Bulgaria Govt: Triumph of the Tame
One must be sunstruck to believe that Bulgaria's economy, energy and tourism minister was kicked out for hitting the beach in Doha.
Three years ago the soft-spoken Traicho Traikov, back then a consultant at a private company, gave the impression of a man, who is more likely to muse than gets his hands dirty with a project.
Soft spoken though he continued to be as minister of a behemoth department, he showed courage to speak up - even if the truth hurt those counting on Belene nuclear power plant or the other major energy schemes to pile up wealth.
Logic and strategy, Traikov's usual weapons, however proved useless or may be even dangerous in the poorest and most corrupt country of the European Union. He was not the best minister, but at least tried to be consistent and always relied on his expertise.
Last week's government reshuffle fits nicely with the strategy that the prime minister has adopted so far - put all the blame for blunders squarely on the shoulders of a clerk and throw him to the dogs.
But now there is an important twist.
Boyko Borisov is kicking out the experts, who are not members of his party and dared to disagree with him from time to time (the dismissal of Health Minister Stefan Konstantinov calls for another editorial). Three years ago, when the government was formed, these were the people, whom he heaped with accolades. Traykov's appointment, in particular, was construed by many as a sign that the GERB government wants to demonstrate its capacity to promote young and highly qualified, though publicly unknown, experts.
A year and three months before the next parliamentary elections, Borisov apparently prefers to rely on obedient ministers, who feel allegiance to his party and can be held like puppets on strings.
The elevation of a young lady and just as young man with little experience, who already showed inadequacy to manage such important sectors as health, economy, energy and tourism, for me is little more than a cynical ploy aimed at giving the foot-dragging government a badly needed image makeover.
Whatever the true reason behind Traikov's dismissal, it left – both on the home and foreign front – the impression that the government strengthens its anti-expert, pro-party and pro-Russian line.
True, the masculine, tough-talking prime minister vehemently denies this. But to misquote a famous Shakespeare line, he doth protest too much, methinks.
Borisov's behavior fuels suspicions that links between the mafia and the political system run deep in the energy sector. The man believed to be pulling the strings behind the curtains, the back seat ruler, is Valentin Zlatev, CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria. It must be by no accident that only after he intervened in the talks for Belene Borisov suddenly changed his mind in favor of the project.
Exactly a year ago Traikov, unnerved by the oily PR stunt over Lukoil licence, was stupid enough to spit out the truth: "Russian pressure has certainly overwhelmed certain people in Bulgaria."
His words ring even truer now.
In an age when the major powers are giving up on nuclear energy, Bulgaria's pursuit of atomic energy places it once again in Europe's backyard and brands it as Russia's Trojan horse in the united bloc.
But we, Bulgarians, are notorious for having a short historical memory. At home memories from the Chernobyl disaster are fading and rear their ugly head only from the ever-rising cancer incidence rates.
I am really not sure that the highly controversial reshuffle will hit the popularity of the government. The sun outside is shining and in a week the beach scandal will be forgotten.
The good thing is that Traikov's eyes will be smiling again. No need to tell you why, methinks.
In general, people in leadership positions don't like to have staff members who are more intelligent than them because they are a threat to their position, and this is especially true for a macho type boss like Borisov. Traikov was one of the best ministers in the government, and one of the most intelligent, but he was speaking his opinion. He was not smart enough to be a politician and get things done, and this cost him his job. I'm sure he can soon find a much better paid job with a company.