Bulgaria is Not Listening To Civil Society
Almost a year ago, society in Bulgaria protested against the government. These demonstrations have continued throughout the last year yet we`ve heard little about it. So Cafébabel interviewed Zornitsa Stoilova, editor of the Bulgarian newspaper "Capital Weekly"
Cafébabel: What is happening in Bulgaria and why?
Zornitsa Stoilova: On 14 June 2013, about 10, 000 people came out on the streets to protest against the appointment of Delyan Peevski as head of the National Security agency. He is a member of parliament and also a member of the Turkish ethnic minority party DPS. He and his mother own a number of media outlets, including newspapers, TV channels and websites that are changing their editorial policy in accordance with the political party in power. During the previous rule of the coalition between the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and DPS Peevski, he served as deputy minister for the Ministry for Disasters but he was fired for allegations of corruption. He was later cleared of these allegations.
In Bulgaria, Peevski is a symbol of everything that went wrong during our country's transition from communism to democracy and a market economy. That is why when his nomination for head of the Security Agency was withdrawn three days later, people continued to protest, demanding the newly formed government`s resignation.
Nobody believed Peevski`s appointment was a single mistake. His nomination, people claimed, showed the way of thinking and the style of management of the government, backed by the Socialist party. Most of the appointments to state positions that followed were figures with compromised pasts, yet loyal to both parties in power.
After just three weeks in power, this government no longer had the trust of the people. The two parties in power- the BSP and the DPS- refused to listen to the critical voices and absolutely refused to dismiss the government. The "Oresharski" cabinet continued to work in an atmosphere of unprecedented mistrust.
CB: For how long have these demonstrations been going on?
ZS: The demonstrations have continued for more than 6 months, but are becoming less numbered as it becomes clear the Socialist government won`t resign. The protesters insisted on keeping the demonstrations peaceful, without any displays of violence. Right now we are at the dawn of the campaign for the European parliamentary elections. They have a different meaning now, because if the two parties in power fail to deliver good results, the government will run out of time as well. Protesters think it is only a matter of time until the government is forced to resign. Whether it is in a month, or in a year, the loose construction will collapse.
CB: When was the last demonstration?
ZS: The last big demonstration demanding the resignation of the government was on the 10th of January 2014.
However, the last mass protest against the government was held on the 23rd of March. Hundreds of nature lovers gathered to express their anger because the government gave permission for construction on one of the few remaining wild beaches in Bulgaria.
CB: How many people take part in the street protests?
ZS: The different stages of the protest managed to engage varying numbers of people. The first two months, of course, attracted the biggest crowds of up to 10, 000 people marching in Sofia. Most of the bigger cities in the country held their own protests. In the autumn though there were fewer people on the streets.
There was an immediate dissilusionment that the protests didn't produce the desired result - the resignation of the government. The protests became large again in October when the student movement "Earlybird Students" took the lead in the protests and occupied the biggest university in the country. This renewed enthusiasm continued until the end of the year.
CB: What has been the reaction of the EU?
ZS: Well, at the beginning certain EU officials were expressing support for the protest and its values. That is especially true for Viviane Reding, the vice president of the EU commission. She came to Sofia at the end of July during the heart of the protests and expressed sympathy for the people's right to demand good governance. She said, "I hope you can build a government that you can trust". But other than that this is a national issue that Bulgaria must solve itself. The EU only uses institutional mechanisms to stress that the government is falling short in implementing proper reforms in important sectors.