Week One in Bulgaria's Caretaker Government: Calls for 2 Ministerial Changes Intensify the Crisis

Novinite Insider » OPINIONS | Author: Nikola Danailov |April 17, 2024, Wednesday // 07:57
Bulgaria: Week One in Bulgaria's Caretaker Government: Calls for 2 Ministerial Changes Intensify the Crisis From left to right: Dimitrov, Glavchev, Vatev

Yesterday, Acting Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev proposed to President Rumen Radev to relieve the Acting Minister of Agriculture Kiril Vatev from his post and to appoint Georgi Takhov as head of the department, the government information service reported. Takhov is currently the executive director of the State Fund "Agriculture".

On Monday evening, Glavchev demanded that Foreign Minister Stefan Dimitrov be replaced, with the current MP and GERB Deputy Chairman Daniel Mitov taking the post. This happened about three hours after the leader of GERB, Boyko Borissov, asked the caretaker prime minister to replace Dimitrov and a week after the inauguration of the Glavchev caretaker cabinet.

New low: Bulgaria’s foreign minister turned off his phone during a crisis

The unfolding narrative regarding the potential replacement of Bulgaria's foreign minister has the makings of a significant chapter in the contemporary annals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It also has the potential to evolve into a political saga, especially in light of Vice President Iliana Yotova's recent remarks suggesting that President Rumen Radev might not endorse Stefan Dimitrov's removal from office.

In a span of just ten days, two nominees for the leadership of Bulgarian diplomacy have been withdrawn. Initially, the unconventional nomination of Ivaylo Tsenov, a consul in Vienna, on April 5 never progressed to the parliamentary swearing-in ceremony. Then, on Monday night, Acting Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev proposed Dimitrov's removal shortly after facing criticism from Boyko Borissov, leader of the GERB party and chairman of the foreign commission in the National Assembly, during a party assembly.

The recent events surrounding the Foreign Ministry paint a picture of confusion and uncertainty, with both Borissov and Glavchev offering vague explanations for the sudden developments within just a week of Dimitrov assuming the role of Foreign Minister after Mariya Gabriel. Yesterday, the caretaker prime minister provided a slightly clearer response to a journalist's inquiry, citing a lack of communication during a critical emergency situation involving Bulgarian citizens' lives and health, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have been leading.

Former BSP group MP Georgi Kadiev characterized the situation as a "pogrom" and shared details on his Facebook profile that align closely with Glavchev's explanation. According to Kadiev, the foreign minister went on leave on Friday and traveled to Montenegro, presumably for personal reasons. He appointed two deputy ministers, but both were dismissed by Prime Minister Glavchev on Friday evening. Subsequently, Glavchev appointed Maria Angelieva and Colonel Nevyana Miteva as replacements without the foreign minister's knowledge. Kadiev expressed concern about their suitability for the role, noting Angelieva's background as a former MP and consul in London, and Miteva's military background. This led to a situation where, during the Iran-Israel crisis on Sunday, the foreign minister was unreachable in Montenegro, while the appointed deputy ministers were fired, with only the third deputy minister expressing the ministry's position.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' initial response on April 14 to the Iranian attack on Israel conveyed deep concern over the incident, labeling it as unacceptable and an unprecedented escalation posing a significant threat to regional security. The statement urged maximum restraint and de-escalation in the situation.

This is the same as the position of President Radev, who condemned the escalation of tensions in the Middle East without specifying specific countries or who attacked whom. "All countries in the region should refrain from further use of force," was said in the position on Sunday.

Later, the MFA also published the position of Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, in which the tone is completely different: "The EU condemns in the strongest terms Iran's attack with drones and missiles against Israel. (...) The EU reiterates its commitment to Israel's security."

Foreign Minister Stefan Dimitrov did not have a personal position or statement on the crisis.

Kadiev also claims that he (Dimitrov) changed and cut "almost his entire speech at the Second High-Level Conference on Security in the Black Sea, which was prepared for you by the experts, as you are abandoning positions that the ministry has been defending for years".

Some Bulgarian news websites shared similar information regarding the primary reason behind Stefan Dimitrov's dismissal. They cited Bulgarian politicians who testified onhis unavailability during the night of Iran's attack on Israel as the main factor. Allegedly, Dimitrov had his phone turned off and failed to respond to the summons to attend an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers regarding the situation. This resulted in the Foreign Ministry issuing a position without prior agreement from Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev, exacerbating tensions, as stated by a Council of Ministers source.

On Monday afternoon, Borissov publicly called for Dimitrov's removal, citing a departure from the established doctrine shared by the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Defense, and their party. As chair of the parliamentary foreign policy committee, Borissov had reportedly received multiple complaints regarding Dimitrov's performance, particularly regarding the lack of a clearly defined Euro-Atlantic position.

Who is Stefan Dimitrov?

Stefan Dimitrov's entry into the realm of diplomacy was marked by his appointment as Bulgaria's ambassador to Montenegro, a role bestowed upon him by the caretaker government of Galab Donev and President Rumen Radev in December 2022. Transitioning from this diplomatic post, Dimitrov ascended to the esteemed position of Foreign Minister on January 21, 2023. Notably, his tenure as ambassador lasted a little over 14 mnths, culminating in his elevation to the helm of the Foreign Ministry.

This appointment came amidst a wave of changes in Bulgaria's diplomatic representation, notably following the dissolution of the government led by Kiril Petkov on August 2. During this period of transition, reports surfaced that Dimitrov had put forth his candidacy for the ambassadorship to Vienna while serving as the director of the "Bilateral European Cooperation" directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Assuming his ambassadorial duties in Montenegro, Dimitrov succeeded Meglena Plugchieva, whose term concluded in December 2022. Notably, Plugchieva had been nominated for key governmental roles by Prof. Nikolay Gabrovski of the GERB party, although the proposed composition of the government was ultimately rejected by the National Assembly.

Dimitrov's professional journey is characterized by a diverse background, with initial forays into private enterprise before transitioning to diplomatic service. A political scientist by training, Dimitrov's early career saw him navigating various roles within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, interspersed with managerial positions in the private sector. Subsequently, his trajectory led him back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in capacities such as diplomatic officer, department head, and consulate manager.

However, Dimitrov's ascent within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs occurred amidst a backdrop of political intrigue and familial ties. Notably, his brother Georgi Dimitrov occupied a prominent position within the ministry's structure, serving as permanent secretary until his removal in 2014. Georgi Dimitrov's past association with State Security, revealed in 2007, added a layer of complexity to the political landscape, given his familial ties to the ruling elite and his involvement in foreign policy advisory roles.

Daniel Mitov - an adequate replacement?

Should President Rumen Radev endorse the decree for the dismissal of Stefan Dimitrov and the appointment of Daniel Mitov as his successor, it would render Mitov ineligible to run as a candidate in the upcoming early elections. While the Constitution does not explicitly forbid serving ministers from participating in electoral campaigns as parliamentary candidates, provisions in the Electoral Code stipulate that a minister seeking candidacy must take leave, leaving their ministerial post vacant.

A representative of GERB highlighted the impracticality of Mitov simultaneously serving as a candidate for deputy, suggesting that such a scenario would effectively remove him from the political arena for a certain period. Mitov previously held a seat in the 49th National Assembly as a deputy from Varna. Following the elections in July 2021, he was nominated as prime minister in GERB's proposed cabinet. However, failing to garner sufficient support, he returned the unfulfilled exploratory mandate to the president.

Daniel Mitov has been foreign minister before - first in 2014, when President Rosen Plevneliev appointed him to the position in the caretaker government of Georgi Bliznashki. Mitov retained his post in the subsequent regular government - the second one of Boyko Borissov

Glavchev demanded that a second minister be replaced

Kiril Vatev, one of the four ministers retained by Glavchev in his new caretaker government, faced criticism for his performance in the Ministry of Agriculture. According to official statements, Vatev failed to effectively handle his duties, leading to ongoing tension and dissatisfaction within the agrarian sector. Allegedly, he did not make necessary legislative and administrative decisions with adequate financial support, citing delays in implementing initiatives such as the Ukrainian aid package for farmers in 2024 and the stalled direct payments campaign, which significantly impacted the sector.

The controversy surrounding Vatev intensified when various agricultural organizations united to demand his resignation, citing disagreements over additional subsidies in response to Ukrainian imports. Despite protests, the government eventually acquiesced to their demands.

Despite mounting pressure, Vatev expressed his desire to remain in his ministerial post, even amidst uncertainty regarding the appointment of the new prime minister following failed negotiations between political parties.

Subsequently, two deputy ministers, Alexander Yotsev and Georgi Toshev, were dismissed from the Ministry of Agriculture, with Ivan Kapitanov appointed to replace them. Kapitanov, formerly the deputy executive director of the State Fund for Agriculture, faced previous dismissal under a caretaker government led by Rumen Radev. His extensive experience also includes roles within the Port of Burgas.

Shortly after media announcements regarding the prime minister's intention to replace Vatev, Georgi Takhov was already listed as the new minister on the Ministry of Agriculture's website. However, his formal appointment awaits the president's decree and parliamentary oath-taking.

Who is Georgi Takhkov?

Georgi Takhov assumed the role of executive director of the State Fund "Agriculture" in August 2022, appointed by then-acting Prime Minister Galab Donev. His professional credentials include a doctorate in economics with a specialization in "Finance, Money Circulation, Credit, and Insurance." Additionally, Takhov holds master's degrees in "Accounting and Control" from D. A. Academy of Economics - Svishtov, "Law" from University of Veliko Tarnovo "St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, and "Strategic Leadership and Management of Security and Public Order" from the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Takhov pursued further specialization in economics and industrial management in Germany, indicating a diverse academic background. His extensive managerial experience also encompasses roles within the National Revenue Agency (NRA), as indicated by his official business card published on the fund's website.

In conclusion, these recent developments in Bulgarian politics, particularly the proposed replacements within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture, underscore the complex dynamics and challenges facing the new caretaker government. The abrupt changes in leadership, coupled with underlying tensions and dissatisfaction within key sectors, reflect a period of uncertainty and transition as Bulgaria comes close to its 10th parliamentary elections in a row.

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Tags: Bulgarian, government, leadership, minister

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