FOUR HUNDRED SKY-DIVERS WILL BE TOO MANY EVEN FOR THE CUSTOMS
Once in a while Bulgarian rulers decide to promote some of their great ideas in the public. Customs are the last to suffer from the wit of the ministers and mostly of the Minister of Defence, Nikolay Svinarov. At the height of the election campaign the Head of the Ministry of Defence and Deputy Chairman of the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) announced that 400 military men in the reserve would start working as... customs officials by end-June. That's how he found a pragmatic way to solve the social and everyday problems of the former soldiers. Instead of living with a modest pension, the military in the reserve will be driving luxurious cars and will be living in large apartments just like many customs officers do.In fact, tactics of this kind should not come as a great surprise. During the mandate of the incumbent Cabinet, nearly BGN70MN was paid from the Treasury to 17 foreign experts from Crown Agents under the two agreements they signed with the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance. But the results of the agents' work obviously appeared suspicious to the Minister of Defence, so he decided that the military in the reserve would set the things in order and eradicate corruption along the borders of the country. In order to make it look as real as possible, NMSII Deputy Chairman declared that concrete negotiations had already been led with the management of the Customs Agency about the implementation of the idea. Although officers in the customs headquarters in Sofia confirmed his statement, they are sceptical about the usefulness of the proposal.Actually, the military interference in the customs activities contradicts both the sound reasoning and the legal basis operating in Bulgaria. Even the most uneducated person knows that it is impossible for a man who has exerted himself in drill and fire for many years to learn the customs legislation in details within a few weeks. What is more, the amendments to the State Official Act, adopted by the National Assembly in the autumn of 2003 stipulated that a competition should obligatorily be invited for entering into state service or passing from one administration to another. We should also remember that before they get a seal and begin to work, newly-appointed customs officials must go through a three-month training course in the Preparation Centre at the Sofia Airport.Even if we ignore all these hindrances, Minister Svinarov's intentions are still in absolute disharmony with the commitments taken under the Customs Union Chapter to the European Union (EU). As soon as Bulgaria joins the EU in 2007, the currently acting control over the import of goods from Greece and Romania will be abolished. In practice, it means that all customs stations and establishments along the Danube river as well as those at Kulata, Petrich, and Novo Selo, will be closed. According to the Customs Agency Director Assen Assenov, the application of that measure will result in significant redundancies. So far Assenov's team has not announced officially how many customs officers will have to leave the system. According to unofficial information, future redundancies will concern between 20 and 40% (from 800 to 1,600 people) of the nearly 4,000 officers working at present. So it will be a little strange, if 400 military sky-divers are dropped in the customs.One possibility is to appoint them after the so called excise warehouses are established in 2006. However, the Parliament should adopt the respective legislation for that purpose.The only reinforcement of the Customs Agency in the current year took place in March. Twenty-five people (of which 18 women) signed their employment agreements with Assen Assenov after a special competition. The future inspectors will work at the Lessovo station on the Turkish border. According to preliminary information, the station will be launched by the Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and his Turkish colleague Rejeb Erdogan by the end of June.