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.

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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