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Sergey Dmitrievich Stanishev

Sergei Dmitrievich Stanishev served as Prime Minister of Bulgaria from 2005 to 2009. Sergey Dmitrievich Stanishev entered the political scene in 1995 as chief expert at the Foreign Policy and International Affairs Department of BSP. Stanishev was elected chairman of the BSP Supreme Council on December 15, 2001, after Purvanov's election as president. Stanishev is the fourth leader since the Bulgarian Communist Party reinvented itself as the BSP. He is affable and media-friendly, and enjoys a largely positive public image, although his lack of experience was often raised as a weakness. As leader of the BSP parliamentary group in the previous parliament, he was a strong supporter of membership in the EU and NATO. He speaks English and Russian very well.

Sergei Stanishev obtained his Candidate Degree (PhD-equivalent) in 1994 from Moscow State University in the field of history. In 1998, he specialized in political sciences at Moscow School of Political Studies. He was a visiting fellow in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1999-2000. He also worked as a freelance journalist.

In 1995 he became a staff member in the Foreign Affairs Department of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). He was Chief of Foreign Policy and International Relations for the BSP from 1996 to 2001. In May 2000 he was elected a Member of the BSP Supreme Council and Member of the Executive Bureau. In June 2001, he entered politics when he was elected as a member of the Bulgarian National Assembly. In December 2001 Stanishev was elected Chairman of the BSP at the party's Congress, and also Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Coalition for Bulgaria . In the general election of June, 2005, Stanishev was re-elected to the National Assembly and shortly afterwards he was elected as Prime Minister of a coalition government led by the BSP, a position he held until 2009. At an extraordinary session of parliament on 16 August 2005, the largest coalition in Bulgaria's post-communist history approved the nomination of Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev as prime minister. Stanishev was backed by MPs from a three-party coalition of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the National Movement for Simeon II (NMSS) and the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF). Following the PM vote, parliament approved with two separate ballots the structure of the new government and the cabinet line-up. The center-right United Democratic Forces (UDF), Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSP) and Bulgaria People's Union (BPU), joined by Ataka, all opposed the Stanishev government.

Sergey Dmitrievich Stanishev was a 39-year old Moscow-educated historian, whose only non-political experience was as a freelance journalist. He is affable and media-friendly, and enjoys a largely positive public image, but is seen by some as lacking authority and experience. As leader of the BSP parliamentary group in the previous parliament, he was a strong supporter of membership in the EU and NATO.

Stanishev carried the additional burden of being a relative newcomer to high-stakes politics, having been plucked from near obscurity by former BSP leader Georgi Parvanov when Parvanov won the 2000 presidential election. Stanishev himself is unpretentious. His personal wealth consisted of an 1800 square-foot apartment where his mother lived and "a one-sixth share of a 1986 Mazda" left by his father. His income for 2005 was approximately BGN 20,000 (USD 13,000). Even his harshest critics do not question his personal integrity or his intelligence.

Stanishev's knowledge of the EU accession process and its implications for Bulgaria was encyclopedic. This familiarity with European institutions and policymakers gave him credibility in Brussels, allowing him to push back when he felt the Commission was unfairly holding Bulgaria to a higher standard than the ten previous new members. Nor should Stanishev's political skills be underestimated. He used the accession process to bind together his three-party coalition and push needed reforms through parliament. His decision to appoint as Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski, a technocrat closely associated with the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, took political courage and showed that he was capable of putting Bulgaria's interests above the interests of his party.

The three-party coalition government that emerged from the inconclusive June 2005 elections showed itself to be a predictable partner for the U.S. in the ten months it has been in office. In fact, the continuity of this government's policies, following on those of its predecessor, has been remarkable. Despite pre-election fears, Bulgaria's Socialist-led government is still in Iraq, it has signed and ratified a Defense Cooperation Agreement with the U.S., and Stanishev -- despite having been born in the Soviet Union and having a Russian mother -- appeared no closer to Moscow than was Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha. Add to this a strengthened commitment in Afghanistan, a relatively robust military presence in the Western Balkans and continuing strong intelligence cooperation -- especially in the GWOT -- and the sum total is a government that has defied expectations -- and to some extent its own electoral base -- to prove itself a worthy international partner.

The government's economic policies have also remained quite liberal. Stanishev's government negotiated with the IMF an extension of the Stand-By Agreement that will carry Bulgaria though its planned EU accession in January 2007. It did not scrap the Currency Board, as some had feared, leaving its monetary policy de facto in the hands of the European Central Bank. And it continues to run a budget surplus, despite squeals from the Left for more social spending. Though more dependent on Russian energy than any other post-communist state in Europe, this government recognizes, at least in principle, the need for diversification.

This continuity in foreign affairs and macroeconomic policy was in part due to the presence in the government of the former ruling party as well as its junior coalition partner. The participation of the centrist National Movement Simeon II (NMSS) and the mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) undoubtedly had a stabilizing influence on coalition policies. But the performance of the government shows clearly that the Socialist Party itself has also changed: a new generation of young technocrats has begun to replace the older generation of aparatchiks left over from the Bulgarian Communist Party.

Stanishev personified the reform-minded wing of the BSP. Especially on economic policy, the Socialists have also had to accommodate themselves to the new realities of globalization; they simply cannot afford a repeat of disastrous policies of the previous BSP government, which ten years ago led the country to the brink of economic ruin. As Stanishev said before the election, the Socialists "cannot afford another failed government."

In spite of the burdens placed on him by his own party and a political system that seemingly can be changed only at glacial speed, Stanishev has shown himself to be a capable leader and a dedicated reformer. He successfully kept his government focused on its top priority of early membership in the European Union, with all of the complex internal changes that goal entails.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:22 ZULU