Are you aware that Bulgaria abuses Interpol’s system just like rogue states like Russia and Turkey?
In a two-part guest blog for the Red Notice Monitor, a blog specialized in reporting on Interpol abuse, I explain in detail four cases in which the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (the CCF) has established prosecution in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Bulgaria. The Red Notice Monitor is edited by leading experts in human rights, extradition, and Interpol abuse in the UK.
За съжаление от години българските медии отразяват безкритично твърдения на български прокурори, независимо дали те звучат абсурдно и/или показват фундаментално погазване на закона. Примерите изобилстват!
В този план, във връзка с последните нелепици, изречени от главния прокурор, който замеси името на баща ми в поредната си пиеса, предлагам на вашето внимание публичното изявление на Цветан Василев от 10.04.2023 г. Изказвам и възмущението си, че медиите повториха и разпространиха нелепи лъжи по адрес на баща ми. За сметка на това, поради “високата” си етичност, нито го потърсиха за коментар, нито отразиха изявлението му по повод медийните фойерверки на Иван Гешев.
Earlier this month, I analyzed the deepening political crisis in Bulgaria in the context of the forthcoming parliamentary election in April 2023 for Res Publica, an academic blog edited by the Institute of Communication Studies of North Macedonia. In my commentary, I explain in details how an autocracy resists its dismantling and why an election spiral is not necessarily a bad thing given the circumstances. I republish my article “Bulgaria’s Deepening Political Crisis: An Opportunity to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff” with the permission of the editors:
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”.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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 Verfassungsblogin which I showcase the pitfalls of this mechanism and the hypocrisy of the EU Commission.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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;
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.
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