonia. You can listen to the episode and my contribution here.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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.Read More
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:Read More
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.Read More
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.Read More
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.
Here are the two latest articles I wrote for the Verfassungsblog:
- Earlier this week the European Commission published the latest CVM report on Bulgaria in which it identified significant progress which could justify the termination of the mechanism for this country. Does this report reflect reality and, more importantly, how can we explain the lack of objective assessment in the report? You can read my article “So Why Don’t We Just Call the Whole Rule of Law Thing Off, Then? On Tomatoes, Tomahtoes, and Bulgaria’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” here.
- Bulgaria took legislative hooliganism to a new orbit last year when it used a Directive on the access to a lawyer as an excuse to revive a totalitarian practice: secret arrests. While those following the decline of Bulgaria’s rule of law like me were not surprised, it is disturbing that the European Commission has turned a blind eye to this development and to Bulgaria’s deliberate violations of the Directive for 6 years. My reflection upon Bulgaria’s and the European Commission’s failings in my article “How an EU Directive on Access to a Lawyer Became a Weapon for Secret Arrests” here.
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:
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.Read More
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!
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
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.Read More
Here are three articles on three different subjects which evidence the lack of rule of law in Bulgaria:
- Can you undermine the recommendations of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) by pretending to comply with them? My article “CVM Here, CVM There: The European Commission in Bulgaria’s Legal Wonderland” for the Verfassungsblog;
- What can we infer about Bulgaria’s rule of law from a live streamed meeting between Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the Commissioner for the Rule of Law Frans Timmermans? My opinion piece entitled “On the Price of Horses and the Rule of Law in the EU” for New Eastern Europe;
- Can you serve as a judge in Bulgaria in violation of the requirements to become a magistrate? My article “A Judge Born in the USSR: How a Judge’s Citizenship Became Relevant for Bulgaria’s Rule of Law and Judicial Self-Governance” for the Verfassungsblog.
If you are interested in daily updates on Bulgaria’s declining rule of law, you can follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass
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.
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.
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.Read More
С Петър Зашев, преподавател по мениджмънт в Естония и Финландия и автор на подкаста “Неизвестните известни”, си поговорихме за КТБ, за липсата на върховенство на право в България, както и за нуждата от реформи. Разговорът се състоя на 10.07.2022 г. Много от темите, които обсъдихме, станаха актуални малко по-късно – Интерпол анулира и последната Червена бюлетина, издадена от Иван Гешев срещу Цветан Василев като нарушаваща Конституцията и Правилника й, вкл. Всеобщата декларация на правата на човека, и Съдът в Страсбург с пълно единодушие установи две нарушения на чл. 6(1) (справедлив процес) на ЕКПЧ и едно на чл. 1 от Протокол 1 (право на собственост) при отнемането на лиценза на КТБ и последвалото производство пред ВАС.
Специално внимание в разговора отделих на документите, които България укри от Съда в Страсбург, демонстрирайки за пореден път своята недобросъвестност. България се опита и да се позове и на “спечелено” дело срещу Оман във Вашингтон, но подцени факта, че лъжи, които минават пред българското общество, не просто няма как да минат пред Съда в Страсбург, но и служат за още едно доказателство за недобросъвестност.
Разкостихме и връзките на българската прокуратура с руската, които личат и по идентичната злоупотреба със системата на Интерпол, констатирана от самата Интерпол.
За прогнилите български институции, безучастието на ЕК, завладяна от ЕНП, и за парадокса, че само САЩ се интересуват от липсата на върховенство на право в България, поговорихме в Епизод 16: Счупената ни правна система в подкаста “Неизвестните известни”:Read More
Една новина, която няма да чуете от Иван Гешев – Интерпол отмени червената бюлетина срещу Цветан Василев, констатирайки, че нарушава Всеобщата декларация за правата на човека, както и Конституцията и Правилника на организацията. Умря още една опорна точка на прокуратурата и на придворните й медии, които с години заблуждаваха обществото за ролята и правилника на Интерпол. Повече за последните развития може да прочетете на личния сайт на Цветан Василев.
През юни 2021 г. Делян Пеевски беше санкциониран от американските власти по глобалния закон “Магнитски” за корупция. Мнозина се чудят защо тези санкции закъсняха толкова дълго, след като жалбата на Цветан Василев по този закон е от 2017 г., а на вложителите в КТБ – от 2018 г. Отговорът е ясен – в един момент цялата държавна машина беше впрегната да брани Делян Пеевски от санкции в САЩ. За тези действия на правителството на Борисов и на неговата партия има редица преки и косвени доказателства. Голяма част от тях са в Интернет пространството. Днес ще ви разкажа за усилията на Николина Ангелкова, министър на туризма в Борисов-3, да промотира туризма в България като се среща с хора и организации, специализирани в глобалния закон “Магнитски”.Read More
През последните седмици добре познати факти за погрома над КТБ през 2014 г. бяха припомнени от сдружение “БОЕЦ” във връзка с нови разкрития за ролята на Иван Гешев в изкуствения фалит на банката. Видимата част на атаката срещу КТБ започва на 13-и юни 2014 г., петък, с прочутото “убийство” на Делян Пеевски. Прокуратурата арестува трима невинни души по неотложност с абсурдно основание, че предовратява убийство през май 2014 г. (ретроактивно!), вдига медиен шум и обискира офиси. Действията на прокуратурата и придружаващите ги медийни фойерверки всяват паника сред вложителите на банката – така започват масови тегления.
Отдавна се знае, че няма никакви доказателства за подготвяне на такова убийство. Българският съд прецени, че няма доказателства за обосновано предположение за готвено убийство, а на 18 юни 2014 г. Сотир Цацаров се извини с половин уста, че е направил “грешка”. Наскоро един от набедените даже успешно осъди и МВР, и прокуратурата за незаконните действия срещу себе си.
От новите стряскащи разкрития на “БОЕЦ” става ясно, обаче, че друг набеден за мнимото покушение срещу Делян Пеевски, измислено от прокуратурата, е семеен приятел на Иван Гешев – от “БОЕЦ” твърдят, че имат и доказателства, че Иван Гешев лично е “натопил” приятеля си, извършвайки по този начин престъпление срещу правосъдието. Следва естественият извод, че същият човек, който е част от комплота за изкуствения фалит на КТБ, разследва този фалит и благодарение на “постиженията” си по разследването е избран за главен прокурор!
“БОЕЦ” не са единствените представители на гражданското общество, които разполагат с важна информация, която може да е полезна за разобличаването на Иван Гешев и разкриването на заговора за фалита на КТБ. Борци срещу статуквото, които волно или неволно са станали пешки в сценария на Иван Гешев – Николай Стайков и Силвия Великова – имат ключ към разгадаването на други важни части на пъзела. Дойде време и аз да задам въпроса: “Кой?”. В случая имам късмет, че адресати на питането ми са хора с добра репутация, които, на терория, като будни граждани, би трябвало да имат интерес да се разкрие обективната истина за фалита на КТБ.Read More
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”.Read More