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Bulgarian party gives Halloran national tour

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) threw his support behind the Order, Law and Justice Party in Bulgaria last week when he was invited by the center-right political group to tour the southern European country.

The Order, Law and Justice Party, the smallest of the six parties to be represented in the Bulgarian legislature, paid for Halloran’s plane ticket and hotel costs for the eight-day trip to the Balkan nation. While in the country, he lectured on topics of constitutional reform in Bulgaria, law and transparency in government.

“We got to travel all around the country and really got a feel for the place that is about the size of New York and population-wise the size of New York City,” Halloran said. “It’s a post-Communist country where half the buildings are these beautiful, pre-19th century buildings and the other half are these horrible Communist-era buildings with brick and beam systems showing. It was unbelievable.”

The councilman said he has become a big supporter of the Order, Law and Justice Party because of what party members say are its commitment to exposing and breaking up corruption in the former Communist country, which held its first elections in 1990. Halloran was first introduced to members of the party when they traveled to Washington, D.C., and then New York City earlier this year. He noted there is not a large Bulgarian community in his district.

“Bulgaria picked me, I didn’t really pick Bulgaria,” Halloran said.

After spending time with the party’s leader, Yane Yanev, Halloran and Yanev kept in touch and the party soon asked Halloran if he would be willing to come to Bulgaria.

“Freedom of press, freedom of speech, these are things that are not in their constitution,” Halloran said. “You could be arrested and detained for being in opposition to the government. The party is calling for constitutional reform. They want to ensure there’s a bill of rights and transparency in government. Their prime minister now was the bodyguard to the last Communist dictator.”

The Queens politician said he hoped he could “educate them and give them guidance.”

During his trip, Halloran met up with the American ambassador to Bulgaria, James Warlick, whom he criticized as having too close ties with the country’s ruling party.

“The government operates in total secrecy,” Halloran said. “Nothing at all is transparent to the average Bulgarian.”

Halloran said he expects to return to Bulgaria.

“I wanted to broaden my horizons,” Halloran said of the trip. “I had a narrow view of the world growing up in New York my whole life. I don’t think people realize how much we take for granted our liberties, our freedoms. It’s eye-opening.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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