Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry on US sanctions on Peevski, Bozhkov: ‘Rule of law at heart of democratic process’

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry reacted on June 2 to the announcements by the US Treasury and State departments on the sanctions against Delyan Peevski, Vassil Bozhkov and others by saying that the rule of law is at the heart of the democratic process in any state.

“In our relations with our partners and allies, we have unequivocally shared our conviction that the fight against corruption in all its forms should be our unconditional priority and practical priority,” the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.

“As strategic partners, Bulgaria and the United States maintain a sustainable and effective strategic dialogue,” the Foreign Ministry said, in a carefully-worded statement that did not take issue with the allegations made by the two US departments.

“In terms of its structure, content and scope, co-operation between the two countries covers a number of issues on the national, regional and global agendas. In this sense, and on the basis of the traditions of co-operation established over the years, we express confidence that Sofia and Washington remain ready for dialogue on all issues of shared interest,” the Foreign Ministry, headed by a caretaker minister since Boiko Borissov left office, said.

Hristo Ivanov, the former justice minister who is co-leader of the reformist Democratic Bulgaria coalition, said that the US government was sending a signal regarding the intolerance of Bulgarian society towards political corruption.

Ivanov said that now the focus was on all those who allowed the phenomena of “Peevski” and “Bozhkov” to become a fact.

“The US government has no obligation, and is not expected, to present evidence. The big problem here is how the Bulgarian institutions slept through the evidence for so many years,” Ivanov said.

He said that this was an indictment of Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev and Geshev’s predecessor in that office, Sotir Tsatsarov, who were “silent witnesses” to the rise of Peevski.

“His (Boshkov’s) corruption allegations against senior GERB officials, which made tax evasion possible, have not been investigated,” Ivanov said.

“The pronouncement of the assessment of Peevski and Bozhkov puts the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office and the Bulgarian political factors that raised these figures, into an extremely difficult international situation. Neither Bozhkov nor Peevski arose of their own accord,” he said.

“Peevski was raised by the MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) and fed by GERB and Borissov,” Ivanov said.

Bulgarian-language media reported Peevski as saying that in regard to his inclusion by the US in the sanctions list “I declare that I consider such an act absolutely unacceptable, biased and inconsistent with the spirit and meaning of this law”.

“This is because I have not done anything to violate internationally recognised human rights, I am not a civil servant and I have not participated in corrupt practices, and the motives announced for the sanctions imposed do not contain any true facts,” Peevski said.

“At the same time, I am aware that the significant financial and political resources involved by the media oligarch and privatiser, who flaunts the good contacts he uses against his opponents, have contributed to discrediting me. Information about what is being prepared has been present in his media for a long time and for me what happened today is not a surprise,” he said.

“I have notified my lawyers in the United States and I will take all legal action against this act,” Peevski said.

Maya Manolova, co-leader of the “Rise Up! Mobsters Out!” electoral coalition, said that the sanctions against Peevski, Bozhkov and Ilko Zhelyazkov were “a green light and support for fighting corruption in Bulgaria”.

“This is another sign from the international community that there is no effective fight against corruption (in Bulgaria),” Manolova said.

“It turns out that people want, but the institutions – not enough – to eradicate theft and draining billions from the budget. People want to see responsibility,” Manolova said.

“The time the institutions have to show immediate results in eradicating corruption is running out. If they don’t, I predict a grim political autumn. Gloomy for all politicians who have stretched a political umbrella over people and companies like the ones mentioned,” she said.

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