European Parliament committee lends effective backing to anti-government protests in Bulgaria

The European Parliament civil liberties committee called on October 1 on the Bulgarian authorities to ensure EU values and the Charter of Fundamental Rights are respected.

The committee approved, with 35 votes in favour, 30 against and one abstention, a draft resolution on the “significant deterioration of respect for the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, including the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, the fight against corruption and freedom of the media” in Bulgaria.

The committee members highlighted the need for the Bulgarian government to ensure stricter control of the way EU funds are spent and to address immediately the concerns that taxpayers’ money is being used to enrich those associated with the ruling party.

The text focuses also on persisting systemic issues in the judiciary, especially the lack of a framework in place to hold the Supreme Judicial Council and the Prosecutor-General accountable and the failure to comply with over 45 European Court of Human Rights judgments by carrying out effective investigations.

MEPs are further concerned about a series of developments.

These included the announced constitutional reform, which should be preceded by proper consultations and be in line with international standards, potential changes in electoral legislation, close to the next parliamentary elections, the hasty adoption of legislation by the governing majority, investigations into high-level corruption not yielding tangible results and “corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of accountability”, the serious deterioration of media freedom and working conditions for journalists in Bulgaria over the past decade, allegations against the Bulgarian police regarding the use of force against women and children and journalists during demonstrations, and the state of fundamental rights in Bulgaria, for example as regards hate speech, gender and sexual discrimination, and the rights of Romani people and asylum seekers.

The committee’s move came as protests entered their 85th night, demanding the resignation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government and that of Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev.

Protests in Bulgaria erupted on July 9, with demonstrators calling for Borissov and Geshev to resign, based on allegations of corruption and state capture.

Citizens took to the streets following two incidents that have added to the public’s growing frustration over systemic political corruption.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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