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Labour minister keeps his job after protests against his resignation

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Tuesday that Bisser Petkov remains Minister of Labour and Social Policy. This implies a reversal of the Prime Minister's acceptance of Petkov's resignation, which was announced on Monday. The turnabout came after calls for Petkov's reinstatement were issued by trade unions and even by mothers of children with disabilities, whose grievances had pushed him to step down. Everyone, including government ministers, seemed to agree that Petkov is a very good professional and expressed a desire to keep working with him.

"I am leaving Bisser Petkov at his post," Prime Minister Borissov told journalists in Izmir on Tuesday. He was paying a visit to the Turkish city. He said: "We will see if the tent camps remain. I told him to call them all to a meeting today. I have his resignation, I can enforce it at any time."

Officially, Petkov wanted to step down because he could not cope with the tension over demands raised by parents of disabled children. The protestors have put up tent camps in Sofia and other places.

However, the parents were not happy about Petkov's resignation and demanded his reinstatement in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, the National Assembly Chairperson and the National Ombudsman, among other senior officials. They wrote: "If Prime Minister Boyko Borissov fails to reinstate the only well-working minister we have had in years, we will organize an even larger protest to demand the resignation of the government."

Trade union leaders, too, asked Prime Minister Borissov to reinstate Petkov. Plamen Dimitrov (Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria) and Dimiter Manolov (Podkrepa Confederation of Labour) told journalists in Sofia they had submitted a written request to Borissov.

Dimitrov said that Petkov's bid to resign must have been an emotional act, and Borissov's acceptance of the resignation was a mistake which could still be corrected. The CITUB leader said: "The public opinion, including the protesting parents, have clearly shown that this is not the right way to settle a situation which is fraught with serious problems. It makes absolutely no sense for one of the best ministers in the cabinet to go in this way." Dimitrov also noted that Petkov has done a lot during the current Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council.

Taking a reporter's question, the CITUB leader speculated that Petkov may have been left without political support, given the fact that he is not a member of any party. "This does not make him a lesser professional - far from that," he added.

For his part, Manolov noted: "Bisser Petkov is an emotion-free technocrat with a very high level of competence, a man who does not trifle with other people. I could criticize him for a number of things. He has not always been on our side. Then again, he is not supposed to be always on our side. He has maintained a reasonable balance, which is crucial."

Manolov did not accept the officially announced reason for Petkov's resignation. The Podkrepa leader said: "There can be no win-win solution to that problem. If you meet the demands of one socially disadvantaged group, you do it at the expense of others. It is necessary to seek a reasonable balance."

Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov believes that Petkov's resignation was ill-timed and unnecessary. "I am sorry that he resigned," Simeonov said. "We have been working wonderfully together. He is one of the best professionals." Simeonov, who is in charge of economic and demographic policies in the government, noted that the mothers of children with disabilities are not the only group in a dire situation. "Everyone wants more money but it is all a matter of government capabilities," he observed.

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