The state opened the official entrance of the Council of Ministers for the head of the Association of Parks, Toma Belev, and the chair of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), Krasimir Kanev. Both of them had angered repeatedly large groups in the Bulgarian society. The latest scandals were caused by an antisemitic statement of the green activist and BHC’s protection for the Australian citizen Jock Palfreeman who was sentenced for the murder of a Bulgarian university student and released early. Along with them, many NGO’s relying on grant funding that support the Istanbul Convention are entering solemnly the CM.
These are the chosen who will determine the policy and strategies for development of civil society in Bulgaria for the next several years. The names of the organizations and their most notable representatives show that these are usually well-known faces from the most active protests on the yellow pavement. They will decide which projects to fund and which not. Belev, Kanev and co will also allocate state money for support of the sector, roughly about BGN 60 – 70 million, as estimated by Blitz. A total of 14 NGOs were selected to participate in the new governmental Civil Society Development Council under the leadership of the deputy prime minister Tomislav Donchev.
About 160 non-governmental organizations applied for participation in the council, while the procedure itself passed quietly and unnoticeably due to the coronavirus state of emergency. In the timelessness of the epidemic, from April 28 to May 13, the voting was underway and, as a result, the first 14 places were occupied by the most powerful NGOs, usually emerging from circles close to Soros and Prokopiev.
Among the ranked there are at least eight NGOs, including BHC, that support the Istanbul Conventions and have been pressing for years for its adoption. These are the Bulgarian Donors Forum, the Bulgarian Fund for Women, BHC, For Our Children Foundation, Teach for Bulgaria Foundation, Karin Dom, Maria’s World and the Parents Association which recently sparked a scandal by trying to push the Ministry of Education and Science, on behalf of all parents in Bulgaria, to let the children back in class early, in the middle of the pandemic. The council that will be serviced by a secretariat at the Council of Ministers, also includes the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) whose chair Irina Nedeva works at the Bulgarian National Radio and, at the same time, is among the founders of the favourite place for debates of the Capital circle: the Red House, which the former minister of culture, Vezhdi Rashidov, refused to sell to them. The list also includes the Workshop for Civic Initiatives, the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism, the Bulgarian Centre for Not-For-Profit Law and the only traditional organization that has proven itself through the decades, the Bulgarian Red Cross.
The 15th member of this NGO council is its chair Tomislav Donchev. Officially all members of the Civil Society Development Council are volunteering their work and shall not be remunerated for it. They, however, will distribute the grants from the state budget to the NGO sector and will prepare the strategy for development of the civil society in line with their own convictions. It will be in their power to give opinions on the legislation and draft plans and strategies, along with the financing of the non-governmental sector with state money.