DER SPIEGEL: The law is what Borisov says it is
The European Commission reaffirms that Bulgaria is developing as a rule of law country but it is at the bottom of European rankings on corruption and media freedom. Not without reason, journalist Keno Versec writes in an analysis for Der Spiegel, quoted by BBC.
In its autumn report on the country's progress in the field of reform and the rule of law Brussels gave very good marks. Bulgaria has "worked with perseverance" to fight corruption and organized crime, the report said, according to which the country has "consolidated legal and institutional structures". For the first time the European Commission has promised Bulgaria an end to the unpopular monitoring that would remove one of the last EU pressure mechanisms for making reforms in the country, the author notes.
“It is surprising how the Commission came to its positive assessment. In any case, the reality in Bulgaria is different. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has been the strongest man in the country for over a decade. Formally, he leads a moderately conservative government with a pro-European foreign policy. Bulgaria avoids a course of confrontation with Brussels and verbal attacks against the EU, such as Hungary's Viktor Orban. But inside, Bro Boyko, a former police officer, karate player and bodyguard, rules hard,” Versek points out.
According to him, the law is "what Borisov says and commands. Sometimes a phone call or a SMS is enough. " That's why "the system bears little resemblance to the real rule of law," the journalist said. Bulgaria is consistently last in the rankings for corruption and freedom of the media in the European Union, he recalls. "Since March, it has gradually become clear that many Bulgarian politicians, both from the government and the opposition, have bought luxury apartments in Sofia below market prices. Others have misused European rural tourism funds by using millions from Brussels to make private villas. "
Because of the “Apartment Gate”, three ministers and leader of Borisov’s Party GERB (CEDB) had to resign. Including Plamen Georgiev, the then chairman of the Anti-Corruption and Forfeiture of Illegal Assets Commission who first took leave, then was temporarily suspended and eventually transferred to a diplomatic service abroad. His commission stopped investigating the Apartment Gate after several weeks. The result: There is no conflict of interest or other illegal activity in any of the cases, the publication notes.
In the beginning of December, Sotir Tsatsarov, who had previously been Prosecutor General of Bulgaria for 7 years, became Director of the aforementioned Commission. "His stay in the Attorney General's office has been marked by a number of scandals and no major corruption case in Bulgaria has been completed in a satisfactory manner as far as law is concerned. Among them is, for example, the bankruptcy of the commercial bank KTB (CCB), one of the largest in Bulgaria, progressing against a war between the Bulgarian oligarchs, "the German media commented.
CCB's bankruptcy triggered the worst financial crisis in Bulgaria since bank failures in the 1990s. It cost taxpayers just under € 2 billion.
According to Versek, Tsatsarov has maintained close relationships with "one of the main participants in the CCB's bankruptcy, Delyan Peevski. Not only one of the most influential media entrepreneurs but also a highly controversial politician."
Corrupt Bulgarian politicians, employees or businessmen rarely have to worry about public opinion, because the media market is almost entirely divided between oligarchs who control BG parties or are close to them, the newspaper writes.
The case of well-known radio host Sylvia Velikova is a good example of what happens when an independent journalist senses corruption, the author said. She was fired by the state radio in September for criticizing the appointment of the new Attorney General Ivan Geshev, who was promoted having been the Deputy Attorney General. "One of the things he is directly responsible for is delaying the CCB bankruptcy case. Independent legal experts have pointedly criticized his election and civic activists have staged protests for months, "Spiegel writes.