Boyko Borisov

Boyko Metodiev Borisov (Bulgarian: Бойко Методиев Борисов, IPA: [ˈbɔjko mɛˈtɔdiɛf boˈrisof]; born 13 June 1959) is a Bulgarian politician who has been Prime minister of Bulgaria since May 2017.[1] He was also Prime Minister from 2009 to 2013 and from 2014 to January 2017, making him Bulgaria's third-longest serving Prime Minister to date.

Boyko Borisov
Бойко Борисов
Boyko Borissov (crop 2019).jpg
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Assumed office
4 May 2017
PresidentRumen Radev
DeputyTomislav Donchev
Krasimir Karakachanov
Ekaterina Zakharieva
Preceded byOgnyan Gerdzhikov (acting)
In office
7 November 2014 – 27 January 2017
PresidentRosen Plevneliev
DeputySimeon Djankov
Tsvetan Tsvetanov
Preceded byGeorgi Bliznashki (acting)
Succeeded byOgnyan Gerdzhikov (acting)
In office
27 July 2009 – 13 March 2013
PresidentGeorgi Parvanov
Rosen Plevneliev
DeputySimeon Djankov
Tsvetan Tsvetanov
Preceded bySergei Stanishev
Succeeded byMarin Raykov (acting)
Chairman of GERB
Assumed office
3 December 2006
Preceded byOffice Created
Mayor of Sofia
In office
10 November 2005 – 27 July 2009
Preceded byStefan Sofiyanski
Succeeded byYordanka Fandakova
Personal details
Born (1959-06-13) 13 June 1959 (age 61)
Bankya, Bulgaria
NationalityBulgarian
Political partyCommunist Party (Before 1990)
National Movement Simeon II (2001–2006)
GERB (2006–present)
Spouse(s)Stela Borisova (divorced)
Domestic partnerTsvetelina Borislavova (separated)
Children1
Signature
Websitewww.boykoborissov.bg
Association football career
Playing position(s) Forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2007–2014 Vitosha Bistritsa 23 (27)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Borisov was elected Mayor of Sofia in 2004. In December 2005, he was the founding chairman of the conservative political party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), becoming its lead candidate in the 2009 general election. Borisov led GERB to a landslide victory in 2009, defeating the incumbent Socialist Party, and resigned as mayor of Sofia to be sworn in as Prime Minister. He resigned in 2013, after nationwide protests against the government's energy policy, but after leading GERB to victory in the 2014 general election, he became Prime Minister again. His second term ended similarly to his first, after Borisov resigned in January 2017, this time following GERB's defeat in the 2016 presidential election. As before, Borisov led GERB to election victory again in the snap 2017 general election, becoming Prime Minister for a third time.

Under Borisov's cabinets, Bulgaria has seen improved macroeconomic stability. Concurrently, it has remained the EU's poorest member, with nearly a quarter of its population below national poverty lines.[2] Foreign direct investment has fallen, and rampant corruption has led to the rejection of Bulgaria's Schengen Area bids.[3] Electoral results for Borisov and his party have been overshadowed by allegations of election fraud and manipulation in 2013,[4] 2015,[5] and in 2019 both locally and for the European Parliament.[6] Judicial threats and attacks against journalists have increased to the point where journalism in Bulgaria has become "dangerous" according to Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Bulgaria 111th globally in press freedom.[7] Former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew said in 2019 that a "national political environment with little government or criminal accountability and no serious opposition to challenge the current government" is in place as a result of collusion, corruption and stifling of the media under Borisov.[8]

In 2013, while Prime Minister, Borisov became the oldest person ever to play for a Bulgarian professional club when he appeared for FC Vitosha Bistritsa in the B Group, the second division of Bulgarian football.[9]

Early life and familyEdit

Borisov was born in 1959 in Bankya (then a village, today a town, part of Stolichna Municipality) to the Ministry of Internal Affairs official Metodi Borisov and elementary school teacher Veneta Borisova. Borisov has claimed that his grandfather was executed by the communists for being a Nikola Petkov supporter in the wake of the Bulgarian coup d'état of 1944. This has been disputed, however, as Nikola Petkov was still an ally of the communist insurgents in 1944. Furthermore, Borisov's later rise within the ranks of communist-era security services would have been unlikely with such family background.[10] Other sources point that Borisov's grandfather either died during a criminal incident,[11] or that both his grandfathers died peacefully in the 1960s and 1970s.[10]

In 1977, Borisov graduated from Bankya's high school with excellent grades.[12] Between 1982 and 1990, he assumed different positions in the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a firefighter and later as a professor at the Police Academy in Sofia.[13] As a National Security Office member, Borisov took part in the protection of crops and haylofts during the name-changing campaign towards ethnic Turks in the 1980s.[14] From 1985 to 1990, Borisov was a lecturer at the Higher Institute for Police Officers Training and Scientific Research of the Ministry of Interior.

Borisov quit the Ministry in 1991 with the rank of major, after formally refusing to renounce his Communist Party membership, or "depoliticise". In 1991, he founded a private security company, Ipon-1. He subsequently became bodyguard to Bulgaria's last communist leader, Todor Zhivkov, after the latter was overthrown in 1989,[15] and to Simeon II. Borisov has been claiming participation in karate championships since 1978, serving as the coach of the Bulgarian national team and a referee of international matches. He said to United States President Barack Obama that he has a 7th dan black belt in karate, but his coach denied this, and stated that Borisov has never been even a karate competitor, but only an administrator of the team.[16][17]

Borisov is divorced, but for a number of years lived with Tsvetelina Borislavova, head of Bulgarian American Credit Bank. Borisov has a daughter, Veneta, from his former marriage to the physician Stela. Borisov also has a sister, Krasimira Ivanova.

Civil servantEdit

Boyko Borisov was the Chief Secretary of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior between 2001 and 2005, with the rank of General.[18][19][20][21][22][23] During that period, he became famous for getting the notorious mobster Sreten Jocić apprehended.[24][25]

In the 2005 parliamentary elections he was a parliamentary candidate of the National Movement Simeon II; he was elected in two regions but decided to retain his job as Chief Secretary of the Ministry. Later in 2005, he resigned from that post, instead of standing as a candidate in the mayoral election in Sofia. He was elected as Mayor and succeeded Stefan Sofiyanski.[26] He was re-elected in the 2007 election.

First term as Prime Minister of BulgariaEdit

Form more information on the cabinet, see First Borisov Government.

Borisov's party GERB also won the parliamentary election on 5 July 2009 by collecting 39.72% of the popular vote and 117 of the 240 seats in parliament.[27][28]

 
Borisov in 2009

Since 27 July 2009 Borisov served as Prime Minister of Bulgaria in a GERB-dominated centre-right minority government[29][30] with parliamentary support from three other parliamentary groups, including the nationalist party "Ataka". He invited several non-party affiliated experts to the government, most prominent among them Simeon Djankov, a former high-ranking World Bank official, and Rosen Plevneliev, manager of a large German subsidiary in Bulgaria.

Domestic policyEdit

Borisov's stated policies were mostly aimed at curbing corruption in the public administration[31] and building an adequate infrastructure. One of the main goals in this direction was the expansion of the national motorway network, of which Lyulin was the first motorway to be completed.[32] The government also approved a strategy for the development of the energy sector until 2020, which includes the completion of gas interconnectors with Greece, Romania, and Turkey and expanding renewable energy capacities. The Borisov government stopped the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project[33][34] after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The acquisition of European funds has increased from 2.6%[35] to 20%.[36]

Specialized police actions have tackled corruption in the administration and a number of high-profile members of the organized crime have been imprisoned, though as of May 2011 there was little improvement in the rule of law.[37] At the same time the government has been criticized by other EU members for the erosion of media freedom, falling attractiveness to investors and continuing mafia activities.[38] These criticisms were repeatedly leveled against Deputy Prime Minister Tzvetan Tzvetanov, who is formally under investigation for wiretapping members of the government and parliament. During his trial, his actions were found to be justified. Media leaks raised suspicions that Borisov may have tried to interfere in the case.[39]

According to France24, “Once in power, he toured the country incessantly to inaugurate infrastructure projects but failed to enact structural reforms or to tackle the rampant corruption and organized crime that Brussels has long complained about.”[15] In January 2011 Euractive wrote, “The ineffective judiciary has been largely unable to send to jail any high-profile criminals.”[40]

Borisov is a strong supporter of the total smoking ban. Although initially removing the ban introduced by the previous government, the Borisov Cabinet reintroduced it in 2012[41] with the aim to reduce the number of smokers from 40% of the population to about 15–20%.[42] By 2013, the ban had led to a 3-4% decrease in cigarette sales.[43]

Following public opposition, Borisov's government banned hydraulic fracturing for shale gas exploration and extraction. A permit granted to Chevron for shale gas exploration was revoked, and any violation of the ban is subject to a 100 million leva ($58 million) fine.[44]

Protests of doctors and other health professionals broke out in 2010 over failure to reform the health care sector, resulting in delayed payments and salaries. In March 2010, health minister Bozhidar Nanev resigned over a conflict of interest scandal. He was replaced by Anna-Maria Borisova, whom Boyko Borisov met accidentally on an intersection near Veliko Tarnovo and decided was fit to carry out the reform.[45] She resigned a mere six months later, failing to implement any reforms.[46]

ResignationEdit

Following the eruption of nationwide protests on 12 February 2013 over high energy costs, low living standards and corruption, Borisov and his government resigned on 20 February. Before that, Borisov had accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Simeon Djankov after a dispute over farm subsidies and promised a cut in power prices and punishing foreign-owned companies—a potential risk in damaging Bulgaria-Czech Republic relations—but protests continued. He then said: "I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people." The election due in summer was rescheduled for 12 May 2013. Djankov's resignation was a blow to Borisov's center-right credentials, since Djankov spearheaded the reforms during their term in office. He was also regarded as able manager of the public administration. In 2013 Djankov became an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and was appointed Rector of the New Economic School in Moscow.[47]

The European People's Party expressed support for Borisov a month before the 2013 parliamentary elections.[48]

Later in April, Borisov's former Agriculture minister Miroslav Naydenov revealed that the government had spied on several cabinet ministers, business figures and the opposition under orders of Tsvetan Tsvetanov, deputy chairman of GERB. Several members of parliament corroborated these claims, as well as members of the wiretapping unit in the Interior Ministry.[49]

Second term as Prime Minister of BulgariaEdit

Form more information on the cabinet, see Second Borisov Government.

Domestic policyEdit

 
Boyko Borisov and Angela Merkel

During Borisov's second government, the business climate and promised reforms took a nosedive. “Reforms failed to get off the ground, in particular, changes to the justice system and plans to help cash-strapped schools and the creaking health care system.”[15] Additionally, Bulgaria's parliament rejected an anti-corruption law.[15]

The cultivation of genetically modified crops was banned in 2015.[50]

Foreign policyEdit

Borisov's government saw the cancellation of the South Stream gas pipeline project.[51] Russia and Gazprom lobbied for the pipeline's construction, which would have circumvented existing, insecure gas pipelines passing through Ukraine, and would have continued into Central Europe.[52] Borisov's government instead emphasized an interconnector link with Romania, Greece, Turkey and Serbia, to redistribute natural gas from multiple sources.[53]

A fence was built along the border with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants during the European migrant crisis. Border control was also tightened. Some 17,000 people were detained by October 2016, down by more than a third compared to 2015. A riot broke out in a migrant camp near Harmanli in 2016, prompting a police response with water cannons and rubber bullets, and later a closure of the camp.[54]

Third term as Prime Minister of BulgariaEdit

 
Borisov with Ilham Aliyev.
For more information on the cabinet, see Third Borisov Government.

After the 2017 parliamentary elections, Borisov became Prime Minister again, beginning his third term in this position. On April 27, President Rumen Radev handed Borisov the mandate for the forming of Bulgaria's new government.[55] Reuters wrote, “Bulgaria's centre-right GERB party signed a coalition agreement on Thursday [4/27/17] with a nationalist alliance that will bring former prime minister Boiko Borisov back to power for his third term since 2009.”[56] By 2018, foreign direct investment had collapsed to 2% of GDP, or $1.13 billion. A number of major foreign companies, including E.ON, Modern Times Group, ČEZ Group, Société Générale and Telenor initiated their withdrawal from the Bulgarian market either due to poor profitability or corruption and government interference.[57][58]

In June 2018, a public tender was launched to build the natural gas interconnector link with Turkey. Borisov's plan to build a Balkan Gas Hub near Varna aims to ensure competition between Russian gas supplies from TurkStream, Azerbaijani gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) delivered via Greece.[59] However, analyst Vasko Nachev noted that the gas connection to Greece is not linked to any transiting gas pipelines and that the anticipated new delivery routes are "non-existent".[60]

During a regional summit, Borisov announced that Bulgaria will participate in a joint bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro 2028 with Serbia, Romania and Greece.[61]

Borisov received Order of the Republic of Serbia in February 2019. He thanked the Serbian president in the name of Bulgarian people, promised to further help Serbian EU agenda and the overall relations of the two neighboring states.[62]

 
Borisov with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, June 2018

In March 2019, a journalist investigation revealed that real estate company Arteks had sold a luxury property at prices sharply lower than the market value to a number of senior government officials. These include justice minister Tsetska Tsacheva, GERB deputy chairman Tsvetan Tsvetanov and deputy sports minister Vanya Koleva, who all subsequently resigned. Deputy Energy minister Krasimir Parvanov, Supreme Judicial Council member Gergana Mutafova and GERB MP Vezhdi Rashidov had also obtained sub-market price real estate from Arteks.[63] Additionally, anti-corruption commission head Plamen Georgiev, National Investigative Service head Borislav Sarafov and tourism minister Nikolina Angelkova were implicated in similar schemes.[64] Another journalist investigation also revealed that, back in 2015, the anti-corruption commission under Plamen Georgiev had terminated an investigation into irregularities in Tsvetan Tsvetanov's declared revenue and real estate evaluations.[65]

Further investigations revealed that Borisov's deputy economy minister, Aleksandar Manolev, built a private dwelling using funds from an EU development program. Numerous similar estates, built as bed and breakfast houses using EU funds, were revealed to have been used as private property in a similar manner. Overall, 749 guesthouses were revealed to have been built under the programme since 2007. The Attorney General's office launched an investigation following the reports.[66]

Borisov's government received further criticism for its handling of African swine fever virus outbreaks which caused the culling of tens of thousands of pigs in several regions in July 2019. EU Health and Food Safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said that Bulgaria "had not done much" to prevent the outbreak and was facing the prospect of losing its entire pig farming industry to the disease.[67] Additionally, culled pigs were hastily buried, sometimes close to bodies of water, instead of incinerated, as the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency had previously closed down an incinerator in the affected region.[68]

In October 2019, Borisov urged European Union to stop its criticism of Turkey,[69] adding that Bulgaria's relations with Turkey are good-neighbourly.[70] Several days later on October 15, Bulgaria turned harsher, condemning the Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria and firmly insisting that it immediately stop.[71]

Rivalry with President RadevEdit

Borisov spent much of his term locked in an institutional war with President Rumen Radev, the latter an opposition-sponsored independent and former Air Force General that defeated Borisov's preferred candidate in the 2016 Bulgarian presidential election. The two became bitter rivals, accusing eachother of leading the country into crisis.[72] This would eventually lead to President Radev supporting the 2020 protests against Borisov's government.[73]

ControversiesEdit

Allegations of corruption and connections with organized crimeEdit

Periodically ensuing corruption scandals and controversies has led to reports of high levels of corruption in Borisov's government. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Transparency International, Borisov's government was as corrupt as previous governments, with two of his closest ministers – Tzvetan Tzvetanov and Miroslav Naydenov—investigated by the Prosecutor General and the Tax Authority for taking bribes while in office. This goes against Borisov's declared mission to fight corruption and organized crime while pressing criminal charges against former corrupt politicians.[citation needed] Despite Borisov's initial promise, no representative of previous cabinets has so far been convicted.

In 2007 Boyko Borisov was accused by the magazine U.S. Congressional Quarterly (CQ) of being directly linked to the biggest mobsters in Bulgaria. CQ asserted that, "the most powerful politician in Bulgaria, Washington's newest ally in the global war on terror, is a close associate of known mobsters and linked to almost 30 unsolved murders in the Black Sea republic."[74] According to a confidential report compiled by former top U.S. law enforcement agency officials Borisov had used his position as the Chief Secretary of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry to help organized crime bosses attack their opponents.[75]

On 14 January 2011, journalists from the Bulgarian weekly newspaper Galeria distributed audio records of an alleged conversation between Borisov and Customs Agency Head Vanyo Tanov. The tapes reveal that Borisov instructed customs authorities to immediately stop their investigation of "Ledenika" brewery which had been suspected of illegal activities and tax crimes. However, Finance Minister Simeon Djankov was recorded on tape ordering the Head of Customs to do his work properly and not yield to Borisov's demands.

This created a rift within the government, as it was widely believed that the wiretapping was ordered by Interior Minister Tzvetan Tzvetanov.[76] Later those tapes were declared "manipulated" (not being able to tell if they were fake or not) by two independent examinations.[77][78] In early July, Borisov admitted that the conversation had been genuine, though tampered with, while giving an interview to Bulgarian bloggers in the presence of the Interior Minister.[79][80] A March 2013 investigation by the Prosecutor General suggests that the wire-tapping was ordered by Tzvetan Tzvetanov, Borisov's trusted deputy in the GERB party, with the aim of getting rid of Customs Head Vanyo Tanov.[citation needed]

Allegations of threatening journalistsEdit

 
Michel Barnier and Boyko Borisov at the 2011 EPP summit at Bouchout Castle, Meise.

In early 2011 a number of think-tanks and analysts raised concern about the degradation of media freedom and transparency in Bulgaria.[81] In 2011 reports surfaced that Borisov had paid cash to journalists to portray him favourably, and threatened others who criticized him as early as 2005.[82] In 2012, Bulgaria was ranked as the worst-performing EU member in terms of media freedom, according to Freedom House, and ranked 80th internationally.[83] By 2018, Bulgaria had dropped to 111th globally in the Press Freedom Index, lower than all European Union members and membership candidate states. According to Reporters Without Borders, EU funds have been diverted to sympathetic media outlets while others have been bribed to be less critical on problematic topics. Attacks against individual journalists have also increased.[84][85]

Allegations of racism and xenophobiaEdit

On 6 February 2009, Borisov, speaking in Chicago, told Bulgarian expatriates that the human material and the basis of Bulgarian population at that moment included 1 million Roma, 700,000 Turks and 2.5 million retirees. He added that the human material that they are left with as voters and as a pool for recruiting staff is really not that big, as half a million people have left Bulgaria.[86][87][88][89] Vice-president of the Party of European Socialists, Jan Marinus Wiersma, accused Borisov of referring to the Turks, Roma and pensioners in Bulgaria as "bad human material," and claimed that GERB "has already crossed the invisible line between right wing populism and extremism."[90]

Borisov denied these accusations and in turn accused the Bulgarian Socialist Party of attempting to discredit him.[91] Borisov stated in a meeting with NGOs on 5 March 2009 that he intends to include representatives of the Roma ethnicity in all levels of government, including a potential minister,[92] and has reached out to offer inclusivity to Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish population; although these measures and proposals have been seen as politically empty.[14]

ImageEdit

Boyko Borisov's "man of the people" attitude and the failings of the previous government were seen as the main sources of his popularity in 2009.[93] Borisov had also marked a very wide media presence, being regularly cited in most major media outlets and had made a total of 1,157 statements from his election until the end of 2010.[94] This trend continued throughout his first mandate, as Borisov and his party completely dominate the country's media reports,[95] his name being mentioned in more than 8,000 news articles for 2012.[96] He has also been the subject of a number of sycophantic plaudits on the part of his supporters, including a poem lauding his "dignified leadership".[97] In July 2012, he was included as a "historical personality" in history books for high school students, along with former GERB minister Rosen Plevneliev and European commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.[98] Borisov's popularity has been steadily declining due to ongoing scandals surrounding his most-trusted ministers - Tzvetan Tzvetanov and agriculture minister Miroslav Naydenov. After a public row due to leaked wiretapped conversations between Boyko Borisov, Miroslav Naydenov and the deputy prosecutor general, Boyko Borisov distanced himself from the former agriculture minister and he was excluded from GERB.

According to political scientist Ivan Krastev, "Boyko wants to be everybody’s best friend. He wants to hear all sides, make them believe that he has taken their side. He thinks that he needs to take on all positions at once...He is more pro-American, pro-Russian and pro-European than anyone else."[99]

In December 2011, Borisov, who occasionally plays as a striker for the third division side F.C. Vitosha Bistritsa, collected 44% of about 8,000 votes in a fans' poll to crown Bulgaria's Footballer of the Year, ahead of then-Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov. Following the result, Borisov called for the award to be annulled, claiming it was a protest vote against the poor conditions of Bulgarian football.[100][101]

Borisov's hardline governing style has received criticism by media outlets, described by some as authoritarian.[102][103][104][105]

Susceptibility to American lobbyismEdit

In January 2019, Bulgarian President and former Air Force Commander Rumen Radev levied heavy criticism against Borisov, saying he "perverted" the tender for the acquisition of new fighter jets intended to replace its ageing MiG-29s.[106] Potential replacements were Eurofighter Typhoons, Saab Gripens, Lockheed Martin F-16s or Boeing F-18s. In December 2018, Borisov's government decided to buy F-16s, ignoring four out of the seven criteria of the tender and exceeding the financial framework. President Radev called this a "triple blow against Bulgaria," adding that the Americans should realise they only won the tender via lobbyism.[106]

"I insisted that the [tender] procedure and financial framework be respected, which guarantees the best choice, no matter which aircraft it would be. The government did the opposite – they announced the winner in breach of their own rules and those of the Parliament, and even committed to pay an enormous amount. [...] How can we expect winning the respect of Europe and the world, if we don’t respect our own laws and rules?"

— Rumen Radev, 6 January 2019

Image controversy and popular protestEdit

In June 2020, photographs emerged that purported to show what appeared to be Prime Minister Borisov laying half-naked on a bed, next to a nightstand featuring a handgun and stacks of euro banknotes. Borisov confirmed that the room in which the photos were taken was his, but denied the gun and money, stating that the images could have been manipulated. Borisov accused President Rumen Radev of flying a consumer drone into his residence in order to take the pictures. He also accused former Ombudswoman Maya Manolova, TV star Slavi Trifonov and his own former second in command Tsvetan Tsvetanov (who had just left and condemned the ruling party) of involvement in a plot to take photos of him while he was sleeping in a "KGB-Style" kompromat operation. Radev condemned the leaks and called it an "insane" invasion of the prime minister's privacy. He added that he owns a drone, but that the accusation that he personally piloted it into the prime minister's residence to take pictures was part of Borisov's "fantasy and paranoia".[107][108][109][110] A leaked audio recording was also posted on the internet, in which a voice that strongly resembled Borisov's spoke in very brass tones and insulted a member of the national assembly, as well as various European leaders.[111][112][113] These scandals, along with an intrusion by the Chief Prosecutor into the Bulgarian Presidency triggred the 2020 Bulgarian protests that sought the resignations of Borisov, his government and the chief prosecutor.

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Bibliography
Lilov, Grigor (2013). Най-богатите българи (1st ed.). Sofia: "Кайлас" ЕООД. ISBN 978-954-92098-9-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Stefan Sofiyanski
Mayor of Sofia
2005–2009
Succeeded by
Yordanka Fandakova
Preceded by
Sergei Stanishev
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
2009–2013
Succeeded by
Marin Raykov
Preceded by
Georgi Bliznashki
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
2014–2017
Succeeded by
Ognyan Gerdzhikov
Preceded by
Ognyan Gerdzhikov
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
2017–present
Incumbent