Bulgarian Premier Eases Police Benefit Cuts After Protestby
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov proposes to keep some benefits
Police officers reject Borissov's proposal, block roads
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov retracted part of the government’s cuts in social benefits for the police included in next year’s budget draft after more than 1,000 police officers blocked central streets in Sofia, the capital, a day earlier.
Borissov proposed differentiating benefit payments for active-duty police from officers working in the Interior Ministry’s administration and cut severance payments to 10 gross monthly salaries from 20 salaries for new hires only, he said at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Borissov kept the proposal to cut police holidays to 20 days from 30 days.
“We have the difficult task to balance our priorities - education and health care,” Borissov said. “At the same time huge amounts of money go to an unreformed system. This is a reasonable compromise.”
Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest state by per-capita output, spends 7 percent of the economy on home order and security, the second-highest level in the EU after Slovakia, according to the Open Society Institute in Sofia. With 50,000 people working in the Interior Ministry, the Balkan country has the highest number of police as a share of its 7.2 million population, according to Open Society.
“Niether of the proposals is acceptable for us,” Galentin Grozev, head of the Security police syndicate, told reporters in Sofia. “The protests will continue tonight, on Thursday and on Friday in nine regions nationwide. We’ll stop our protests only when Mr. Borissov withdraws the budget draft containing” the items with the benefit cuts.
Dozens of police officers blocked roads, border checkpoints with Greece and some city streets throughout the country on Wednesday to protest against the cuts. They are set to come into force in January 2016 after next year’s budget passes final approval in parliament. About 250 police officers have applied for retirement since Monday to take advantage of the benefits.
The benefit reductions would save about 25 million lev ($14 million) a year, which would be used to buy new equipment including cars, weapons and computers, Interior Minister Roumiana Bachvarova said on Tuesday.