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Cabinet of change: Prime Minister Boiko Borissov's Cabinet is new in more than one way, its message of change accompanied by a slew of new faces. The Sofia Echo takes a look at the new Bulgarian Government.

Simeon Dyankov (39)--Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister

Dyankov returns to Bulgaria after 14 years with the World Bank, where he rose through the ranks to chief economist with the finance and private sector vice-presidency. He met Borissov for the first time in February 2009, but two months later was already brought on board as the head of the GERB economics and finance team, but did not stand for Parliament. Dyankov has a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a undergraduate degree from the University of National and World Economy (UNWE) in Sofia. The author of World Bank's annual Doing Business report, he is also one of the co-founders of the ideas42 think-tank, a joint venture between Harvard University and the International Finance Corporation. He said his policy priorities would be dealing with the economic recession, reducing red tape and a rapid accession to the eurozone.


Traicho Traikov (39)--Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister

Traikov was the most unexpected pick in Borissov's Cabinet line-up and its biggest unknown. The former receiver in two utility companies that Austria's EVN owns in Bulgaria, Traikov is a graduate of UNWE and has a post-graduate diploma from the Controller Akademie in Gauting, Germany. Traikov told Kapital weekly that he met Borissov for the first time just a few days before his nomination, but said that he did not want to pass on the opportunity to "do something for my country." His priorities will be pursuing energy independence policies and improving the business climate.


Roumyana Zheleva (40)--Foreign Minister

Zheleva holds degrees in sociology from the Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and the Otto von Guericke Universitat in Germany. Elected to the European Parliament in 2007 on the GERB ticket, she was deputy floor leader of the European People's Party group and secured a second term as an MEP at the June 2009 elections. Zheleva is widely expected to be nominated by Borissov as Bulgaria's next European Commissioner. As Foreign Minister, her main priorities will be to enhance Bulgaria's participation in the drafting of EU policies, strengthening Bulgaria's leadership position in the Balkans and the Black Sea region, and pursuing closer economic ties with EU neighbours.


Tsvetan Tsvetanov (44)--Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister

Tsvetanov is often described as Borissov's most trusted lieutenant. He joined the Interior Ministry in 19 87 and was one of Borissov's deputies when Borissov was chief secretary of the ministry in 2001/05. After Borissov left the ministry and won the Sofia mayoral by-election, Tsvetanov became deputy mayor for public order and security. When Borissov was barred from heading the party he founded, GERB, because he was mayor of Sofia, Tsvetanov took his place as the official leader. Tsvetanov has a degree in law from UNWE and has attended numerous taught courses in the US, Spain and Hungary. With the European Commission once again criticising Bulgaria, in a report published just days before the new Cabinet took office, for insufficient efforts to tackle corruption, Tsvetanov said his main priority would be to streamline the law enforcement apparatus and improve the standards of police officers' work.


Margarita Popova (53)--Justice Minister

A law graduate of Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and a prosecutor since 1990, Popova has previously headed the Sofia District Prosecution before joining the staff of Prosecutor-General Boris Velchev in 2006. In September 2008, she was appointed to head the special unit with the Supreme Prosecution of Cassation that targeted European Union funds fraud, whose work was praised by the EC in its latest report on the Bulgarian judiciary. Popova is yet to outline her concrete policy proposals, but said that her goal would be strengthening the judiciary, which the same EC report identified as a weak link in Bulgaria's fight against graft.


Nikolai Mladenov (37)--Defence Minister

Mladenov started his political career with the Union of Democratic Forces, serving as party spokesperson in 2002/04 and deputy leader in 2004/05. He resigned in 2005 and later joined GERB, winning an MEP seat in the 2007 elections. Formerly the programme director ofthe Open Society Institute in Sofia and a programme co-ordinator at the World Bank, he was a World Bank adviser in 2005/07. He holds degrees in international relations from UNWE and King's College London. Mladenov has not outlined his policy priorities, but said he would work to fulfil GERB's campaign promises and said he would pursue greater transparency in the ministry's work.


Alexander Tsvetkov (41)--Transport, IT and Communications Minister

Tsvetkov is one of Borissov's two deputy mayors that will make the transition to Cabinet ministers. He holds a degree in international economic relations from UNWE and transport infrastructure from the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia. He rose through the city hall ranks and was appointed deputy mayor for transport and communications in September 2008. Tsvetkov's area of expertise is road construction and he is expected to be involved in fulfilling Borissov's campaign promise to step up work on much-delayed highways, but the new minister's immediate priority will be persuading the EC to unfreeze funding for transport infrastructure projects.


Totyu Mladenov (45)--Labour and Social Policy Minister

Mladenov is a graduate of the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia, but is known better for his work in the Podkrepa labour union and as head of the Chief Labour Inspectorate in 2002/07. He was elected mayor of his native town of Vratsa in northwestern Bulgaria in 2007 on the GERB ticket. Mladenov said his top priority will be to stem job losses and then lowering unemployment, but also improving dialogue between labour unions, employer organisations and the Government, which broke down in the last year of the previous cabinet's term.


Miroslav Naidenov (40)--Agriculture and Food Industry Minister

Naidenov is a veterinary doctor and the former head of Bulgaria's national veterinary service, most recently the head of the Sofia municipal veterinary firm. Naidenov said his immediate priority was to regain the trust of European institutions and unfreezing EU structural funds, cleaning up the ministry's image, which is now perceived as the most corrupt ministry in Bulgaria. Corruption in agriculture was so rampant that it distorted reality, he said. Naidenov had little time to get used to office before the latest EU anti-fraud office team arrived in Sofia on July 29.


Bozhidar Nanev (46)--Healthcare Minister

Nanev is a surgeon and a graduate of the Varna Medical University, splitting his time between the Sveta Marina university hospital and the paediatric ward of the Paraskev Stoyanov university hospital in Varna. He was elected the head of the Varna medical college in 2008 and has chaired the Bulgarian Medical Union since January 2009. Nanev said he would work to reform the existing healthcare insurance model, but said that sweeping change would take time to accomplish.


Vezhdi Rashidov (58)--Culture Minister

Rashidov has won wide acclaim, both at home and abroad, for his work as a sculptor and was part of an advisory council on cultural affairs to former president Petar Stoyanov. He was previously a Sofia city councillor and was elected to Parliament on the GERB ticket from the Kurdjali district, becoming the first MP from a party other than the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms to win a seat there in several legislatures.


Rossen Plevneliev (45)--Regional Development Minister

Plevneliev is a graduate of the Technical University in Sofia and a successful construction entrepreneur. He established his first company in 1990, working as a subcontractor for German's Lindner, and set up Lindner Bulgaria in 19g8. The company's biggest project was the construction of Business Park Sofia, which Plevneliev managed until his Cabinet appointment. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Confederation of the Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria. Plevneliev's top priorities will be completing work on three major highways--Trakiya, Hemus and Lyulin--and speeding up work on the Strouma and Maritsa highways, as well as restructuring the National Road Infrastructure Agency.


Yordanka Fandukova (47)--Education, Youth and Science Minister

Fandukova is a graduate of the Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and a former high-school principal. Since 2005, she has served as Borissov's deputy for culture, education and sport in the Sofia city hall. She will take over one of the most problematic portfolios, less than two years after large teacher strikes and with public opinion in favour of continued reforms. Fandukova said she would pursue long-term policies meant to improve the situation beyond the term of the current Cabinet and would work with labour unions, non-governmental organisations and parent unions to improve the quality of education in Bulgaria.


Nona Karadjova (49)--Environment and Water Affairs Minister

Karadjova has a degree in economics from UNWE and had only met Borissov for the first time days before her nomination. She was the head of the strategy and EU integration directorate at the ministry under two previous governments--Ivan Kostov's and Simeon Saxe-Coburg's--and was heavily involved in EU accession negotiations on chapter Environment. Karadjova returns to the ministry after a four-year absence, during which she worked as a private consultant, and said it was a difficult decision because the expectations were very high, but is yet to outline her policy priorities.


Svilen Neikov (44)--Sports Minister

The ministry was re-established after being demoted to the status of a state agency in the previous cabinet. Neikov is a graduate of the National Sports Academy, where he is now an assistant professor. He is best known as the head coach of the national rowing team and spouse of Roumyana Neikova, who won Bulgaria's sole gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His main priorities will be improving grass-roots sports facilities and reforming the Bulgarian State Lottery.


Bozhidar Dimitrov (63)--Minister without portfolio

Dimitrov is a former sailor and diver who later pursued a degree in history at the Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski. The erstwhile head of the National History Museum will be responsible for Bulgarians abroad. Dimitrov recently quit his membership in the Bulgarian Socialist Party and ran for Parliament on the GERB ticket. Dimitrov is no stranger to stirring controversy and his appointment rankled rightist parties, who objected his nomination because of reports that he had worked with communist-era state security.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Reading room
Author:Bivol, Alex
Publication:The Sofia Echo (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Geographic Code:0BANK
Date:Jul 31, 2009
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