Protests over Bulgarian Govt's Decision to Close Svilengrad Customs Office

Politics » DOMESTIC | December 29, 2015, Tuesday // 12:14
Bulgaria: Protests over Bulgarian Govt's Decision to Close Svilengrad Customs Office Huge queues were formed at the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing earlier in December, after dozens of customs officers were detained in a special police operation and the crossing was closed for several hours. Photo: BGNES

A move by the Bulgarian government to close down the customs office of Svilengrad, at the border with Turkey, has sparked outrage from officers and municipal councilors in the town.

Boyko Borisov's cabinet announced it would take the step after 33 customs officers were detained on suspicions of corruption earlier in December. Prosecutors believe the arrested might have taken tens of thousands of BGN in bribes.

But Svilengrad's local administration believes arguments put forward by the cabinet that closing down the customs unit will make fight against corruption more efficient are devoid of sense. A protest of customs officers is also due later on Tuesday.

"Corruption practices were created and maintained by all governments that ruled Bulgaria in the last 25 years," a local official told private national NOVA TV station on Tuesday.

Emil Dimitrov, an MP from the Patriotic Font which backs Borisov's government, however told public BNT station that work at the Customs Agency needs to be urgently organized, with officers living near one border crossing deployed to work at another to avoid the establishment of deep-rooted corruption practices.

Under the new regulations, the customs bureau at Kapitan Andreevo border crossing (near Svilengrad) is likely to be "diverted" to the Burgas office.

Earlier in December, the government also announced 40 customs officers will be "redeployed" to the central office in Sofia, after having worked at the Turkey border.

Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov then cited "human resources management" as one of the reasons and made clear the specialized operation and the detention of 33 officers had called the efficiency of the agency into question.

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Tags: Svilengrad, Customs Office, Customs Agency, Boyko Borisov, Emil Dimitrov, Vladislav Goranov

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