Taped conversations, published by a Bulgarian newspaper, allegedly expose a cover-up of smuggling schemes by the Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, Tzvetan Tzvetanov. The full transcripts of the tapes reveal pressure on part of Tsvetanov on Customs Agency Director Vanyo Tanov, who complains that Tsvetanov and the Ministry of the Interior are pressing him and his staff not to check on potential abuses by certain large companies, and to focus instead on others. The only company mentioned by name which has allegedly benefited from this protection is Lukoil Bulgaria (a daughter company of the Russian Lukoil conglomerate). The CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria is allegedly a close friend of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. According to the leaked US embassy cable on organized crime in Bulgaria, Lukoil’s Bulgarian operations are suspected of strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime.
A caveat must be made: nobody has confirmed the authenticity of the tapes. The content is not conclusive and is subject to interpretation.
In any case this is worrying. Until now the Customs Agency Director has not denied the contents of the conversations.
In the light of these revelations the reservations of France and Germany over Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area appear more justified. The Prime Minister must take really decisive steps to dispel any suspicion of wrongdoing.
Posted in Bulgaria, Foreign and Security Policy, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria, Lukoil Bulgaria, organized crime, Russia, smuggling, Tzvetan Tzvetanov, Valentin Zlatev, Vanyo Tanov, Wikileaks
We now have the statement by Mr. Barroso and by the legal services of the European Parliament on the supposed conflict of interests of the Bulgarian commissioner designate, Rumiana Jeleva. As I have promised, now I should deliver my own opinion on her candidature.
This is a difficult task since Mrs. Jeleva is a colleague – a lecturer at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. But my purpose in this blog has always been to honestly monitor the Bulgarian participation in European affairs, and this case simply cannot be overlooked.
So the question stands – why Jeleva? Why her of all people? I do not have any idea. In fact, I have not heard of any substantial justification of her candidature. Once the scandal broke out there were some quite unclear statements by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Mr. Boyko Borisov, saying that she is intelligent, competent, etc. But nobody actually assessed in public her personal qualities that matter for the job. That is why it was so difficult for me to evaluate her chances to get a serious portfolio – such as energy or the enlargement.
Later there were rumors. Mr. Borisov and other party officials at GERB – the ruling party, say that they knew early on about the staging of a campaign in the European Parliament against Mrs. Jeleva. This is very, very strange. If the Bulgarian officials knew about the pending disaster, why didn’t they prevent it??? So why choose Jeleva after all?
There is more. Let’s not forget where Bulgaria stands in the European Union. We are constantly associated with one word only in Brussels – and that is corruption. We are still aiming at entering Schengen area and the eurozone. We are trying to convince the European Commission that we can manage and control EU funds efficiently and transparently. Even one new speck on the tarnished image of Bulgaria can be overwhelming. What we got instead was some really, really bad coverage (see Economist’s Charlemagne, FT’s Tony Barber and Liberation’s Jean Quatremer among others).
The Jeleva affair may be treated as a sign of the times, given the greater powers of the European Parliament after the Treaty of Lisbon. But shouldn’t we be all the more careful keeping in mind the stronger position of the Parliament? How is Mrs. Jeleva supposed to work with the MEPs when many claim she is unacceptable?
Today may be the decisive moment for Mrs. Jeleva. She may or may not become a commissioner. But I demand a clear answer to one question only – why was Mrs. Rumiana Jeleva proposed as a Bulgarian candidate for commissioner?
In what has become a fashion, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has distanced himself from earlier comments by the minister for Bulgarians abroad, Bojidar Dimitrov. Dimitrov said that Bulgaria could block the accession negotiations with Turkey over the question for compensation of Bulgarian refugees from Eastern Thrace in the period 1912-1918.
The spokesman of the Council of Ministers who confirmed the Bulgarian option of vetoing the negotiations was fired.
Should I remind here that Bulgaria wanted to get the enlargement portfolio in the Barroso II Commission???
Commenting on the new Bulgarian government, Financial Times makes an interesting observation:
“Those who support further EU enlargement should pray Mr Borissov is successful. Since 2007, the momentum of enlargement has been lost and the appetite of many existing member states – particularly France – has diminished.
Should the south-east European duo fail to improve, doubts over the EU’s famed transformative power will creep in, and the prospects of EU enlargement to the western Balkans will be damaged.
That would be a tragedy. The prospect of EU accession – however long and arduous the road – is one of the few stabilising factors in the Balkans. However blunt, enlargement has been the EU’s most powerful foreign policy tool. As Bulgaria has demonstrated, accession must not be rushed, but nor should what happens in Sofia be allowed to derail it.”
Quite a responsibility indeed.
Euractiv reports that the winner in the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria Boyko Borissov, has said yesterday that current Bulgarian EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva will be a member of the European Parliament, not a commissioner.
Euractiv says that Borissov is widely expected to nominate Rumiana Jeleva as Bulgaria’s commissioner.