MEPs: ‘Too much impunity for corruption’ in Bulgaria

There is too much impunity for corruption in Bulgaria, member of the European Parliament Sophie in t’Veld told a news conference on September 24 after leading a seven-member European Parliament delegation to the country for meetings on issues related to the rule of law, including media freedom and the fight against corruption.

During its two-day visit, the civil liberties committee delegation, representing all groups in the European Parliament, met state and government leaders, the Prosecutor-General and the Ombudsman.

In ‘t Veld said that apart from being part of a monitoring exercise, the delegation wanted to convey the message to the Bulgarian people that the European Parliament is “present, watching, listening and supporting”.

On the one hand, one could see that there are huge problems, but on the other “the determination of the Bulgarian people to counter those challenges is equally enormous,” In ‘t Veld said.

There was too much impunity for corruption, she said. In ‘t Veld emphasised that corruption had an impact on the ordinary lives of people, because it meant that some had no access to basic services such as electricity, running water and heating.

She said that there was “clearly an issue” with the Prosecutor’s Office, and these problems were not new, but had been identified years ago.

The monopoly held by the Prosecutor’s Office on whether to start an investigation meant that it could also decide not to start one.

In ‘t Veld said that the delegation had come away from its meeting with Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev feeling that not all of its questions had been answered. She said that many of the questions had addressed the apparent inertia and inactivity of the Prosecutor’s Office.

One example was that the delegation had asked Geshev what was happening about an investigation into photographs and video showing then-prime minister Boiko Borissov in a room with large sums of money and gold bars near a bed he was sleeping in. She said that the delegation had been told that Geshev had replied that he did not know what stage that investigation had reached. “You would expect the Prosecutor-General to be aware of that,” she said.

The poverty experienced in Bulgaria was a consequence of corruption and that there was no good governance, she said.

In ‘t Veld said that the process of the monitoring had been prompted by last year’s police violence against anti-government protesters in Bulgaria.

She was critical of the European Commission’s process of monitoring of rule-of-law issues in Bulgaria, saying that it was “superficial and not very effective”.

Responding to a question, she said that she agreed with the ranking by Reporters Without Borders that places Bulgaria lowest in the European Union in media freedom.

In ‘t Veld emphasised that over time, these problems in Bulgaria could be solved. “There is hope,” she said.

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