State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad has long history of turbulence

State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad has long history of turbulence

The announcement on October 29 that special prosecutors and anti-corruption officials were raiding offices of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad in connection with alleged graft was the latest episode of controversy to surround the agency.

By mid-morning, media were reporting that arrests had been made, though there was no official confirmation of this.

The agency has undergone numerous changes of leadership in the past decade, most often for reasons of changes of government. Coincidentally, the month of October has tended to be the most popular time for upheavals.

A key function of the agency is the granting of documentation in support of applications for citizenship on the grounds of Bulgarian descent. This function has been at the core of the more important controversies surrounding the agency.

In 2010, the first government headed by Boyko Borissov fired Raina Mandjukova for what was described at the time as inappropriate behaviour in her post. In her place, Rossen Ivanov, a Sofia University law graduate, was appointed. Ivanov lasted until October 2013, when he resigned for “personal reasons” at the time of the first few months of the “Oresharski” administration.

Deputy head Yordan Yanev was appointed acting head, lasting until October 2014 when he was dismissed by Georgi Bliznashki’s caretaker government. At the time he was fired, media reports described the agency as “leaderless”. Yanev had been on a month’s sick leave at the point he was dismissed.

The government cited the reason for Yanev’s dismissal as being that recommendations made by the Supreme Cassation Prosecution in January 2014 to correct irregularities in the issuing of certificates of Bulgarian origin had not been implemented.

An investigation was announced after it emerged that there had been widespread irregularities in issuing foreigners from Balkan countries with certificates that they had Bulgarian origins – even though in more than 1000 cases, no documentary proof of this was submitted.

Bliznashki appointed Iva Yordanova, then an adviser to a deputy prime minister, to the post. Appointed on October 16, she resigned on October 21. Yordanova quit because of hostile media reports about her, which alleged she had got the job because of political connections, an allegation she denied.

Yordanova was succeeded by Dimitar Vladimirov as acting head of the agency, moving up from his post as the agency’s chief secretary. Media reports had described him as effectively in charge of the agency anyway, before that point.

In March 2015, the cabinet appointed Boris Vangelov, a legal adviser for the VMRO Foundation and formerly a parliamentary candidate for the nationalist Patriotic Front, to head the agency. Reports said that VMRO leader and Patriotic Front co-leader Krassimir Karakachanov had confirmed that he had lobbied Prime Minister Boiko Borissov for the job to go to Vangelov “because he possessed all the necessary qualities”.

Vangelov stepped down in April 2017, to take up a seat in the National Assembly on the list of the United Patriots, the grouping of ultra-nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in Borissov’s third government.

Just more than a month later, the government approved the appointment of another Karakachanov ally, Petar Haralampiev, to head the agency. As October 29 2018 dawned, and the raids by prosecutors began, Haralampiev still was….. / IBNA