Bulgarian finance chief gets mandate as Russia tensions soar

Jun 30, 2022, 9:05 PM | Updated: Jul 1, 2022, 9:51 am

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s president on Friday handed the mandate to try and form a new government to the country’s finance minister, four days after pro-Western reformist Kiril Petkov resigned following a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Asen Vassilev, from Petkov’s We Continue the Change party, now has seven days to try to end the European Union and NATO member’s latest political crisis amid soaring tensions with Russia.

Before handing over the mandate Friday, President Roumen Radev warned that Bulgaria “is in a political, economic and social crisis.”

“I expect adequate solutions and the defense of the national interest to build a free, democratic and prosperous European Bulgaria,” he added.

The Harvard-educated Vassilev must submit his proposed cabinet for approval to President Radev, and would then face a confidence vote in the 240-seat Parliament. So far, he has secured support from one of Petkov’s former coalition partners, but would need much broader backing to obtain a parliamentary majority.

Petkov’s minority government lost a no-confidence motion on June 22 that was filed by the center-right GERB main opposition party. GERB accused him of poor budgetary and economic policy. Petkov had previously lost his majority after a junior partner quit his four-party coalition over similar concerns.

Vassilev was given the mandate instead of Petkov, whose party had won the most votes in last December’s elections, because another of Petkov’s former junior partners ruled out backing him due to a dispute with Russia.

This week, Bulgaria ordered the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomatic staff from Bulgaria, exacerbating tensions between the two historically close nations.

Petkov, who took a strong stance against Russia after it invaded Ukraine on 24. Feb, has claimed Moscow used “hybrid war” tactics to bring down his government.

Russia’s ambassador to Sofia, Eleonora Mitrofanova, appealed Friday to Bulgaria to reverse the expulsion decision, and later threatened that Moscow would fully sever diplomatic ties.

“I intend to urgently raise before the leadership of my country the issue of the closure of the Embassy of Russia in Bulgaria, which will inevitably lead to the closure of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow,” she said in a statement.

The EU on Friday called Russia’s response an “unjustified threat” and said it “stands in full support and solidarity with Bulgaria.”

In 2021, Bulgaria held three separate general elections, lurching from one political crisis to another.

More than three decades after communism ended in Bulgaria, it is ranked the most corrupt country in Europe, and is the EU’s poorest member.

Daniel Smilov, a political science professor at the University of Sofia, said a government under Vassilev “would be the same politics, the same type of government, (with) the same ideas” as Petkov’s.

“If (Vassilev doesn’t) succeed with the first mandate to form a government, the second party is GERB … (but) they have already said they are not going to attempt because they are pretty much in isolation in this parliament,” he told The Associated Press.

“Overall I would say the country is moving towards a mid-term election.”


McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania; Jonathan Stearns in Brussels, contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Eugene and Linda Lamie, of Homerville, Ga., sit by the grave of their son U.S. Army Sgt. Gene Lamie...

Associated Press

Biden on Memorial Day lauds generations of fallen US troops who ‘dared all and gave all’

President Joe Biden lauded the sacrifice of generations of U.S. troops who died fighting for their country as he marked Memorial Day with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

1 day ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

2 days ago

File - Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, left, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman arrive to the White House for a ...

Associated Press

Regulators take aim at AI to protect consumers and workers

As concerns grow over increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the nation’s financial watchdog says it’s working to ensure that companies follow the law when they’re using AI.

4 days ago

FILE - A security surveillance camera is seen near the Microsoft office building in Beijing, July 2...

Associated Press

Microsoft: State-sponsored Chinese hackers could be laying groundwork for disruption

State-backed Chinese hackers have been targeting U.S. critical infrastructure and could be laying the technical groundwork for the potential disruption of critical communications between the U.S. and Asia during future crises, Microsoft said Wednesday.

5 days ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, May 17, 2023, in Washington....

Associated Press

White House unveils new efforts to guide federal research of AI

The White House on Tuesday announced new efforts to guide federally backed research on artificial intelligence

6 days ago

FILE - The Capitol stands in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED...

Associated Press

What it would mean for the economy if the US defaults on its debt

If the debt crisis roiling Washington were eventually to send the United States crashing into recession, America’s economy would hardly sink alone.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Bulgarian finance chief gets mandate as Russia tensions soar