Thursday

3rd Dec 2020

Bulgarian government to resign amid austerity protests

  • PM Borisov, a former bodyguard, has resigned over police brutality (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Bulgaria's centre-right government tendered its resignation on Wednesday (20 February) after days of street protests against rising electricity prices. The move is the latest in a series of EU governments stepping down amid public anger over austerity and mismanagement, in countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Romania.

"The people gave us power and today we are returning it," Prime Minister Bojko Borisov said when making the surprise announcement in parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Just a day earlier, Borisov had firmly stated he would not step down, even as protests grew wider and the focus shifted from utility companies and electricity bills to the government itself.

Sacking the finance minister and withdrawing the licence of a Czech power firm, CEZ, also failed to appease the crowds.

On Tuesday evening clashes between pockets of violent protesters and police put at least 14 people in hospital. Images of protesters covered in blood shocked the Bulgarian public.

In his snap speech in the parliament on Wednesday, Borisov said the main reason for his cabinet's resignation is to put an end to violence.

"I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people. Every drop of blood is a shame for us," he told MPs.

The resignation still has to be validated by the Bulgarian parliament, with Borisov's majority indicating it will vote in favour.

Early elections could then take place in May or June, even though regular parliamentary elections were due in July. The President will give the main political groups a mandate to form an interim government once the parliament approves the resignation. Borisov may stay on as head of a caretaker government.

An European Commission spokeswoman on Wednesday said "a democratic process has started in Bulgaria and we respect that. It is up to the Bulgarian parliament to decide on the next steps."

Borisov, a former bodyguard of Bulgaria's Communist-era leader Todor Zhivkov, came to power in 2009 on an anti-mafia ticket. But his heavy-handed approach, combined with intransigent poverty - Bulgaria is the EU's poorest country - corruption and mafia killings have dented his popularity.

The drop that filled the glass was rising electricity costs in a country where people rely on electric heaters to warm up their flats during the cold winter months.

Average salaries of around €400 a month have not increased in years.

For its part, the EU commission recently praised Borisov's government for curbing the public deficit and putting a freeze on pensions and wages, with Bulgaria one of the few EU countries to stick to the deficit rule of three percent of GDP.

Similar to neighbouring Romania, where anti-austerity protests toppled a centre-right government last year and led to a landslide victory for the centre-left, Bulgaria may see a change of power after the upcoming vote.

But the people's disappointment in the political elite, whether this or that camp, is set to linger.

Feature

Bulgaria's winter of discontent

Huge protests in Bulgaria in the past 17 days stem from a deep political crisis that goes well beyond economic discontent and creates uncertainty for the future of the country.

Germany asks capitals to give a little in EU budget impasse

European Parliament negotiators are demanding €39bn in new funding for EU programmes such as Horizon research and Erasmus, in talks with the German EU presidency on the budget. Meanwhile, rule-of-law enforcement negotiations have only just begun.

EU budget talks suspended in fight for new funds

MEPs are requesting additional, new funding of €39bn for 15 EU programs. The German presidency argues that budget ceilings, agreed by EU leaders at a marathon summit in July, will be impossible to change without a new leaders' meeting.

News in Brief

  1. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing dies from Covid-19 complications
  2. Belgium expelled 15,000 EU nationals in recent years
  3. Centre-right EU lawmakers want to kick out Fidesz MEP
  4. Slovak journalist's killer gets longer sentence
  5. Egyptian leader embarks on 'execution spree'
  6. Covid-19: UK first to approve Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  7. Car kills five people in German town's pedestrian zone
  8. UK warns no-deal Brexit still possible

Budget deal struck, with Hungary threat still hanging

Ultimately, the European Parliament managed to squeeze an extra €16bn in total - which will be financed with competition fines the EU Commission hands out over the next seven years, plus reallocations within the budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. EU keen to repair damage of Trump years
  2. Szájer 'sex party' coverage shows Orbán's media control
  3. EU commission mulls ways round Hungary-Poland block
  4. Revealed: Hit to EU mental health services during Covid-19
  5. MEPs seek parliament inquiry into Frontex
  6. Erdoğan to face human rights scrutiny next week, EU says
  7. 2020 Prague European Summit: 'Real solutions, acting together'
  8. Nationwide protests reveal awakening of Poland's youth

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us