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Manager of Bulgaria's Embattled Research Fund Resigns
Date: 28/01/2013

The manager of Bulgaria's embattled and scandal-ridden Scientific Research Fund, Hristo Petrov, has resigned.

Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, has already accepted the resignation, the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, reported Monday.

Petrov deposited his resignation after it emerged that a probe of the Inspectorate at the Council of Ministers had established staggering violations at the Fund such as hiring people without the required qualifications and violations in assessing scientific bids for financing.

Also on Monday, Borisov and his Deputy, Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, met with Bulgarian researchers and scientists, without Education Minister, Sergey Ignatov, being present.

At the beginning of December, hundreds of Bulgarian scientists and researchers staged protest rallies in outrage of what they say were Ignatov's attempts to cover-up the scandal at the Fund.

Djankov said Monday the probe listed over 60 "initial recommendations" in the hiring and project evaluation practices of the management.

He pledged to reveal more next week, after the Finance Ministry's careful examination of the report.

It remains unclear if Ignatov will face sanctions.

"My personal opinion, after seeing the report, is that Minister Ignatov also deserves some criticism, but the law as it is does not allow the education minister and other units to exercise enough control. Ignatov and his team must respond within 15 days to the recommendations and prepare legal amendments," said Djankov.

The participants in the Monday meeting, which included some now very well-known names of outraged scientists, such as Professors, Emil Horozov and Miroslava Kortenska, and young researchers, Hristo Lafchiev and Victor Atanasov, have joined around the idea that current law must be changed.

They also informed they were calling off the next protest rally, scheduled for Wednesday, over Petrov' resignation and in awaiting the legislative changes.

In 2012, 95 out of 1 200 projects have been approved for financing in the total amount of BGN 14.8 M, triggering outrage in the scientific community over what they see as lack of transparency and conflict of interests.

Many insist the money is actually given to companies close to the private New Bulgarian University, NBU, of which Ignatov was President before becoming Minister.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission, Ognyan Stoichkov, told BNR Monday he will request the report and will summon Ignatov for a new hearing if violations are indeed to be found in it.

At the first hearing, Ignatov denied any wrongdoing at the Fund.

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Yambol is a town standing on the banks of the Tounda River. It dates back to Roman times when it was called Dianapolis. The town boasts Roman baths, a medieval fortress, the Saint George Church of 1737, the Saint Nicholas the Miracle Maker Church, the Roofed Market (Bezistena) of the 16th Century, Churshoum Pazar and the Eski Mosque.

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