Petar Boyadjiev, a Bulgarian dissident and political refugee living in France, has talked to EURACTIV Bulgaria about his “disgust” with people in power in his native country, who he says waste or misappropriate EU funds instead of using them to the benefit of society.
He also revealed interesting facts about the relationship between the late communist leader Todor Zhivkov, in power from 1956 to 1989, and the current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
Boyadjiev, born in 1941, distributed leaflets in 1966 together with a friend, calling for Bulgaria to leave the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact and introduce multi-party democracy in the country. He was jailed for 12 years but then managed to flee the country in 1981 and received political asylum in France.
Boyadjiev said he was very happy when the Berlin Wall fell but was deeply disappointed with how things have turned out in Bulgaria.
“Not only am I disappointed, but at times even disgusted. The contemporary Bulgarian society is in a condition that can hardly be called civilised. It is formally part of Europe, but not in terms of values, even less socially. In Bulgaria, 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they continue to label themselves “right” and “left”, without putting one gram of substance in it”, he said,
Thirty years after the fall of communism, Bulgarian political life is dominated by a “centre-right”, in the form of Prime Minister Borissov’s GERB party, and a “centre-left”, represented by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), a reformed force which claims its roots in the Bulgarian Communist Party and as far back as a far-left workers’ party in 1891.
During the 30 years of transition, there have been policies supported by the BSP which could be labelled conservative, such as introducing a 10% flat tax, which mostly benefited the big business, while Borissov’s party could best be described as populist, rather than centre-right.
Boyadjiev said he was “deeply disappointed” with the position of the European People’s Party (EPP), which keeps defending what he claims to be an indefensible position: that Bulgaria is prospering.
He keeps in his archive a letter he sent to the then Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen, in which he advocated that Bulgaria should not become an EU member because the result would be “trade with the production of European citizens, through granting of Bulgarian citizenship from Sofia”.
“Time has proved me right,” Boyadjiev said. He was one of those who exposed a massive scheme of illegally selling Bulgarian passports to foreigners, involving high-level officials.
Zhivkov and Borissov
Boyadjiev said he had first-hand information about the relationship between late strongman Zhivkov and Borissov.
“In 1992, I was in Bulgaria for a longer period. Todor Zhivkov, having ruled Bulgaria for so many years, was interesting to me, given that in the 1980s, our emigrant centre was the most efficient and effective player opposing him. Naturally, he did not know my name when I was being held in prison, but then, when I was already an emigré, he happened to be informed of events related to my name”, Boyadjiev said.
He then recalled how he met with Zhivkov when the latter was under house arrest, thanks to his close relations with the then chief prosecutor.
“The only thing Zhivkov was worried about was how he would go down in history. He wanted to be remembered as the leader who found the best solutions for his country under the most unfavourable international conditions”.
This was when he met “a young man named Boyko Borissov”.
This happened after Zhivkov, under house arrest, asked Boyadjiev to help him get rid of a police guard in front of his house. So instead of the policeman, Borissov was sent by Tatarchev to guard the communist leader.
“In my opinion, Borissov is a pupil of Zhivkov, with some differences. Zhivkov was indifferent to the money. For him, money was only an instrument. He was interested only in fame. Borissov, however, like most people who came from nowhere, is very concerned about his money. In short, he is a very bad copy of Zhivkov,” Boyadjiev said.
It is not a secret that Borissov, then a young police officer, was Zhivkov’s bodyguard, and that the two got along well and spent a lot of time together. It is, however, interesting to learn that Boyadzhiev – a political refugee – was instrumental in making the rapprochement.
Macron was right about Bulgaria
Asked about a recent interview with Emmanuel Macron in the far-right French outlet Valeurs Actuelles, in which the French president said he prefers people who came from Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire and work in France legally to Bulgarian or Ukrainian trafficking networks, Boyadjev was fully supportive of Macron.
“Criminal networks are the basis of governance in Bulgaria,” he said, mentioning the misuse of EU funds. He said Bulgarian criminal groups extend their branches across the EU, including France.
“By its note (sent to the French foreign ministry), Bulgaria demonstrated its political ignorance. In my opinion, if Peter Mladenov (Zhivkov’s foreign minister) tolerated such nonsense, he would not be a minister the next day,” the dissident said.
He added: “I imagine how surprised they must be at Quai d’Orsay (the French foreign ministry) when they got the note. It says in black and white that the Bulgarian government stands on the side of criminal channels. The Bulgarian services are aware of it.”
(Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox)