Bulgarian Interior Minister Stepped Down
The Bulgarian Post
Rumen Petkov has resigned amid increasing criticism of the government's failure to tackle organised crime. He announced his resignation on Sunday and motivated his withdrawal from government by saying it was aimed to strengthen the state institutions. He also added he didn't made its desicion under pressure from opposition.
Speaking at a briefing at the Interior Ministry, he said he was resigning so there would be "stronger government and stronger institutions". He added he was not making this move under pressure. The resignation however followed a scandal in which two senior police officers have been accused of passing official secrets to alleged crime bosses.
Petkov resigned after his ministry was shaken by a corruption scandals and after he conceded he had been in contact with organized crime figures. Besides the scandals in Interior ministry, there have also been a spate of contract killings in recent months.
EU called on Bulgarian government to act promptly after the recent killing of an author of books about the criminal underworld and an energy company executive.
Various sources said the interior minister was quitting his position against the backdrop of opposition pressure on him to resign over contacts with organized crime. The resignation comes two days after the Socialist-led government survived a fifth no-confidence vote over what the opposition claimed was "unprecedented involvement of power-holders with organized crime."
The European Commission's February report criticized Bulgaria for the unconvincing results of the fight against organized crime. The next report is due out in June 2008.
"The European Commission accepts the reports about Petkov's resignation for information", Commission Spokesman Mark Gray told Bulgarian media. He added that EC did not comment on domestic developments in individual EU Member states. The Commission will continue closely following the pace of reforms in Bulgaria and will see how best to help the Bulgarian government in meeting its accession commitments to the EU in justice and the fight against crime.
Bulgarian government begins consultations on structural and personnel changes this week.
PM Stanishev: Petkov was aware of his mistakes
"We need a strong cabinet and strong and clear support in Parliament," said prime minister Stanishev on Sunday after the resignation was accepted. "Quotas for ministers and deputy ministers do not matter. What matters is having a clear commitment to social policy, which is a condition I set to the partners in Parliament.", said Stanishev
Two weeks ago, Petkov told a meeting of the BSP Executive Bureau he assumed political responsibility for the shaken confidence in the Interior Ministry.
"This resignation is a worthy, logical move because the Interior Ministry has found itself in a very oppressive atmosphere," Stanishev said. Petkov was aware of his mistakes, which were largely inherited from previous governments or were caused by reforms that did not go deep enough, the Prime Minister also said.
Oposition: Resignation is rather belated
"We consider Petkov's resignation rather belated. Sergei Stanishev missed his chance to act as a European politician and statesman by not demanding the resignation as soon as the scandal broke out. Instead, he and President Georgi Purvanov backed Petkov. The resignation only came about after dozens of Western media outlets and EU representatives offered their opinions, as well as after a no-confidence vote. Petkov should be arrested and investigated for his contacts with the criminal underworld and numerous violations of the law in his capacity as Interior Minister," said in its statement one of the opposition parties - radical leftists from "Ataka".
The Prime Minister should be aware the system failed due to the Interior minister. However, the root of the problems is elsewhere, said the Sofia Mayor Boiko Borissov. All senior judges and prosecutors were appointed since the three-party coalition took office. They all were appointed for a specific term, and the government coalition is trying to set a term for the Interior Ministry's chief secretary as well. The laws regarding the Interior Ministry and the judicial system are in need of urgent amendments. Finally, Borissov implied that early elections could end the crisis.
The newest fraction of Bulgarian opposition, Bulgarian New Democracy (BND) said Petkov's resignation as a "normal", though somewhat delayed move, given the crisis that had been going on for a month. The no-confidence vote certainly played a role. The public has never been so involved, and the EU institutions have never sent so unambiguous signals of concern. "Drastic measures are needed to clear Bulgaria's image at least a little," he said.
Petkov's resignation is "a major success for the DSB, the opposition, the media and society as a whole," said the Democrats fro Stronger Bulgaria's (DSB) deputy leader Dimiter Buchvarov. "However, the resignation came too late and will not end the crisis. This government and the Prime Minister himself sided with the Mafia against the Bulgarian public and smeared Bulgaria's image in Europe and the world." DSB also recalled that other ministers had also discredited themselves through alleged corruption practices they countenanced, and must resign. DSB has called for the resignations of Deputy Prime Minister Emel Etem, Health Minister Radoslav Gaidarski, Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski, Regional Development Minister Asen Gagaouzov, Agriculture Minister Nihat Kabil and Environment Minister Djevdet Chakurov.
Petkov's resignation is a logical consequence of the steps taken by the EU, the opposition, the media and the public, UDF leader Plamen Yuroukov said. This was only to be expected after the pressure exerted by the EU partners, the opposition, the media and society. "This goes to show that internal forces are emerging in Bulgarian society, which are trying to counteract the parallel power structures. Hopefully, Petkov will not be the most recent blown fuse that would allow other people to continue the crime-power contacts."
Socialist Party: Resignantion was expected
This was an expected development, told BTA Anton Koutev, Secretary of the BSP Supreme Council. It is a manifestation of a consistent policy. Koutev predicted more cabinet changes. He identified a certain tension in the SNM, which called for cabinet changes a month and a half ago. The Interior Minister's resignation will prompt cabinet changes in the direction suggested by the SNM, Koutev said. He added that the new Interior Minister would be named by the Prime Minister.
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