Bulgarian PM speaks out on ‘race’ between deputy prime ministers

Bulgarian PM speaks out on ‘race’ between deputy prime ministers

After days in which Bulgaria was confronted with the spectacle of its two prime ministers exchanging barbed comments about the country's customs service, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov sought to describe the episode as "constructive" and as part of a race between the two to see who can do the most against contraband. The bone of contention has been the Customs Agency, which reports to Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Simeon Dyankov, and which has been targeted for criticism by Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Some Bulgarian-language media have sought to portray the saga as part of a contest between Tsvetanov, seen in opinion polls as close to Borissov in the higher strata of popularity, and Dyankov, low in popularity and supposedly alienated from his Cabinet colleagues - with the ultimate goal being the ouster of Dyankov from the Cabinet. Compounding the drama has been Dyankov's hard line, spelt out in several public statements, pushing his fellow Cabinet ministers to cut spending in line with Bulgaria's measures against the economic crisis - with the Interior Ministry as among those he has named as needing to continue its downsizing process. Tsvetanov, long Borissov's right-hand-man and even named as a possible presidential candidate for Borissov's party GERB, has hit out at the Customs Agency as unable to cope against smuggling of contraband. Dyankov has defended the agency and its chief, Vanyo Tanov, saying that the most recent operations against smuggling of contraband cigarettes and illegal drugs have been met with praise, even from abroad. Interviewed by Bulgarian-language mass-circulation daily Trud, Dyankov said that the recriminations being traded by the Customs Agency and Interior Ministry should stop, and all concerned should get on with their jobs. Duma, a daily closely aligned to the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, interpreted Dyankov's message to the Interior Ministry as: "shut up". Speaking to journalists on June 8 2010, Borissov said that the exchanges between Dyankov and Tsvetanov were to the state's benefit. Borissov said that he had told Parliament that the fight against contraband would be stepped up, and this had resulted in a race to see who could score the most successes. Against the background of Dyankov's reported advice to the Interior Ministry to do less talking and more work, Borissov said that the Interior Ministry got a lot of coverage on Bulgaria's morning television shows because of the successes it scored. "I see no harm in that. Do you want to stop them (the Interior Ministry) appearing on breakfast television?" Dnevnik quoted Borissov as saying. Borissov said that in the end, he would judge who had won the race to confiscate more contraband which, in any case, was a race that served a constructive purpose.

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