WikiLeaks: Bulgarian President Runners Seen by US Diplomats

Diplomacy | October 21, 2011, Friday // 13:38|  views

The database of the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks has US diplomatic information on 6 out of a total of 18 Bulgarian politicians, who are currently running to become the country's next president. File photo

The site for investigative journalism, which is the official partner for Bulgaria of the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks, published in the eve of the October 23 elections exerpts from US diplomatic cables portraying some of the contenders for the Bulgarian presidential office.

Bivol have searched the WikiLeaks database for all candidates and published in alphabetical order their findings – the list includes those who have been mentioned by American diplomats – the three considered as top runners and some who are behind on the list.

Ivaylo Kalfin - candidate of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist party, BSP, former Foreign Affairs Minister in the Socialist-led Three-Way Coalition cabinet and a current Member of the European Parliament

In a cable prepared in 2006, former US Ambassador to Bulgaria, John Beyrle notes that Kalfin had said "yes" to the Americans on almost all significant foreign policy issues, adding that in key energy matters the Socialist-led Three Way coalition cabinet has two opposites – then Energy Minister, Rumen Ovcharov, who favors Russian projects, and Kalfin, who is close to the US point of view for diversification.

At the end of 2007, Beyrle sent another cable, focusing on the upcoming meeting with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, where Kalfin is described as "the star in the cabinet; he has the ear of both Stanishev and President Parvanov, and high approval ratings among the general public and in Brussels. Moreover, he is a staunch believer in Bulgaria's Euro-atlantic ties -- although he occasionally tacks leftward for public consumption."

In a cable with the highest level of classification, sent by US Charge d'Affaires, Alex Karagiannis, Kalfin is labeled "determined to deliver. Smart, savvy, sensible, and honest, he has President Parvanov's ear and PM Stanishev's confidence, testament to his skills given their increasingly prickly personal and political relationship. As the government stumbles towards summer parliamentary elections, its commitments to us on Afghanistan and regional security in South Eastern Europe and the Black Sea remain firm, but its capacity to deliver is shrinking. Kalfin is above the political fray and is positioned to remain influential."

Krasimir Karakachanov – candidate and leader of the far-right, nationalist VMRO party

Karakachanov is mentioned in US diplomatic cables only once – in 2006 in his capacity of being exposed by then Interior Minister, Rumen Petkov, as an agent of the former Communist State Security, DS.

Meglena Kuneva – ex EU Commissioner, independent presidential candidate, formerly from the party of ex King and Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, National Movement for Stability and Prosperity, NMSP.

Kuneva's nomination to become Bulgaria's first EU Commissioner is described in detail in a cable sent by Beyrle in November 2006.

In it she is presented as "one of Bulgaria's most respected political figures, who is widely credited for her efforts to push forward and finalize the difficult negotiations for Bulgaria's timely EU accession. A US-trained lawyer and strong Atlanticist, Kuneva is the only member of ex-PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha's cabinet to retain her post in the current Socialist-led government... and largely seen as Brussels's favored choice for a Bulgarian nominee."

Beyrle further explains that "Socialist PM Sergei Stanishev named her Commissioner despite strong pressure from his party to choose a BSP stalwart for the post where an influential Socialist group, led by Kalfin, openly objected to Kuneva's nomination, lobbying for Sofia's Ambassador to Paris Irina Bokova (now UNESCO Secretary General – editor's note) instead."

Kuneva, herself, had been "uncertain of her future and probed for US support of her candidacy." The Ambassador does not say if he had interfered, but notes that "the pendulum swung back in her favor, we suspect, as the Prime Minister looked at the larger strategic picture," and that Stanishev's move "was aimed to secure the loyalty of Simeon's party as a coalition partner and please Brussels."

"More technocrat than politician, Kuneva was not considered a political heavy weight. Defying early expectations, she built national consensus regarding the EU, promoting public awareness of EU accession and pushing EU-related reforms. Politicians across the spectrum acknowledge her expertise in European affairs and her success in finalizing Bulgaria's negotiations with the EU six months ahead of schedule," Beyrle writes giving high marks and listing her impressive qualities.

He also stresses on Kuneva's "can do" spirit and deep affinity for Americans and the U.S. (she gets misty-eyed recalling her "fantastic" years at Georgetown), which "will win the Americans at least one ally on the Commission."

Beyrle already knew Kuneva well at that time from several previous conversations with her in her capacity of Minister of EU Affairs and lead negotiator for Bulgaria's joining of the EU. More can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.

In one of these conversations, she had admitted that NMSP needs the Three Way coalition and would not leave the cabinet after Bulgaria becomes a member of the EU in 2007.

Kuneva's name is mentioned in another cable, prepared in the beginning of 2010 by Deputy Ambassador, Susan Sutton, who says that the former Commissioner "had dimmed her prospects" to be nominated again for the post after the failure of the ruling Ciitzens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party candidate, Rumiana Jeleva over "Kuneva's suspected role in the smear campaign against Jeleva."

Alexey Petrov – AKA The Tractor, arrested in February 2010, in a largely advertised special police operation codenamed Octopus and released after spending nine months behind bars.

In a cable, former US Ambassador, James Pardew, titled Bulgarian Organized Crime, writes the following about The Tractor:

ALEXEI ILIEV PETROV (Bulgarian citizen born 23 April 1962) is a former officer in the elite special unit for combating terrorism. He and his grouping of former military commandos (also known as "berets") are most actively involved in the insurance sector through LEVSKI SPARTAK INSURANCE (previously known as "APOLLO & BOLKAN" and "SPARTAK"). Petrov also owns the largest taxi company in Sofia, TAXI S EXPRESS, which has more than 3500 cars. It is believed that Petrov's involvement in Taxi S Express, Levski Spartak, and other companies bearing the Spartak name have been disguised as Israeli investment; Petrov is closely linked to former Israeli ambassador to Sofia, DAVID KOEN. Another member of the group, ZLATOMIR IVANOV (Bulgarian citizen, also known as "THE BERET") was a former director of APOLLO & BOLKAN and is currently director of ARKUS SECURITY. Ivanov oversees the group's smuggling, extortion, and racketeering activities, among other illegal activities.  The group is thought to have the largest share in Sofia's escort and intimate services businesses, which are used as fronts for prostitution and trafficking in women for sexual exploitation.

The original text of the cable can also be found HERE.

Rosen Plevneliev, former Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, nominated by GERB

Plevneliev is briefly mentioned only in 3 cables. In the one sent in July 2009, and titled the NEW BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT, he is described as "intelligent and soft-spoken, Plevneliev has a respected name in the construction business. His entry into politics is attributed to ties with media tycoon and industrialist Ivo Prokopiev, who is close to Borissov. Plevneliev will face a tough challenge to win back the EU's confidence after last year's corruption scandals.  Plevneliev is also on the Board of Directors of AmCham Bulgaria and will receive a warm welcome from U. investors."

The original text of the cable can also be found HERE.

Bivol point out that if he is to be elected president, Plevneliev will be Prime Minister's, Boyko Borisov's "avatar" and note that the many cables vividly describing Borisov make up for the limited information about the former Minister.

Borisov is the only European politician in the entire WikiLeaks database about whom the mysterious US agency SIMO (mentioned in one of the cables on him) has confirmed information about participation in criminal activities, Bivol write, pointing out that the Bulgarian PM is labeled "Armani clad tough guy."

The original text of the cable on Borisov can also be found HERE.

Volen Siderov – candidate and leader of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party

In a cable sent in 2005, John Beyrle provides a biography of Siderov, where he talks about juicy details from the life of the "progressive journalist, who turned extremist" such as him posing naked for male magazine "Club M" and his two books - "The Boomerang of Evil," and "Who Robbed Us, and How," in which he expressed strong anti-Semitic and anti-globalist views.

"People who know Siderov describe him as an oversensitive man, craving to join the political elite which he so viciously attacks. Historians involved with issues of nationalism do not take him seriously and say he has turned to nationalism as a result of personal and professional disappointments. Siderov has not traveled to the US and has never applied for a US visa," the Ambassador writes.

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Tags: BSP, GERB, Boyko Borisov, Volen Siderov, Krasimir Karakachanov, Alexey Petrov, Rosen Plevneliev, Ivaylo Kalfin, Meglena Kuneva, James Pardew, John Beyrle, diplomatic, ambassador, US, NMSP, VMRO, Ataka, commissioner, Tractor, Octopus


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