Bulgarian President Slams Cabinet for Failure to Fight Graft

  • Radev calls for radical action against corruption in new law
  • Lack of convictions, graft deter investors, president says

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev criticized the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov for failing to reduce crime and graft in the European Union’s poorest state, which has forced people in small towns to “live in fear.”

The perception of widespread corruption and the judiciary’s failure to convict senior officials drives away foreign investors, Radev said in an interview with Nova television in Sofia late on Wednesday. He pressed for radical action against crime in a new anti-corruption law, two drafts of which were put up for public discussion by Borissov’s Gerb party and the opposition Socialists.

Rumen Radev

Photographer: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP via Getty Images

“Prevention is for a healthy body,” Radev said of the proposals. “When you have gangrene, you need a scalpel.” 

Parliament will debate the two drafts, which focus on improving control and accountability of law-enforcement agencies, shortly before Bulgaria takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency in January. The European Commission has repeatedly urged the Balkan country to reform its judicial system and step up the fight against organized crime ever since it joined the bloc a decade ago.

“Crime in Bulgaria is always impudent,” the president said. “People in small towns live in fear for years. Street crime is prevalent. We don’t see real results and this is alarming.”

A political novice elected on the opposition’s ticket last year, Radev is establishing himself as a critic of Borissov’s cabinet. Even as the country’s presidential post is mostly ceremonial, his voice is influential in forming public opinion. Bulgaria is seen as the EU’s most corrupt along with Greece, according to Berlin-based research organization Transparency International.

Bankers, Kidnappings

Earlier this year, prosecutors indicted 18 officials, including two deputy central bank governors in charge of supervision, for Corporate Commercial Bank AD’s failure in 2014, which sparked the worst banking crisis here in 20 years and triggered early elections. The trial hasn’t started.

Five ex-ministers and one former deputy minister from governments previously headed by Borissov were charged by prosecutors last year, adding to the string of previously indicted ministers without convictions.

A dozen high-profile assassinations of tycoons and bankers from a decade ago were never solved and kidnappings of well-doing businessmen for ransom have become a common occurrence in the country of 7.1 million citizens. Some minor criminals were convicted in some of these crimes.

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