Commission says Bulgaria broke partners' confidence
EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission monitoring report on Bulgaria, which it will publish tomorrow (22 January), will be heavily critical, with the EU executive going so far as to say that the Bulgarian authorities broke confidence with its European partners over the appointment of a controversial media mogul as chief of the national security agency, EurActiv has learned.
The report under the Cooperation and Verification mechanism (CVM), seen by EurActiv, highlights a major scandal which has triggered street protests asking for the resignation of the government.
Last June, the two-week old minority government came under fire following the surprise decision of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski to appoint Delyan Peevski as leader of the country’s State Agency for National Security (DANS). Peevski, the owner of the New Bulgarian media group, is considered a shady power broker.
Peevski, 33, is a member of parliament for the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a political party representing the Turkish minority in Bulgaria. DPS is in coalition with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the two forces having managed to form a minority government on 29 May. The government has survived thanks to the unofficial support of Ataka, a nationalist and xenophobic force.
Peevski rapidly withdrew his candidacy for the job, but protests continue to demand that the prime minister resigns.
In the report, which a Commission official described as “quite critical", the name Peevski does not appear, but the message is clear. As a rule, Commission CVM reports do not mention names.
The overall progress of Bulgaria over the past year has been "limited and fragile", the report says.
The report seen by EurActiv was printed on special paper, which does not allow photocopying and bears all across the name of the high official to which he has been entrusted. In the past, CVM reports were always leaked, and apparently this time the Commission did its utmost to avoid leaks, so that distributed copies could be traced.
The paragraph concerning Peevski reads: “DANS responsibilities were compounded by the appointment of a new DANS director. Clearly the recommendations of the Commission about appointments based on a clear procedure, which allows a real competition and puts the emphasis on merit and integrity, is highly relevant for such post. The Commission made public statements to this end."
"The appointee stood aside and parliament reversed its decision in the wake of this and other reactions. Overall these events have left a difficult legacy in terms of confidence amongst the public and among Bulgaria’s partners, which the authorities will have to work hard to overcome," the paper continues.
Who proposed Peevski?
Bulgarian politicians from the ruling coalition have time and again been asked both by the protestors and by journalists to tell who proposed Peevski as DANS chief, without obtaining a clear answer.
The leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Sergei Stanishev, who is also PES president, was recently accused by former Bulgarian President and former Socialist leader Georgi Parvanov of taking all important decisions for the country in a hidden circle with the participation of Peevski.
The former prime minister and leader of the centre-right party GERB, Boyko Borissov, said that Stanishev’s wife Monika Yossifova, a public relations executive, together with the party DPS of Delyan Peevski were running the country.
Stanishev has refuted the accusation, saying that this was “pure speculation”. He also defended his wife, saying that he was becoming used to hearing calumnies about her. Yossifova was recently accused by MEP Ingeborg Gräßle of profiteering under a contract with the European Parliament.
“The country is run by the government of Plamen Oresharski, under the control of the parliament, which has elected it," Stanishev said.
Parvanov also said that Peevski, who controls a powerful media group, provides media comfort to Stanishev. The same media group has recently been mobilised against Parvanov and MEP Ivailo Kalfin, who announced recently that he will run for MEP at the European elections on a separate list, in fact splitting the BSP electorate.
Restoring confidence in the government will probably be a difficult task. According to recent polls the Oresharski cabinet has a record low level of support with 26% of trust against 65% of mistrust. According to opinion polls, if there are early elections, BSP may win, with some 22% ahead of GERB with 18. Some 40% say they would not vote.
When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007, shortcomings remained regarding judicial reform and the fight against corruption. In the case of Bulgaria, problems also remained regarding the fight against organised crime.
A Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was set up to assist both countries with judiciary matters after their EU accession. Seven years after their accession, the CVM is still ongoing and will continue under the next EU Commission.
- 22 Jan.: Commission to publish monitoring reports on Bulgaria and Romania's progress under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).