30 CORRUPT OFFICIALS & PRIME MINISTER'S SWISH-SWISH

by Stamen Manolov

In the current situation in Bulgaria, we find it increasingly difficult to select political events that would not be outrageous to the point of absurdity and therefore not qualify for the Joke of the Month column.

Switching to a daily rather than monthly format may be the answer... but we have to listen to our accountants, at least once on a while.

So, let's suffice it with two this time around.

An Interior Ministry report entitled Strategic Directions To Fight Corruption was looked at by Meglena Kuneva, the deputy prime minister. The press reported that it stipulated "about 20-30 corrupt officials" should be put in jail within a year. A new special unit would be taking care of identifying said officials from among politicians, ministers, senior civil servants and state agency managers. It would only investigate people who have damaged the state budget with over 100,000 leva or have demanded a bribe of the same amount. If the new unit's chiefs fail to reach the goal of "20-30 in jail," they would be dismissed. They would have to report to the National Assembly twice a year.

The hacks never asked the question what would happen if the new unit, where an undisclosed number of staff will get their salaries, identified over 30 corrupt Bulgarian officials. Would they get a promotion?

Then, what would the courts do? What if the new unit fulfils its quota of 20-30 but evidence against the indicted does not hold in court?

At the moment, there are 39 different state agencies that are supposed to fight corruption, in addition to the anticorruption inspectorates all ministries theoretically have. Yet, Bulgaria remains the most corrupt country in Europe. Unlike Romania, no senior official has been sent to jail after a proper court trial.

It remains nebulous to what extent the Bulgarian government is serious about fighting corruption – or is it just putting out reports like this to feign activity and gull the EU into thinking something adequate is being done?

On to a "lighter" topic: Regional Development and Urbanisation Minister Lilyana Pavlova's hairdo. In the wake of some "unexpected" snow in March which left thousands in Southern Bulgaria stranded and without electricity and water, the prime minister and his retinue went to visit Kardzhali, in one of the worst affected regions. After a walk in the Rhodope, the following televised conversation took place. It is rendered verbatim with editorial notes inserted in brackets to make it easier to understand:

Boyko Borisov: Lilyana Pavlova, one might have said, just goes into Parliament and then comes back... And swish-swish (gesticulating and blowing out air to show how one gets one's hair blow-dried). They, with Maya Manolova (an MP for the BSP)... (laughing). This jackets fits her well...

Lilyana Pavlova: I will need a new jacket...

Boyko Borisov: Well, you are a blackie by birth... You didn't go suntanning somewhere, I suppose.

Lilyana Pavlova: Look here, if he found an issue with my clothes means I have done my job properly elsewhere.

Boyko Borisov: Several times we chopped trees to make passageways for funerals. For a wedding, like, for births or baptisms we have not done it. Amen! (Makes the sign of the cross). During a week we decided, like, something good.

Lilyana Pavlova: The demographic problem...

Boyko Borisov: We would solve the demographic problem. If need be, we will switch off your electricity for whole weeks (in response to a remark that people had to do sex as there was nothing else to do in the dark).

A reporter: Where will you be going next?

Boyko Borisov: Who, me? You know, because of the likes of you I can't get married. Just with the thought that when I start going somewhere you will be asking me where I'm going... This is the question I hate most: where are you going and when you will be back.

A reporter: We will not ask you when you are coming back, just where you are going because we also need to know where we ourselves are heading to.

Boyko Borisov: Where it's easiest for you, that's where we will be going to. Look here, the NSO (National Security Agency) are frowning because they don't like us to say where we are going to.

Nine Bulgarians had just died because of the severe weather in the Rhodope region.

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