Sofia, April 1, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Ivailo Kalfin stole a march on his Cabinet colleagues by coming to work in a rented electric car on April 1, as a new rule took effect depriving deputy prime ministers and other members of the government of National Security Service transport.
It was no April Fool’s Joke as Kalfin’s ministry proudly tweeted photographs of Kalfin, who extolled the green credentials of the little red car he had rented out of his own pocket.
Electric cars, Kalfin said, were cheaper to maintain, non-polluting, were not required to have road tax stickers, and parking in Sofia’s green and blue zones was free. The one that he had rented could get up to 60km/h and had a range of 150km, making it ideal for urban environments.
Some eyebrows might have been raised by, amid at least one Bulgarian-language media website snidely suggested was a PR move, the fact that one of the photographs appeared to depict Kalfin parking rather close to a sign marking the place for use by people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, the public broadcaster enthused that Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova had been seen arriving for weekly Question Time at Parliament on foot. So did Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev (who no doubt had other transport issues on his mind, having secured Cabinet agreement this week to propose to Parliament spending about 1.5 billion euro on about a dozen jet fighters, two naval patrol boats and a revamp of old Soviet-made MiG jet engines).
A government media statement on March 24 had announced that the decision to bar deputy prime ministers and Cabinet ministers from NSO cars was intended to optimise the use of the National Security Service and direct them to other forms of protection required by law, such as “people, events and objects” in danger.
“It is expected that the decision should contribute to the economic, efficient and effective use of the capacity and experience of the National Security Service,” the government statement said at the time.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, who was behind the decision (and who as head of government, to say nothing of the unfortunate fact of reported death threats against him, will still be driven in a National Security Service car), is reported to have suggested that his ministers could, among other things, make use of Sofia’s splendid and ever-expanding metro underground railway system.
Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski came to work on April 1 using his personal car, not failing to point this out in a Facebook post. “Today I came to work with my personal car, as do most employees of the Ministry of Economy. For official purposes I use a departmental car. I wish everyone a successful day,” Lukarski posted.
Unlike Buchvarova and Nenchev, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova turned up for Question Time in Parliament in an official black Volvo, with Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Meglena Kouneva also drawing on the pool of official vehicles to do the same.
Presumably, like all those who should be law-abiding, Cabinet ministers at the wheels of cars were keeping their driving licences with them.
On April 1, Borissov ordered Buchvarova and other officials to initiate a check-up on driving licences, a move made against the background of the arrest of the head of Bulgaria’s Motor Vehicle Administration Agency and a number of other officials in connection with allegations of large-scale corruption, including a fraudulent driving licence issuing scheme.