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Protests continue as Bulgarian cabinet resigns
February 21, 2013, 11:48 pm

Outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Boirsov speaking to supporters in Sofia, Bulgaria [Xinhua]

Outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov speaking to supporters in Sofia, Bulgaria [Xinhua]

Massive anti-austerity street protests continued for the third day as Bulgaria’s deadlock over choosing a new government worsened.

The government of prime minister Boiko Borisov resigned on Wednesday in the face of high utility costs and declining living standards.

Borisov, who was earlier championed as a reformer that built highways and modernised Bulgaria’s economic system toward capitalism is now blamed for being unable to tackle the persistently high unemployment rate, and combat poverty.

Bulgaria, an EU member since 2001, has an average monthly salary of 400 euros a month.

Last week, Bulgaria announced that it would delay applying for entry into the eurozone for the second consecutive year as economic forecasts for the 17-member bloc were dismal.

“If I start the path of entry, I don’t know exactly what I’m entering,” Simeon Djankov, Bulgaria’s then finance minister, said at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, last week.

Bulgaria’s woes appear to mimic those of Greece and Spain.

Earlier in January, the European Commission’s office for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion released a report that indicated unemployment in some countries has reached record levels with nearly 19 million people jobless in the eurozone.

Unemployment in Spain has reached 26.6 per cent, while in Greece jobless rates have increased from 19 to 26 per cent over the past year. The average unemployment rate for the eurozone rose to 11 per cent.

Based on the findings of the Employment and Social Developments in Europe Review, the report said that “household incomes have declined and the risk of poverty or exclusion is on the rise, especially in member states in southern and Eastern Europe”.

Meanwhile, the violent street protests, which had already injured 25 people, continued into Thursday. In the city of Varna, a man set himself on fire calling for the ouster of the mayor there.

The country’s unemployment rate has not been helped by the rampant brain drain of youth looking for better prospects elsewhere, such as the UK. Those who have stayed have seen the value of their savings dwindle.

President Rosen Plevneliev is likely to ask for an interim government to be formed. If this fails, parliamentary elections scheduled for June will be brought forward to April.

Source: Agencies