Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government was shaken during the
year by a series of corruption scandals among leading
politicians. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov found himself forced
to dismiss several ministers, but still his reputation was
hurt by the scandals, which probably diminished his chances
of success in the 2001 parliamentary elections.
One of the ministers who got fired was Aleksander Boskov,
who was the negotiating leader in the negotiations with the
EU. In the vernacular he was called "Mr. Ten Percent"
because he demanded commission for himself every time he put
his name under a piece of paper. Another scandal surfaced
when it was revealed that the Bulgarian counterpart to
Swedish SÄPO had intercepted several leading politicians'
COUNTRYAAH, corruption is a major problem, and this was also
highlighted in an EU report on Bulgaria in November. There,
customs officials, judicial officials, university teachers
and public servants are identified as the most corrupt
The report notes that some progress has been made to
improve the lives of the Roma (gypsies), who make up 5% of
the population and live in extreme poverty and distress.
Bulgaria reached macroeconomic stabilization, and it
seemed that the economy was slowly moving upwards. But
households' purchasing power was still only one fifth of the
EU average, and many families had to go through a winter
again when they had to choose between going hungry or
turning off the central heating.
Bulgaria had been aiming to become a member of the EU in
2006 when it was felt that all membership requirements would
be met. Among other things, had concluded an agreement with
the European Commission that the two oldest of the six
reactors at the Kozlodui nuclear power plant will be shut
down before 2003. When two more will be shut down in 2002.
The reactors are of old Soviet model, but the plant is
important for the Bulgarians because it supplies half of the
country with electricity. Although the already poor
Bulgarians knew they had to go through an economic steel
bath to join the EU, the majority wanted membership.
The strong opposition to cooperation with NATO, which
reached its peak during the bombings of Yugoslavia in the
spring and summer of 1999, has subsided, and the Bulgarians
generally feel impatient that the road to NATO feels long.
The Swedish royal couple scheduled their state visit to
Bulgaria in November, despite grief due to the death of
Danish widow queen Ingrid. To mark the grief, the Swedish
delegation dressed in black.