Germany to Bulgaria: cut oligarch ties
A protester in Sofia carries a poster, reading “You are not yourself when you are greedy”. Public outrage at the appointment of a media magnate to a top security post has boiled over into protests against the new government. Photo by Dimiter Muftieff
German and French ambassadors to Bulgaria urged the country’s leaders on Monday to sever links with oligarchs, as thousands continued to protest against corruption among the political elite.
In a rare joint comment by foreign diplomats on Bulgaria‘s domestic situation,Germany‘s Matthias Höpfner and France‘s Philippe Autier expressed concern about the current state of affairs in the EU’s poorest country.
“Belonging to the European Union is a civilized choice. The oligarchic model has no place in it, neither in Bulgaria nor elsewhere,” they said in a statement.
A well-governed Bulgaria was in the interest not just of Bulgarians but of the entire EU, they added, especially as France and Germany are key contributors to Bulgarian EU funds.
The statement came after 24 straight days of mass anti-government rallies, which have seen thousands gather every evening on Sofia’s boulevards, shouting “Mafia!” and demanding the resignation of the Socialist-backed government.
On Sunday, between 8,000 and 10,000 protesters again took to the streets of the capital.
The demos – just four months after similar protests forced out the previous conservative cabinet – were sparked by a controversial political appointment, but soon grew into wider outrage at a government and political class seen as corrupt and too dependent shady business interests.
Bulgaria‘s society “is obviously anxious about the penetration of private interests in the public domain,” the ambassadors said.
They highlighted “the necessity to nominate indisputable people for public offices,” especially for key jobs in the areas of anti-corruption, security, trade, and energy.
“Non-transparent appointments in these areas can only benefit corruption and organised crime,” they said.
Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, has been under a special monitoring mechanism by Brussels for its slow judiciary reforms, its poor showing in the fight against organised crime and its inability to root out corruption.