Greens in the EP: The Foggy Fight Against Corruption in Bulgaria is Confusing and IneffectiveOpinions | January 24, 2018, Wednesday // 13:15| views
The Greens in the European Parliament today presented a report on the issue of corruption in the EU and Bulgaria, the agencies said. The report was prepared at the request of the opposition parliamentary group. The document is titled "Fighting corruption - from promises to action, confused fight against corruption in Bulgaria and the need for will in the EU institutions". The report says that from the EU countries, Bulgaria is worst off on Transparency International's perceptions of corruption. Although the fight against this phenomenon is among the leading tasks of several Bulgarian governments, the approach remains almost unchanged and has recently been over-politicized. The necessary legislation has been adopted, but there is not enough implementation and coherence between the institutions involved in the process, says the text.
While in Romania, 1250 civil servants (including prime minister, five ministers, 16 deputies, 97 mayors and their deputies) were charged in Romania in 2015, only eight people were charged in public office in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, citizens have the lowest confidence in court and judges compared to other EU countries. The European Commission's Co-operation and Verification Mechanism has put pressure on Bulgaria to pass a law on anti-corruption that does not meet international requirements and even creates additional concerns. It is likely that the new law will be used to justify limiting criticism of the government and suppressing the opposition, the report said. It is noted that from now on, it will be possible to investigate "corrupt behavior" without the law including a definition of such behavior. It is added that the law is aimed at the confiscation of property instead of affecting the conflict of interests of civil servants. The report also writes that some Bulgarian media, allegedly violating journalistic rules, receive European funding to advertise EU programs. It is necessary for the EU institutions themselves to show willingness to fight corruption, the Greens added.
Bulgaria has made significant progress in the fight against corruption for the past 17 years, but efforts must be directed at prevention. Particular concern is the lack of protection of signalmen as well as restrictions on media freedom in the country. At EU level, there is no desire to introduce a common mechanism for monitoring corruption. The EC itself readily monitors Bulgaria, but is not determined to monitor corruption in the EU institutions. The Commission has abandoned the idea of presenting annual reports on the state of corruption in the EU, the document says. According to Greens, a balance is needed between fighting corruption and protecting civil rights, especially in EU countries with a communist past where there is a danger of reviving habits of oppression, secret surveillance, witch hunting among political and ideological opponents. Bulgaria can use that it is the President of the EU Council to promote the prosecution of corruption in the community institutions, suggests the parliamentary group.
The new Bulgarian anti-corruption law does not provide for measures to prevent, but for the purpose of confiscating property, including for crimes other than corruption, and threatens to prosecute whistleblowers. Media freedom in Bulgaria is flawed because of the links between some media groups, businesses and politicians, as well as the misapplication of the law. Some Bulgarian media have made great efforts to be a guardian of society and have revealed important corruption data. Financial Supervision Commission, Unlawfully Acquired Assets, Competition Protection, and Prosecutor's Office are being used to put pressure on media, the report said. Bulgaria has a clear political will to adopt strict anti-corruption legislation and this is a sign of progress, the Greens sum up. They make a number of recommendations to our country, including anti-corruption legislation and its implementation, taking international standards into account, and not targeting organized crime and the confiscation of assets that fall into another area.
It is recommended that prosecution be transparent in high-level corruption cases and that it be accountable for its own integrity and ability to investigate such cases. Applications for conflicts of interest of public officials should be inspected by an independent service. The government must respect the freedom of the media, and the state's power should be directed against actual suspects, rather than being used against critical opinions and freedom of expression. Efforts must be made to avoid concentration of media ownership, the Greens report said.