News: Bulgaria’s ban on former communist secret agents heading public media is unconstitutional, court says

Here is some more news from Bulgaria. This time it´s The Sofia Globe´s and Independent Balkan News Agency´s articles about the resent events, concerning the Archival State Agency and it´s documents.

15 May 2013

Bulgaria’s Dossier Commission announces another former State Security agent in the media

Written by The Sofia Globe staff

Photo: Christa Richert/sxc.hu

Photo: Christa Richert/sxc.hu

Bulgaria’s Dossier Commission, the body charged by statute with identifying people in certain categories of public life as having worked with the country’s communist-era secret service State Security or military intelligence, said on May 15 2013 that Antoni Georgiev, publisher of an English-language magazine, had been a State Security agent.

According to the Dossier Commission, Georgiev (50) was recruited in 1988 and worked for the Sixth Department of State Security – effectively, the political police department – as Agent Boiko. Georgiev was announced in his capacity as owner of the magazine.

The announcement is the latest by the Commission of a former agent in the Bulgarian media. Others have included Ivan Garelov (Agent Talev), Kevork Kevorkian (Agent Dimitar) and Georgi Koritarov (Agent Albert).

In an earlier check of various categories of senior staff at state-owned media, the Dossier Commission found that after 1989, employees with State Security backgrounds at Bulgarian National Television numbered 43, Bulgarian National Radio 60 and news agency BTA, 20.

Also reported by the Dossier Commission to have been State Security people were various media owners – Radosvet Radev of Darik Radio, Krassimir Uzunov of news agency Focus, BBT founder Petar Mandjukov and Standart owner Todor Batkov.

Since its inception after the act of Parliament creating it was approved in 2006, the Dossier Commission has identified State Security agents in senior positions in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Foreign Ministry, several other state departments and agencies, polling agencies, trade unions and business associations.

28 August 2013

Bulgarian Socialist Party government continues purges by replacing head of state archives agency

By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe (for Independent Balkan News Agency)

Martin Ivanov, who in the past two years initiated innovations at the state archives agency and was keen on the idea of a museum on the communist-era State Security secret service, has become the latest top official to be purged by the Bulgarian Socialist Party government. He is to be replaced by a retired long-term Interior Ministry and State Agency for National Security official.

Comments by Bulgarians on social networks said that the new chief of the agency’s career spans the time that communist-era archives were destroyed as Bulgaria headed for its transition from the era of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. Media reports said that he had been the long-serving head of the archives at the Interior Ministry during the time of the declassification of police records.

Ivanov, appointed to head the state archives agency in 2011, initiated digitalization of records, uploaded Politburo files on to the internet, as well as the police files of Zhivkov, 1950s Bulgarian communist strongman Vulko Chervenkov, and others. Ivanov’s work facilitated the work of historians and researchers who were able to access materials on key themes in Bulgaria’s 20th century history online. The agency also posted online material and photos related to the Jewish community in Bulgaria, a move linked to the initiative to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the prevention of the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the Holocaust death camps of the Nazis.

Bulgarian website Mediapool reported that Ivanov learnt of his impending dismissal from the media. It came on a day when other changes were effected, part of the process whereby the current minority government, in power since May 2013, has been grasping to consolidate its power, in large part by sweeping personnel changes in a range of posts – especially the security sector, but also a number of other strategically-important ones.

The same day, August 27, as the news broke of Ivanov’s dismissal, the head of the InvestBulgaria Agency, Borislav Stefanov, resigned. Stefanov, whose academic qualifications include having graduated from the Harvard Business School and who prior to his appointment to head the agency had an impressive private sector career, said that in the past three months he had not had a meeting with the government to discuss investments. He noted that during his time at the head of the agency, in spite of the crisis, investors in the outsourcing and automotive industry had been attracted to Bulgaria, and a major campaign to promote investment in Bulgaria had been launched in significant international media.

Local media said that State Fund Agriculture chief Roumen Porozhanov and his deputy Svilen Kostov had resigned, for personal reasons. Porozhanov, before being appointed in 2011 to head the fund, was chief of staff to Simeon Dyankov, then finance minister in Boiko Borissov’s centre-right government. Mediapool noted that Porozhanov had worked previously with Plamen Oresharski, current occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the BSP government, when Oresharski was finance minister in the 2005/09 socialist-led tripartite coalition government.

Also on August 27, Regional Development Minister Dessislava Terzieva appointed Stefan Chaikov as chairperson of the board at Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency. In presenting Chaikov to the media at a news conference, Terzieva said that Chaikov had extensive experience in the industry and would play a key role in ensuring continuity at the helm of the agency. Chaikov said that the main tasks he would focus on would be to increase “the agency’s expert potential” and draft a long-term strategy for the rehabilitation, repairs and maintenance of Bulgaria’s roads until 2020. Chaikov was previously the head of the road construction industry chamber, a position to which he was elected in 2011. Mediapool said that he owned stakes in about a dozen companies that carry out road construction planning and oversight, but was yet to formally step down from managerial positions in such companies or transfer his shares. His predecessor, Lazar Lazarov, would stay on as a member of the road infrastructure agency’s board of directors, Terzieva said. Lazarov, appointed under the previous administration, was allowed to stay as head of the agency for an additional two months to oversee the final stages of work on several motorway projects – including the last stretch of Trakiya motorway (where one of Chaikov’s company’s was hired to do quality assurance), a stretch of Struma motorway near Dupnitsa and the link between the Sofia ring road and Hemus motorway.

2 September 2013

Bulgarian historians protest state archives reshuffle

Written by The Sofia Globe staff

Historians and researchers have protested the decision by the Bulgarian Cabinet to fire state archives agency director Martin Ivanov and the appointment of Ivan Komitski as replacement.

In a letter sent to Parliament Speaker Mihail Mikov and Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, 56 academics said that the appointment of Komitski, a retired long-term Interior Ministry and State Agency for National Security (SANS) official, “raises a number of questions about the future policies” of an institution that was “the key figure in defining state policy towards preserving, managing and popularising the country’s archival heritage.”

Ivanov, appointed to head the state archives agency in 2011, started the digitalisation of records, uploaded Politburo files on to the internet, as well as the police files of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, 1950s Bulgarian communist strongman Vulko Chervenkov, and others. His work facilitated the work of historians and researchers who were able to access materials on key themes in Bulgaria’s 20th century history online.

“We believe that the main task of the state archives agency director is precisely ensuring maximum public access for citizens, journalists and researchers to the archival heritage kept by the agency, not their cover-up or destruction,” the academics said in their letter.

“Mr Komitski’s entire professional career has been with the service archives of institutions that have become known for their efforts to limit public access to their archive records, not for efforts to preserve and popularise them,” the letter said.

Furthermore, as an employee of the Interior Ministry archives service in 1990, Komitski was one of those who carried out the orders of the interior minister at the time to destroy the files that the communist-era State Security had on its victims and collaborators. “Today, all that’s left of these archive files are the eradication protocols, some of which feature Mr Komitski’s signature,” the letter said.

Much later in his career, as a senior official at the Interior Ministry and SANS, Komitski was active in the “selective publication of the files of some Bulgarian journalists and public figures”, but showed no readiness to release declassified documents that “contain key information about the beginning of the transition period in Bulgaria.” Given his previous track record, there were big doubts that Komitski would continue the reforms started by Ivanov, the letter said.

“Mr Komitski’s career diverges sharply from the established practice to appoint at the helm [of the state archives agency] well-established researchers, who have a professional relationship to history – as scientists, not police officers.”

The academics said that the non-transparent procedure to sack Ivanov and appoint Komitski ran counter to the “desire and readiness, stipulated by your government, to co-operate and consult with experts and civil society representatives in deciding state policy in different areas.” The academics asked for an open and transparent appointment procedure, open to any candidates that meet the job requirements and including public hearings at which they would present their strategies and could answer any questions from civil society.

3 October 2013

Bulgaria’s governing axis seeks backtrack on disclosure of former communist-era secret service agents in intelligence services

Written by The Sofia Globe staff

The Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalists Ataka are jointly pushing a backtrack on the law on the Dossier Commission, the body charged with exposing former communist-era secret agents in certain positions in public life, that would prevent disclosure of such agents in top posts in Bulgaria’s civil and military intelligence agencies after 1991.

The move is being opposed by Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, which when in government supported amendments proposed by the right-wing Blue Coalition that enabled the disclosure of the identities of such agents.

At the time, the amendments were opposed by the BSP and its allies, who claimed that such disclosure could “endanger” serving members of Bulgaria’s intelligence services. The 2012 amendment enabled naming of former State Security people at the level of department head and deputy department head in the current intelligence services.

After the amendments reversing the previous change were approved by the parliamentary committee on internal security and public order with the backing of the BSP, MRF and Ataka, GERB leader Borissov sought support from parties outside Parliament, along with other organisations, to campaign against the backtrack.

GERB said in a media statement that Borissov had sent a letter to the political formations of the Reformist Bloc, the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria and the Union of Democratic Forces, members of the EU-level European People’s Party and the Union of the Repressed.

Doing away with the amendment that enabled disclosure of former State Security people in the intelligence services after 1991 would be contrary to democratic values, Borissov said.

He said that he was confident that political forces that share the values of the European People’s Party could “develop synergies” to campaign against the new amendments. “This is because the truth about the totalitarian period is the best guarantee that unfreedom will not happen again,” Borissov said.

The move to do away with disclosure of State Security people in the post-1991 intelligence services was aimed at “deliberately concealing the relationships that are absolutely unacceptable in a modern democracy”.

6 October 2013

President Plevneliev pledges to veto backtrack on Dossier Commission exposure of State Security agents

Written by The Sofia Globe staff

President Plevneliev

President Plevneliev

Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has said that if Parliament approves proposed legislative amendments that would prevent the Dossier Commission disclosing former communist-era State Security agents in post-1991 civilian and military intelligence services, he will veto them.

In 2012, Parliament amended the law on the Dossier Commission – the body charged by statute with identifying people in certain categories of public life who were agents or collaborators with State Security or the intelligence division of the Bulgarian People’s Army – to enable the naming of communist-era secret service people who were part of post-communist intelligence services.

It has emerged that the three parties that since the May 2013 parliamentary elections together can muster a majority in Parliament – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalists Ataka – have pushed through the first committee stage amendments that would reverse this part of the law.

Speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on October 4, Plevneliev said that he had made clear commitments during his 2011 presidential election campaign regarding State Security. “I have said many times, and I will repeat again, State Security must go to the museum; we must finish the story with the semi-declassified secret files and with the dependencies on the past,” Plevneliev said. Many people believed that there were those who were living and thriving on the basis of these networks of the past, he said. Plevneliev said that an option was to protect people currently serving abroad from disclosure.

In 2012, when the amendments were approved at the initiative of the right-wing Blue Coalition and with the support of then-governing centre-right party GERB, the BSP and its allies claimed that disclosures about top intelligence officials would put lives at risk.

11 October 2013

Bulgaria’s ban on former communist secret agents heading public media is unconstitutional, court says

Written by The Sofia Globe staff 

Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court has overturned provisions in a 1998 law barring officers and staff of the communist-era State Security secret service from heading the public broadcasters or being members of the electronic broadcast regulator, the Council for Electronic Media.

The law was put in place in amendments to the Radio and Television Act by former ruling centre-right party GERB, as part of a policy to clean the top echelons of Bulgaria’s public life from the old communist secret service networks.

In the course of 2013, new directors-general already have been appointed to public broadcasters Bulgarian National Radio and Bulgarian National Television, so the abolition of the “lustration” clauses by the Constitutional Court will be applicable only at the next round of appointments, in about three years’ time.

The amendments were challenged in the Constitutional Court earlier this year by a group of MPs from the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

Of the 12 judges of Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court, two were absent, seven voted to overturn the amendments and three were opposed. These proportions are not dissimilar to those in the controversial outcome of the Constitutional Court case on whether Delyan Peevski is an MP.

Bulgarian site Mediapool noted that the October 11 2013 decision was expected, given the long-standing practice of the Constitutional Court to remove any lustration provisions from Bulgarian legislation.

The majority in the court said that lustration law was contrary to international law and international treaties to which Bulgaria is a party.

It said that a negative view of State Security should not affect the exercise of the constitutional rights of citizens in a modern democratic society. Lustration was inherently discriminatory and unconstitutional, the court said.

The three dissenting judges said that the law that created the Dossier Commission was adopted not solely to provide access to information about State Security, but to make possible informed judgments about the suitability of people to hold or to be appointed to such posts.

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A little about me and the blog…


I'm studying archival science (include records management). My studies bring me to Bulgaria for six months.

I have been to Bulgaria on vacation but I don't know the language, Cyrillic alphabet or anybody. So I´ll be encountering many new situations and hopefully gain some insights from them. Some of it may end up on my blog. But even blogging is new to me sooo we´ll see...

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