Russian Kommersant:

Bulgarian UN Hopeful Irina Bokova: Communist Past, Support from Putin and Scandals in UNESCO

The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is defending Irina Bokova and denies the scandals she has stirred, using the communist era style of "TASS is authorized to declare"
Екип на Биволъ

The renowned Russian business newspaper Kommersant has published in its weekly political supplement Vlast (Power), 35/2016, an article about the nomination of Irina Bokova for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations (UN). It is the leading topic of the week with a photo of Bokova gracing the cover of the supplement.


Even the title itself (В Генсеки – Gensec – secretary- general) makes an allusion to communist party posts – Gensec is the abbreviation used for the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In order to dissipate any possible doubt, the subtitle of the online version points out that Bokova is the daughter of a Member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

The article, signed by Nikolay Marchenko, reminds that Bokova was born in the family of Georgi Bokov, one of the ideologists of the communist regime of Bulgarian dictator Todor Zhivkov and editor-in-chief of the official print newspaper of the Communist party Rabotnichesko delo (Workers Actions), where he published his own glorifications of Stalin. The Kommersant article devotes significant attention to the debate stirred in Bulgaria by Bokova’s candidacy – a debate between those nostalgic of the communist past, who have evolved into “left intellectuals”, and the liberal pro-Western wing, for whom the nomination of “the daughter of Goebbels,” according to a comparison of prominent writer Iliya Troyanov, is more than scandalous.

Kremlin’s Candidate

Kommersant focuses on the fact that during the hearings in the UN, Bokova left unanswered the question about the occupation of Crimea and firmly positioned herself as “the candidate of the Kremlin”. The publication reminds how she, as Head of UNESCO, was the first one to offer help after Putin’s appeal for the restoration of Palmyra, liberated by the forces of Bashar Assad. The former Bulgarian Ambassador to Moscow, Iliyan Vassilev, is quoted saying that Bokova was the only Western leader, who, without hesitation, attended the parade in Moscow on the occasion of the celebrations of May 9.

MFA issues “talking points” about the scandals fanned by Bokova in UNESCO and exposed by Bivol

The article also devotes significant attention to the scandal with the appointment of Ana Thompson-Flores that sent shockwaves during Irina Bokova’s second term as Head of UNESCO. Kommersant quotes the Daily Mail and investigations of Bivol, based on internal documents of the international organization (see here, here, here and here). According to them, the appointment of Thompson-Flores was marked by serious violations of the rules, tampering with the criteria for the post and a bogus diploma.

Thompson-Flores has been promoted with Bokova’s protection, taking vital posts one after another – Head of “Human Resources” and subsequently Deputy Director “Strategic Planning”, which gave her enormous power over key resources of UNESCO. Following an investigation of the internal audit department of the Organization, Thompson-Flores has been removed from the post, but Bokova has attempted to conceal the investigative report, documents published by Bivol have revealed. At the end, Thompson-Flores has been moved to another important post at UNESCO, retaining her high salary.



The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has prepared a rebuttal of the facts exposed in the investigations of Bivol and confirmed by the Daily Mail and other reputable Western publications, which refer to their own insider diplomatic sources. Bivol asked its Russian colleagues from Kommersant to provide the full text of the reply, sent by the Office of Foreign Minister, Daniel Mitov, and has received it.

The answers remind of the spirit of the “talking points” of the ideological department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and follow Goebbels principle “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The text bears the style of a communique from the era “TASS is authorized to declare”. There is nothing strange in this as the team at the Foreign Ministry working in support of Bokova’s candidacy is composed almost exclusively of former agents and employees of the communist regime secret services – the State Security.

Such promotion of Bokova for “Gensec” will undoubtedly become part of Minister Daniel Mitov’s CV. The “talking points”, to which the Minister has committed as Head of the institution, position him in the camp of people with whom he had a conflict of values in a previous stage of his career. However, Kommersant does hint that Mitov supports Bokova reluctantly, despite the express insistence of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Bivol is publishing the reply below without any editorial changes:

Answers of MFA to Kommersant’s questions

  1. What initiatives has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs undertaken to support Ms. Irina Bokova in her campaign for the post of UN Secretary General?

Immediately after the nomination, MFA has prepared an Action Plan and a Concept for the Election Campaign of the Bulgarian Candidate, which have been approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.

A group to coordinate the work on the Bulgarian candidacy was created and its composition includes MFA directors general, directors of major departments and MFA officials.

At present, the campaign for the Bulgarian candidacy for UN Secretary General includes activities in the following areas:

  • Ensuring coordination, informational-analytical and logistical support. MFA and the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to the UN in New York have organized several important visits of Ms. Bokova in her capacity of candidate for Secretary General of UN. There have been visits to New York – her participation in the informal hearings of candidates for the highest office in the UN General Assembly (April 12, 2106) and in a public debate (July 12, 2016), organized by the President of the UN General Assembly in cooperation with the media group “Al Jazeera”;


  • Meetings with representatives of several Member States, including Members of the Security Council, the Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the EU, the African Regional, G77, and the Organization of Francophone countries have been organized. We are currently working on the organization and conduct of bilateral visits.


  • Notes asking to support the candidacy of Ms. Bokova were handed out to all Member States of the UN. Official letters asking for support for the Bulgarian candidacy were sent by President Mr. Rosen Plevneliev and Prime Minister Mr. Boyko Borisov to State and government leaders of the Member States of the United Nations, focusing on members of the Security Council and Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the EU.


  • An official website of the Bulgarian candidate and profiles of Ms. Bokova in social networks (Facebook, Twitter) as a candidate for Secretary General of the UN were created. They are used to report on all important issues and events related to her campaign for the post.
  1. How do you assess the current and to date activities of Ms. Bokova as UNESCO Director General?

Ms. Bokova has demonstrated an impressive reformist activity on the backdrop of a 22 percent reduction of the budget of UNESCO and her record as Head of the Organization is one of extreme success. Nobody in the UN system has faced similar challenges and she has successfully coped with the Organization’s financial crisis.

The positive assessment of the work of Ms. Irina Bokova as Director-General of UNESCO and the confidence which she enjoys among Member States of the Organization, led to her reelection as Director General in 2013. The fact that she was designated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to head the Committee for Management of the Organizations in the UN system is recognition for her management skills.

During her two terms in office at the helm of UNESCO, Ms. Bokova has promoted the importance of prevention and fight against militant extremism through education and preservation of cultural heritage. She has mobilized the international community in the fight against the purge of cultural legacy by extremist groups in Mali, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the world. As Director General of UNESCO, Ms. Bokova has greatly contributed to combating financing of terrorism through prevention of illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

Irina Bokova has made intercultural dialogue, tolerance and intercultural cooperation her principal means of action. As Head of the Organization, she has fought and fights racism and anti-Semitism and has encouraged and encourages the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust. She is the first Director General of UNESCO to appoint a special envoy for Holocaust education. Her activities in support of the fight against anti-Semitism won her the appreciation of the leaders of Jewish organizations in America and of the President of the Israeli Knesset. Ms. Bokova is the first leader in the UN system to receive the globally renowned “Special Award of the Center Simon Wiesenthal” in the US Congress in Washington on November 18, 2015.

Irina Bokova is tirelessly defending human rights and human dignity. It is no coincidence that the Dutch branch of Amnesty International declared her one of the two most credible defenders of human rights among all candidates for UN Secretary General. She has made defense of freedom of speech and safety of journalists her priorities.

Furthermore, Ms. Bokova is a determined defender of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She has initiated numerous programs for girls’ education, literacy of women and the inclusion of women in all sectors of life. For this activity she has received many awards and honors, including the 2016 Global Women’s Leadership award.

For her overall achievements Ms. Bokova has received 19 State awards, including the Order of “Commander of the Legion of Honor” of the French Republic, “Stara Planina with Ribbon” of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Order of “Commander of the Legion of Honor” of Mali, the Order “Hilal-e Pakistan” of Pakistan, the Order of Merit to Diplomatic Activity “Medal Guanghua” of the Republic of Korea.

  1. Is there information about inspections or investigations concerning possible violations bearing a risk of impeachment in the activities of the Director General (since 2009) related to her staff and budgetary policy in UNESCO of  which Bulgaria’s Representation in the UN or the MFA Executive Board have been notified?

There has never been an occasion for initiating such proceedings against the Director General of UNESCO, which is why no such information has been received. As Director General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova has always acted in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Organization. Every year, UNESCO receives satisfactory reports on the state of the budget of the Organization, prepared by external auditors and then provided to the Executive Board and made publicly available.

Under her leadership, the internal audit system has been enhanced to meet the highest professional standards, an achievement which is recognized by the Members of the Executive Board. Many observers of the Organization’s activities have also expressed their positive attitude towards the leadership and management skills of Ms. Bokova, including in relation to her success in reforming this institution.

  1. Is MFA familiar with reports such as RAM2011 RAM2016 of the government of the United Kingdom, in which the work of UNESCO is deemed “ineffective” from a fiscal viewpoint and personally the Director General is declared “worst manager” in the system of UN?

So far, two reports of the Department for International Development have published on its website in 2011 and 2013 and are available. A report for 2016 has not been published yet. None of the published reports contains qualifications of the Director General.

The report from 2011 clearly states that the new management team is already setting the right guidelines (for development) and that in recent months there has been clear evidence of cost reduction and efficiency improvement. In addition to this conclusion, the report published in Britain in 2013 has noted that “improvements have been made in work planning, budgeting, HR policies, transparency and cost control, which have strengthened organisational effectiveness” (page163). The same report gives a positive assessment of the progress in strategic management and performance and defines it as one of the most significant positive developments (p. 53).



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