Bulgarian Ex EU Commissioner Denies Involvement in 'Hochegger Affair'

Domestic | June 6, 2012, Wednesday // 19:56|  views

Former EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has rejected any involvement in the "Hochegger affair". Photo by BGNES

Former EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has denied any involvement in the scandal involving the three-way coalition government and a payment of EUR 1.5 M to Austrian lobbyist Peter Hochegger for polishing Bulgaria's image in the EU.

On Wednesday, Kuneva responded to the questions of the ad-hoc inquiry committee set up to investigate the affair.

She stated that nobody had gotten in touch with her or invited her into a consultative council of European politicians proposed by Austrian lobbyist Peter Hochegger in connection with the 2008 contract with the Stanishev Cabinet.

The ad-hoc committee already announced that the ideas to set up a consultative council and a European press center had been the main reasons why the three-way coalition government decided to award the contract to Hochegger's company.

The two proposals were part of the bid put forth by Hochegger's firm.

The notorious Austrian PR expert also listed names of European politicians he planned to include in the council, including Meglena Kuneva.

In her Wednesday statement, she informed that she had resigned from the post of Minister of European Affairs in November 2006 to start preparations for her hearing at the European Parliament.

"As of November 2006, I did not participate in any campaigns or hold talks with the Bulgarian government. They did not ask me for anything of that sort because the oath of an EU Commissioner prevented me from seeking to implement agenda of the government," she declared.

The "Hochegger scandal" flared up in Bulgaria in mid-March, as Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov drew attention to a report of a commission at the Austrian Parliament stating that the previous three-way coalition government headed by Prime Minister Stanishev had paid EUR 1.5 M to a company of Hochegger, with part of the sum returning to the PR agency owned by Monika Yanova, Stanishev's live-in girlfriend.

According to previous reports on the matter, Hochegger's PR agency had been hired by the Stanishev Cabinet in 2008 to hold a one-year promotional campaign to boost Bulgaria's image in the EU.

The public procurement was worth around EUR 1 M.

Ernst Strasser, former Interior Minister of Austria, was said to have been transferred EUR 100 000 of the total sum without any documents indicating the services he rendered for the fee.

Tsvetanov demanded a probe into the matter by an ad-hoc inquiry committee.

Stanishev defended himself by saying that GERB had conjured up a Bulgarian link in the corruption scandal in Austria.

Asked to comment on the matter, Hochegger admitted that Yanova's PR agency had received EUR 270 000 from his company.

The Austrian consultant refuted allegations that Stanishev had received any money on the projects.

Bulgaria's ruling party was also implicated in the 'Hochegger affair'.

Rositza Velkova, head of the Bulgarian office of the company of the Austrian lobbyist, was revealed to be a close friend of Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov adamantly denied GERB's involvement in the affair.

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Tags: Meglena Kuneva, EU Commissioner, Peter Hochegger, lobbyist, Sergey Stanishev, inquiry committee, three-way coalition, Monika Yanova, PR Agency


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