Bulgarian Socialists, Diplomatic NGOs All Up in Arms against 'Diplomatic Lustration Law'

Diplomacy | July 4, 2011, Monday // 15:46|  views

Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Stanishev (middle) with heads of diplomatic NGOs have staged an all-out critique of Foreign Minister Mladenov and his "diplomatic lustration law". Photo by BGNES

The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party backed by several diplomatic NGOs have risen vehemently against the recently adopted legislation for banning collaborators of the former communist regime's secret service from serving as ambassadors.

The amendments to Bulgaria's Diplomatic Service Act were adopted at first reading on June 23, 2011. Once they are adopted at second reading, Bulgaria's 35 ambassadors proven to have been collaborators of the communist regime's secret service will be removed from their posts.

The much anticipated but still controversial "diplomatic lustration" legislation championed by Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov was adopted with the votes of MPs from the ruling center-right party GERB and the rightist Blue Coalition, while the opposition the Bulgarian Socialist Party, was firmly against it; the ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) and the nationalist party Ataka abstained during the vote.

The amendments initiated by Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov are also designed to prohibit any collaborators – including intelligence officers and secret informers – of the so called State Security (DS), the intelligence and secret police service of the Bulgarian communist regime before 1989.

Speaking at a joint news conference on Monday, BSP leader and ex PM Sergey Stanishev backed by representatives of the Bulgarian Diplomatic Association, the National Association for International Relations, and the Center for Strategic Studies in Security and International Relations, staged devastating critique of the polices of Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov, accusing him of covert interests in seeking to remove the ambassadors with communist era spy records.

Stanishev believes that the changes in the diplomatic corps are motivated by both Mladenov's "power ambitions" and economic interests that will profit from the privatization of Bulgarian diplomatic properties around the world.

"We have all kinds of reasons to believe that a major reason for the purge in the Bulgarian diplomacy is the intention to sell and privatize Bulgaria's enormous diplomatic real estate properties abroad, which have been accrued for decades and are worth billions. We are going to follow every step of Minister Mladenov with respect to the Bulgarian government's properties abroad," Stanishev said voicing concern that the properties in question will be sold out "quickly, intransparently, and cheaply."

"In this bill I see the long arm of Finance Minister Simeon Djankov who wants to fill up the state budget with money from privatization," said in turn Dimitar Kostov, Chair of the Bulgarian Diplomatic Association.

"This law is unconstitutional and lustrational", we will attack it in the Supreme Constitutional Court," Stanishev stated reiterating a warning by senior Socialist Lyuben Kornezov, a constitunal lawyer, while Kostov said he expected an intervention on part of the EU institutions if the so called "diplomatic lustration law" is adopted.

The BSP has already proposed that 20 provisions of the amendments to the Diplomatic Service Act be dropped at second reading.

"When there is no talk about money on a certain subject in Bulgaria, this means that it is a question of a lot of money," said in turn Chavdar Minchev, head of the National Association for International Relations.

The amendments initiated by Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov are designed to prohibit any collaborators – including intelligence officers and secret informers – of the so called State Security (DS), the intelligence and secret police service of the Bulgarian communist regime before 1989.

The legal amendments championed by Mladenov are supposed to rectify the huge scandal that shook the Bulgarian government in the fall of 2010 with regards to the diplomats' lustration (i.e. limiting the participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police in the civil service). The Foreign Minister was outrage after at the end of 2010 the so-called Files Commission, the special panel examining the Communist era documentation, revealed that almost half of Bulgaria's ambassadors abroad, in a number of key countries – from the UK to Russia and China, had been collaborators of the former State Security Service.

Under the provisions of the Diplomatic Service Act, the former communist secret service spies, collaborators, intelligence officers, and informers who now occupy senior diplomatic positions will be removed and appointed to other posts within the diplomatic corps.

New recruits of the Bulgarian diplomatic service will be required to submit a written confirmation that they agree to be inspected of any prior affiliation with the DS.

"I think this [law] comes too late, it should have happened 20 years ago, and we wouldn't be worried about this problem now. Introducing a legislative text that would not allow ministers to allow former State Security agents as ambassadors is not going to hurt the Bulgarian diplomatic services; on the contrary, I think it will provide open opportunities for new people," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mladenov explained in an interview for Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) in June 2011. "It is not an issue of looking into the files, and playing God and saying this is a good spy, and that's a bad spy. I don't think it is possible to do that. We need to send a clear signal politically and institutionally that this country will no longer tolerate those dependencies of the past. This wasn't done in the past 20 years. We have to do it now. By the end of the year, the legislation will be in place," he said.

At the beginning of May 2011, 13 out of the 35 ambassadors with communist secret service records were returned to Bulgaria for an indefinite consultation period, with the remaining ones to be recalled in June.

However, according to the Constitution, Bulgaria's Ambassadors can only be recalled by the President. President Georgi Parvanov refused to sign the decrees for the diplomats' dismissal.

The amendments to the Bulgarian Diplomatic Service Act will enter into force after the Parliament adopts at a second reading.

In his interview for Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said that the legislation banning former DS agents from serving in the Bulgarian diplomatic corps will be in place by the end of 2011.

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Tags: Bulgarian Diplomatic Association, National Association for International Relations, Center for Strategic Studies in Security and International Relations, Dimitar Kostov, Chavdar Minchev, Nikolay Mladenov, Foreign Minister, lustration, secret service, Files Commission, President Parvanov, DS, State Security, state security files, communist era, Lyuben Kornezov, Bulgarian Socialist Party, DPS, BSP, Bulgarian Socialist Party, Blue Coalition, Ataka, GERB, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Sergey Stanishev, diplomatic property


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