Bulgaria. In March, Bulgaria went to parliamentary elections. According to Countryaah.com, victory made the center-right party GERB with about 33% of the vote. The Socialist Party (BSP) got about 28%. GERB’s party leader Boiko Borisov was able to form government again. He was previously prime minister in 2009-13 and 2014-16.
In connection with the elections, Turkey was accused of interfering in the electoral process by trying to pressure the Turkish minority to vote for Turkish-friendly parties. Bulgarian nationalists must therefore have guarded the border with Turkey to prevent Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey from entering the country to vote.
In June, a Swedish man was imprisoned who kicked a hotel maid in the head in the resort of Sunny Beach. The incident was documented by a surveillance camera. The 53-year-old man risked three years in prison. In September, the verdict was announced: a fine of SEK 24,000. According to the court, the man showed an “absolute lack of humanity”.
Bulgaria had a successful tourist season during the year, an increase of just over 7%.
Suspicion of corruption and fraud in connection with Bulgaria’s procurement of new combat plan led to a parliamentary commission of inquiry in September recommending that the purchase be postponed for the future and that the entire project restart. Among others, President Rumen Radev was accused of interference. Saab has competed with Portugal and Italy for an order worth SEK 7.5 billion. Questions were raised about why Swedish Saab was included in the procurement at all since Sweden is not a NATO country.
In June, two Bulgarian nationals were abducted in Iraq. Truck drivers Georgi Lazov and Ivaylo Kepov were abducted near Mosul north of Baghdad by Iraqi partisans. The abductors demanded Iraqi prisoners in North American custody be released. In July, the government announced that one of the two hostages had been executed. The information was initially reached through the Arab TV station al-Jazeera. Before the execution, the Bulgarian government had sent a diplomatic mission to Iraq to negotiate the release of the hostages. Bulgaria already has a contingent of 500 soldiers located in Kerbala south of Baghdad as part of the occupation coalition. Despite the execution, the country’s military presence in Iraq did not change. In August, the bodies of both hostages were found in the Tigris River.
In April 2005, Bulgaria and the EU signed the Protocol of Accession, which from 1 January 2007 makes the country a member of the EU. Among the reforms to be implemented by then are intensifying the fight against corruption. By then, the Bulgarian courts must prove that all citizens are treated fairly and the anti-corruption authorities must prove that no person in the community is exempt from investigation or prosecution. Accession to the EU will have a number of negative consequences for the country: heating prices will rise drastically, subsidies for distressed parts of industry will fall and unemployment will rise.
The June 2005 parliamentary elections were won by the Coalition for Bulgaria, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). Its leader Sergei Stanishev became prime minister that month.
In April 2006, Bulgaria signed an agreement with the United States on the establishment of joint military bases in the country. The military agreement is 10 years old and during this period both countries can use the bases for training. The United States will have an average of 2,500 soldiers at its bases in Bulgaria.
In 2006, President Parvanov admitted that a “case file” existed in the former communist intelligence system in Bulgaria. When the Special Investigation Commission reached Parvanov in 2007, it appeared that he was listed in the service’s archives as a “collaborator”. But the concrete documents about his activities were removed from the archive.
On January 1, 2007, Bulgaria formally became a member of the EU, bringing the number of member countries to 27. The admission is conditional on Bulgaria to implement a judicial reform and eliminate corruption in the country. In order to curb the flow of migrant workers from Bulgaria to the rest of the EU, from 2010 onwards, Bulgarians have free access to the other member states in their search for work.
In June 2008, Prime Minister Stanishev was sharply criticized by human rights organizations after remarks about a gay parade in Sofia which, in his opinion, should not have been carried out: “because he did not support demonstrations for such positions”.
The right-wing populist party GERB won the July 2009 parliamentary elections with 39.71% of the vote. The party’s chairman, Boyko Borisov, subsequently became the country’s prime minister at the head of a center-right government. Borisov was former mayor of Sofia.
The country was hit hard by the global economic crisis. GDP growth fell from 6.3% in 2008 to -4.9% in 2009. At the same time, unemployment rose to 9.1%. Industrial production fell by 10%, mining by 31% and metal production by 60%.
During his first years of government, Borisov developed an extensive cult of personality around him, and wrote school books about them to pay tribute to him. But corruption, connections to the mafia and media repression caused his popularity to plummet from 2011. Several of his ministers were charged with telephone interception and corruption.