EU liberals distance themselves from Bulgarian MEP candidate

Delyan Peevski

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, has failed to convince a Bulgarian sister party not to put a controversial candidate in the lists for the European elections, EURACTIV has learned.

The Bulgarian Movement of Rights and Freedoms party (DPS) has put second on its list Delyan Peevski, a controversial businessman, in spite of criticism, both at home, and in Brussels. Peevski, 33, is a member of parliament from DPS, a political party representing the Turkish minority in Bulgaria affiliated with ALDE, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe.

Verhofstadt has tried to convince DPS leaders not to create tensions by nominating Peevski, ALDE sources told EURACTIV. The former Belgian Prime Minister, who is the candidate of his political group to be the next Commission president, has delivered the message both in direct talks with Filiz Hyusmenova, a current MEP and bureau member of ALDE, and by phone with Lutfi Mestan, the DPS leader in Bulgaria.

However, Verhofstadt received a cold shoulder, and Peevski appears second on the DPS list, which guarantees that he will be elected as MEP. According to opinion polls, DPS will be able to elect three of the 17 Bulgarian MEPs in the next European Parliament. Hyusmenova will lead the list, the third candidate being the current deputy minister of defence Nedjim Ali. 

Last June, the Bulgarian parliament voted to make Peevski the head of the country’s State Agency for National Security (DANS). This almost brought down the then two-week old government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, who leads a minority coalition between the Socialists and the DPS. The situation also embarrassed Sergei Stanishev, the leader of the Bulgaria Socialist Party (BSP), who is also leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES)  [read more].

The parliament vote was reversed, but protests against Peevski’s nomination, and demands that the cabinet resign, have continued.

In Bulgaria, Peevski is considered a symbol of the shady power brokerage that has impoverished Bulgarians, and ruined the country’s reputation. Officially, Peevski has no property, but it is widely assumed that he controls vast economic interests, and a powerful media group, which is waging a dirty war against his political opponents.

Verhofstadt has reportedly said that if elected, Peevski should not count on any post such as head of European Parliament committee or delegation, and would be treated as a backbencher.

“If what he wants is parliamentarian immunity, that much he can obtain, but he will not get any prominence”, an ALDE source told this website.

The liberal group has indeed some bitter experience from another rogue MEP, Victor Uspaskich, a millionaire businessman and a former economy minister of Lithuania [read more].

“MEPs like Uspaskich and Peevski unfortunately do not allow us to criticise other political groups for their own rogue MEPs”, the source said.

Following this publication, Gullaume Mc Laughlin, Policy Advisor with the ALDE group, denied that the EU liberals had ever tried to impede the inclusion of Peevski in the list of the DPS party. Husmenova too has denied having spoken to Verhofstadt over the issue.

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