Quo vadis Bulgaria?

In my latest piece for New Eastern Europe titled “After yet another election, where are you heading Bulgaria?”, I discuss why Bulgaria has entered a seemingly never-ending cycle of parliamentary elections.

Regrettably, Bulgaria’s status quo forces rely on a panoply of Trojan horses to sabotage anti-corruption reforms and save actors implicated in corruption from accountability. The latest disappointment is President Rumen Radev who seems to be collaborating with the parties accused of corruption – namely, GERB and DPS – behind the scenes. I conclude that “[if] a regular government is formed this time, its goal will not be to protect the future of Bulgaria, but to ensure the impunity of Borissov and the key players in his autocracy”.

My Interview with My Publisher Intersentia: What Are the Unique Features of Bulgarian Law?

Recently, I gave an interview to my publisher Intersentia discussing the unique features of Bulgarian law, which I have showcased in my book Bulgarian Private Law at Crossroads. The interview was published two days ago – you can read it in full in the “Authors Speaking” column on Intersentia’s official website.

My book Bulgarian Private Law at Crossroads was published by Intersentia on 26 August 2022. It marked the beginning of Intersentia’s “Private Law around the World” series. You can learn more about its goals in a blog piece I wrote for the British Association of Comparative Law last summer.

The book lies at the intersection of comparative law, European private law, and legal history. It surveys the fascinating and turbulent development of Bulgarian private law in the past century and a half and shines a light on little known influences on Bulgarian law (many of you will be surprised by what I found). Because of the historical dimension, I have drawn parallels between communist law and current Bulgarian law to discover some totalitarian practices are being revived.

Earlier this fall, I was honored to learn that the library of Yale University had already acquired my book.

The Constitutional Assault on the Istanbul Convention in Bulgaria

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.

Интервюто ми за подкаста “Неизвестните известни” с Петър Зашев! КТБ, Страсбург, Интерпол и съветското ноу-хау на прокуратурата

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”:

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Extradition to Russia from an EU Member State

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.

The Moody Bulgarian-Macedonian ‘Hala’

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?

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A Bulgarian Coup

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.

Валят шамари за Иван Гешев от Интерпол

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.

Bulgarian Private Law at Crossroads: My New Book!

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.

You can learn more about the book and explore its table of contents on Intersentia’s website.

I recently wrote a piece outlining the purpose of my monograph for the Blog of the British Association of Comparative Law which can be found here.

EU’s Credibility in the Western Balkans

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:

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:

The End of an Experiment: Borissov’s Specialized Criminal Courts

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.

Николина Ангелкова – участник в мисията по спасяване на Делян Пеевски от санкции в САЩ?

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”.

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Ivan Geshev’s Impunity

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.

КОЙ? Николай Стайков и Силвия Великова държат ключ към разгадаването на част от пъзела “КТБ”

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.

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So, What Happened in Bulgaria Last Thursday?

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.

Yellow Light for Disciplining Inconvenient Judges by the ECtHR?

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.

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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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.