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Bulgaria plans to sack diplomats who were communist spies

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has called for 45 top diplomats to be sacked after it was revealed they had worked as agents for the secret police under communist rule.

The secret services in Bulgaria

Half of Bulgaria's EU diplomats are former spies

The Bulgarian government said on Wednesday it would seek to recall 45 top diplomats after a commission revealed they had worked for the secret police under communist rule.

A historical commission, which was given the task of examining the archives of the former secret police, found that a number of diplomats, including the current Bulgarian ambassadors in London, Berlin, Rome, Geneva, Madrid, Tokyo and Moscow had collaborated with the former Darzhavna Sigurnost security service before the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1990.

"Imagine these agents in western European countries. They once worked against them as ideological enemies and now they are representing our government there," Prime Minister Boiko Borisov told reporters.

"My opinion is that we have to part with these people and I suppose my party will back me up."

Collaboration with secret intelligence services remains a sensitive issue throughout the former communist bloc. But Bulgaria has been among the last to confront its communist past.

Boyko Borisov

The Bulgarian Prime Minister wants to get rid of former spies

Half of EU diplomats are former agents

The strongly anti-Communist Blue Coalition bloc said it was "shameful" that half of Bulgaria's ambassadors to European Union countries spied for the Communists.

Once an obedient ally of Moscow, Bulgaria had a notorious network of spies before the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Bulgarian secret police was implicated in plots ranging from a failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II to the killing of an exiled dissident in London with a poison-tipped umbrella.

The Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said it was "absolutely unacceptable" that so many embassies were still led by former intelligence agents.

A drive for more transparency

In 2006, the Bulgarian government passed legislation to open the archives of the former secret police, but the measure does not oblige former agents to quit their current posts. Those who collaborated with the police are free to apply for positions in the civil service, or for political office.

spy hole

A number of diplomats had received KGB training

The government will appeal to President Georgi Parvanov, who appoints ambassadors, to recall the former agents, Mladenov told reporters.

He said the government would also propose legal changes to prevent former agents from getting diplomatic appointments.

Prominent suspects

The commission says information it has come across also shows Parvanov himself may have worked for the pre-1990 secret police.

Parvanov has said he wrote a book review for a man who later turned out to be an agent, but has denied he was ever a collaborator himself.

The commission found that 45 percent of the 462 former and current diplomats who have served since the fall of communism in 1989, had been agents.

Analysts say former KGB-trained Bulgarian officers and their informants have used skills learned working for the secret police to take top positions in government, business and Bulgaria's powerful underworld.

"If half of our ambassadors were agents, imagine what the situation is within the country," Prime Minister Borisov said. "We have certainly underestimated the heavy damage which the former Darzhavna Sigurnost has dealt to the state."

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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