Bulgarian Police Officers Protest Against Social Benefits Cuts

  • About 1,000 police block Bulgaria's capital city of Sofia
  • Finance Ministry reduces police benefits and holidays

More than 1,000 Bulgarian police officers blocked central streets in Sofia, the capital, protesting against a Finance Ministry decision to cut their benefits and holidays.

Police blocked streets around the Finance Ministry and Parliament in Sofia on Tuesday after Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov met Interior Minister Roumiana Bachvarova to discuss his proposal. The plan includes cutting additional payment for time served, reduce their holidays to 20 days from 30 days and cut severance payments to 10 gross monthly salaries from 20, Valentin Popov, head of the police syndicate, told Bloomberg News. About 20,000 policemen plan to block national highways and border crossings on Wednesday, police said.

The cuts, part of next year’s budget draft, would save about 25 million lev ($14 million), which would be used to buy new equipment including cars, weapons and computers, Bachvarova told reporters. The budget, approved by the cabinet on Oct. 30, needs to be voted in parliament. About 240 policemen have applied for retirement since Monday, before the cuts are set to come in force in January, 2016.

Bulgaria spends 7 percent of its economic output on 50,000 people working in the Interior Ministry, the second-highest spender on police in the European Union after Slovenia, according to Open Society Institute in Sofia.

“The ministry has delayed reforms to improve its efficiency for decades,” George Angelov, chief economist of the Open Society Institute, said in an interview with national radio. “There are a lot of Interior Ministry employees who have quiet jobs and don’t really merit all those benefits. They need to differentiate between the actual risks taken by the police and their benefits.”

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