Greens: Bulgarian media mogul ‘the kind of people we are fighting against’

Media mogul and DPS MP Delyan Peevski in one of his rare appearances in the Bulgarian Parliament. [Dnevnik]

Ahead of the World Press Freedom day, the European Greens presented on Tuesday (30 April) proposals for how to guarantee media freedom in Europe. The real question, however, will be how to deal with ‘rogue elements’ from inside the EU institutions.

To fight threats to media freedom, pluralism and media independence, the package includes recommendations for the future European Commission, the European budget and competition policies.

It was presented by Philippe Lamberts, president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, and Benedek Jávor, Hungarian MEP and spokesperson for transparency,

“Very often we see that European institutions are just leaning back saying media matters are a member state competence,” Jávor criticised. He suggested the Commission should use the available competition law tools to fight media market concentration and address the question of media ownership in the member states.

In their proposals, the Greens also demand the appointment of an EU Commissioner solely responsible for media matters.

Although the current Juncker Commission has a Commissioner responsible for media, Bulgaria’s Mariya Gabriel, her main portfolio is digital economy and society, and in terms of media freedom, she only concentrates on fake news.

The Greens want the Commission to use its competencies more effectively but also expand its limited ability to act, Jávor told reporters.

In the next European Parliament, the Greens, who are expected to score high, are anticipated to be part of a “progressive” alliance with socialists, liberals and the political alliance around the party of Emmanuel Macron, which could be part of the liberals or chose another path.

EURACTIV asked the Green MEPs if they would be comfortable working with Delyan Peevski, a Bulgarian politician who is one of the most controversial candidates running for the European Parliament, on the list of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS, ALDE-affiliated).

Peevski controls a significant number of media in Bulgaria and owns a large chunk of print media distribution. Last week, he was named by Reporters Without Borders as one of the main reasons for the poor state of media freedom in Bulgaria. The country is 111th in the world media freedom index – scoring last in the EU.

Peevski is very likely to be elected as he is number 2 on the DPS list, with the leader of the list expected to withdraw.

“Quite obviously those are not the kind of people we would take on our group,” Lamberts replied. He added that “people who are totally at odds with what we stand for” existed in ALDE but also in other groups, like Viktor Orban in the EPP and Romanian Socialists in the S&D. But he clarified that pragmatism would always have to prevail.

“If basically your question is, are you only going to ally with groups that do not include people you can’t stand, the answer is no. That would mean that we would have to stay out of any coalition.”

Lamberts further hinted that it was too early to say if ALDE would be part of a possible ‘progressive centre-left coalition’.

“But obviously ALDE, EPP, S&D harbour quite a lot of unsavoury people – you just don’t want them to be able to give the direction of any coalition. But it is not a given that we will be part of a coalition, it is a possibility.”

Answering the same question about Peevski, Jávor said the Bulgarian media mogul rather embodied “the kind of people the Greens would fight against”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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