February 24, 2010
Bulgarian agriculture minister Miroslav Naydenov described the ‘swaps’ as “the biggest theft” in Bulgaria’s tormented transition from communism to a market economy.
I agree with him.
Under the so-called ‘swaps’, local authorities authorise the exchange of privately-owned low-rated land with state-owned parcels located in the most attractive tourist locations.
Those who benefited from the scheme were usually close to the government, and the average profit rate from the operation is estimated at 1 vs. 100. Some of the profits from ‘swaps’ have reportedly been used to fill party slush funds.
The swaps would have gone unnoticed in Brussels had the European Commission not considered some 300 such operations as unauthorised state aid and threatened to impose huge fines on Bulgaria. Sofia is still putting in place a strategy to respond to Brussels, as the fine may amount to 750 million if all the ‘swaps’ since the country’s accession are examined.
What I would like to see is the list of those who benefited from the ‘swaps’, with their names. Some of my colleagues in Bulgaria are trying to obtain it. Without success so far.Georgi Gotev