Books on Bulgaria
Update No: 154 -
Impeachment of the
The ruling party, GERB, has started
collecting signatures in Parliament to
initiate an impeachment procedure against
President Georgi Purvanov, Bulgarian media
said on March 19.
Bulgaria's governing party says it will
introduce a parliamentary motion to
impeach President Georgi Parvanov for
publishing a conversation he had with the
finance minister on March 5. Prime
Minister Boiko Borisov's centre-right GERB
party says the publication on the
presidential Web site of the conversation
with Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov
violated the country's constitution.
Dyankov and Parvanov met to discuss
comments the finance minister had made on
a TV show about the president. GERB says
Dyankov was unaware the March 5 meeting
was being recorded.
After three hours of discussions, the five
parties who said that they would sign in
favour of starting the impeachment
procedures against Purvanov agreed on the
formal grounds for requesting it.
The talks were held among representatives
of GERB, the right-wing Blue Coalition,
the ultra-nationalist Ataka party and the
centre-right Order, Law and Justice party.
At the end of the talks, GERB's Krassimir
Velchev told reporters that they were
seeking Purvanov's impeachment on the
basis of article 32 paragraph 2 of
Bulgaria's constitution, which says that
"no one shall be followed, photographed,
filmed, recorded or subjected to any other
similar activity without his knowledge or
despite his express disapproval, except
when such actions are permitted by law".
At his March 12 news conference, Purvanov
said that there could be no compromises as
long an impeachment procedure against him
was underway. "After the issue gets
reviewed by the Constitutional Court we
can start afresh," Purvanov said.
A motion to start a debate in Parliament
on impeaching the President needs to be
supported by a minimum of 60 out of 240
Mps. To approve the motion and send it to
the Constitutional Court, the ruling
majority would need 161 votes.
GERB has 117 MPs. Ataka, the Blue
Coalition and OLJ would provide GERB with
the needed 161 votes, given that two other
independent MPs are also expected to
support it. The two parties in opposition,
the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the
Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said
they would not support the motion.
However, the offence, although serious,
does not seem on common sense grounds to
justify impeachment; and at a round table
discussion in Parliament on March 17 2010,
experts and lawyers agreed that the
grounds on which GERB is seeking
Purvanov's impeachment would not stand up
in the Constitutional Court.
The Greek malady spreads
Serious concerns are being raised about
the impact of the ongoing recession in
Greece on the political and economic
situation in the neighbouring Balkans.
Bulgaria is in bulls-eye position here.
Greece has been at the centre of a
financial tempest for the past five
months, after its newly-elected government
accepted that its public deficit was 12.7
percent rather than 3.3 percent and that
its debt figures had been engineered
creatively by previous administrations.
This led credit trust institutions like
Fich, Standard and Poors and Moodys to
devaluate Greece’s lending status in the
international market, thus opening the
ground for profiteering over Greek debt
bonds by hedge funds.
When the crisis posed a direct threat to
the stability of the European monetary
union, Brussels intervened, asking the
country to adopt a programme of economic
Under pressure from international markets
and its European partners to reduce its
deficit, the Panhellenic Socialist Party (Pasok)
government announced tax increases and a
30 percent cut to the two-month "bonus"
pay Greek civil servants receive each
year. However, the cuts to public workers’
salaries, along with the two percent
increase in the value added tax, is
expected to result in lower consumption
and perpetuate a more painful recession
for all Greeks.
Bulgaria in the fall-out zone
This could also mean a spillover of the
recession from Greece to the neighbouring
economies. Greece is not only a major
investor in the Balkans but also a donor
and host to several hundred thousand
economic migrants from the region.
"The political elites of the Southern
Balkans are worried about the impact that
the Greek economic crisis may have on the
countries in the region," Dardan Velija,
former integration advisor to Kosovo’s
prime minister, told IPS. "Albania has a
large diaspora in Greece, which sends
money back home and the Greek banking
sector is spread into the neighbouring
countries of Greece".
Remittances from Greece towards the
Balkans have indeed amounted to many
million dollars annually, providing
livelihoods for many families.
The main beneficiaries have been Albania
and Bulgaria. International Monetary Fund
estimates up to the middle of the last
decade were respectively receiving 778 and
400 million US dollars annually. The
population of ethnic Albanians residing in
Greece is estimated at over half a
Greek investment began entering the region
after the demise of the eastern bloc. In
the post-1989 era, big food processing,
small food retailers and clothing and
textile companies have moved to Bulgaria,
FYR-Macedonia and Albania. Major
investments in the construction,
telecommunication and energy sectors of
Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, FYR-Macedonia,
Kosovo and Albania have followed.
Greek banking capital has been the
forerunner in this process. During the
last 15 years, Greek banks have penetrated
deeply into the banking system of the
Balkan countries. By 2007 seven major
Greek banks had established a network of
around 20 subsidiaries in the region with
around 1,900 branches, employing
approximately 23,500 people.
Charalambos Tsardanidis, director of the
Institute of International Economic
Relations in Athens, says: "By around 2005
business investment in the Balkans,
including telecommunications and
petroleum, mounted to 3.5 billion dollars,
creating jobs for tens of thousands of
A reverse trend is likely to follow in the
next few years while Greek capital will
struggle with recession effects at home.
The Greek Central Bank has since last year
advised Greek banks to adopt a restricted
lending policy in the Balkans, since the
region is expected to be hit hard by the
Greek investors are also reconsidering
their plans. In the first nine months of
2009 over 70 million euros (953 million
dollars) of Greek capital left FYR-Macedonia
with the Greek owners of the mobile
operator Cosmofon and the marble quarry
Prilep selling out and leaving the
Greece’s role as a donor and promoter of
Western Balkans’ integration into the
European Union (EU) will also be limited.
In 2002 Greece launched a massive
development initiative known as the
‘Hellenic Plan for the Economic
Reconstruction of the Balkans’ (HiPERB)
which so far has allocated 163.4 million
euros (22.4 million dollars) worth of aid
from the Greek GDP for improving public
infrastructure and organising community
projects in seven Balkan states.
HiPERB, slated to run until next year, is
expected to contribute a total of 550
million euros (750 million dollars), a
task unlikely to be realised under current
The plan was part of Greece’s strategy for
boosting the Western Balkans’ European
aspirations, a task pursued intensively
during the last few years, and especially
after country’s EU presidency in 2003.
But Velija says the current situation
might compromise this strategy. "The
crisis in Greece can damage its capacity
to play that role. Moreover, it can help
strengthen the negative image for the
Balkans in the West, which anyhow is very
bad. That has the potential to damage the
prospects for faster EU integration for
According to Florian Bieber, a Balkans
expert who lectures at the University of
Kent, the ongoing crisis will inevitably
slow down regional integration.
"We have seen a serious erosion of
solidarity among current EU members and
the economic crisis in Greece is likely to
disadvantage the countries of the
region,’’ Bieber told IPS. ‘’Whether they
are members (such as Bulgaria) and are now
less likely to be admitted to the
euro-zone, or whether they are in the
Western Balkans, they are now likely to be
scrutinised more extensively than
Belgium, which is to take over European
presidency from Spain, appears less
enlargement friendly than many of its
predecessors. The state secretary for
European affairs, Olivier Chastel, while
describing the country’s stance on the
issue said things are going to be "strict
and fair, without making promises".