Bulgaria draws fire for turning to former spies ALL - 2005/10/3
Source: Gulf Times, Qatar
BULGARIA’S Socialist-led government is turning to communist-era spies to help fight the country’s powerful organised crime bosses, but the move has rattled the opposition, who see it as a return to the past.
“This is an arrogant bid to restore the totalitarian past which legitimises top officials from the repressive communist state structures,” former prime minister Ivan Kostov told parliament on Friday.
He and other opposition figures have attacked the appointment of an advisory council by Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev’s government earlier this month to help fight rampant graft, which Bulgaria needs to eradicate if it hopes to achieve its goal of joining the European Union in 2007.
The council is stacked with spies who were sworn enemies of Nato during the Cold War, including former National Intelligence Service head Brigo Asparuhov. When ex-king prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg tried to appoint him as a security adviser in 2003, Nato protested.
The government insists the council will serve only an advisory role, but diplomats say they are still seeking a clarification of its exact function.
“Diplomats are worried, and there should be a coherent response, not just from the US, but from other embassies ... saying this is sending a wrong signal,” said Ognian Shentov, an analyst with the Centre for the Study of Democracy. “Perceptions matter, and they are really risking losing the trust of their Nato allies.”
Ex-prime minister Kostov said the appointment of the council signalled that the Socialists – arch enemies of his rightist opposition party – were resuming the oppressive tactics of their former communist manifestation.
Defending the council, Stanishev said the body, while helping streamline police functions to fight against graft and organised crime, would have no major influence over policy.
“This council will have only an expert, consultative function and will have neither executive, nor supervising prerogatives in the ministry,” he told parliament.
Interior Minister Rumen Petkov has also announced the return of undercover informants – police who will secretly take jobs in customs, courts, and other state companies and institutions to crack down on corrupt officials.
Once the Soviet Union’s staunchest backer, Bulgaria has struggled to overcome the notoriety of its Cold War secret service, a network of 100,000 agents and informants that was seen as one of the most ruthless agencies in the Soviet bloc.
Author: Michael Winfrey