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Greens Group in European Parliament Present Report on Corruption in EU and Bulgaria

brusselsBrussels, January 24 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament Wednesday presented a report on corruption in the EU and Bulgaria. Entitled "Combating Corruption: From Commitments To Action. The messy fight against corruption in Bulgaria and the need for ambition in the EU institutions," the report was prepared by Alexander Kashumov and was commissioned by the opposition political group.

"Out of all the EU Member States, Bulgaria has the worst standing in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking 75th out of all the countries in the world," the report says.

The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) applied by the European Commission pressured Bulgaria to adopt a specific anti-corruption law which, however, "fails to comply with international standards in the fight against corruption and even raises further concerns in that area. Furthermore, it would appear that the fight against corruption is now being used as an excuse to limit criticism of the government and tame the opposition," according to the report.

It notes that "the newly established Anti-Corruption Commission will be given the power to conduct secret surveillance of public officials and to target those suspected of 'corruptive behavior', which is a term that is not properly defined in the law. Furthermore, the new law focuses mostly on the confiscation of property, which is seen as a priority, while on the other hand, the Anti-Corruption Commission will not be responsible for overseeing conflict of interest situations in the civil service."

"The relationship between the EU institutions and the fight against corruption in Bulgaria is further complicated by the fact that some media outlets found to be in violation of journalistic ethics standards are actually also beneficiaries of EU funds, which they receive in order to promote EU programmes," the document notes.

Bulgaria has made considerable progress in the last 17 years, but "the focus needs to be shifted back to once again include prevention," the report argues. "Particularly worrying is the lack of whistleblower protection and the restrictions on press freedom in the country."

"There is little ambition to establish comprehensive anti-corruption monitoring mechanisms at either Member State or EU level," the document states. "The European Commission has been keen to monitor the progress of Bulgaria in anti-corruption policies and legislation under the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification [ . . . ] However, it is far less ambitious when it comes to tackling corruption inside the EU institutions themselves."

"Bulgaria could use its position leading the Council of the European Union to prioritise the fight against corruption in the EU institutions themselves, thus becoming the subject rather than the object of the EU's anti-corruption efforts, since traditionally the EU has demanded much of Bulgaria whilst failing to apply its own stringent anti-corruption measures internally," the political group proposes.

According to the Greens, "in these times it is more important than ever to strike the right balance between the fight against corruption, which is usually performed by law enforcement, and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. This is particularly the case in countries with communist totalitarian pasts, where there is an ongoing risk of reviving old practices of oppression, secret surveillance, and the witch-hunting of political and ideological opponents."

The new anti-corruption bill focuses on confiscation of property obtained by illegal means. The confiscation regime applies not only to criminal offences related to bribery, embezzlement and influence trading, but also to theft, murder, robbery, etc. This approach does not focus specifically on anti-corruption issues but rather broadens the activities to include any crime," the report finds. "This is problematic given recent events which show how the confiscation and property freezing procedures contain a serious risk of abuse of power against the freedom of the media."

"Media freedom is jeopardized by the existence of links between certain media groups, businesses, and politicians, as well as by bad law enforcement practices," according to the report. It says that "a number of other media do work hard to fulfill the typical watchdog role in society." Journalistic investigations have revealed important information about corruption. "There are serious attempts to intervene in their work through the use of repressive measures by certain public bodies, such as the Commission of Financial Control, the Public Prosecutor's Office, and the Commission on the Protection of Fair Competition."

See the whole text of the article at the website of the Bulgarian News Agency

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