NGOs Condemn Meeting with Sanctioned Bulgarian Politician: A Challenge to European Values

Politics | May 16, 2024, Thursday // 14:00
Bulgaria: NGOs Condemn Meeting with Sanctioned Bulgarian Politician: A Challenge to European Values

A recent meeting between (co)chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), Delyan Peevski, and European ambassadors has sparked strong criticism from five civil organizations in Bulgaria. The Anti-corruption Fund, Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives, Institute for Market Economy, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and Foundation "Danaya" jointly issued a press release expressing concern over what they perceive as the legitimization of a politician sanctioned for corruption.

The contentious meeting came to light through information disseminated by the DPS press center. On May 9, the party announced that "ambassadors of EU member states met with a delegation from DPS, led by chairman Delyan Peevski" during the Belgian presidency of the European Council.

According to the DPS press release, the meeting involved an extensive discussion on various national and regional topics in an open and cordial atmosphere. The Belgian Presidency of the EU in Bulgaria expressed gratitude to the DPS delegation and local heads of EU missions for their participation.

In response, the five organizations penned an open letter addressed to the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium in Bulgaria, Frederic Meurice, with copies sent to all European ambassadors, as well as ambassadors from Great Britain, the United States, Norway, and Switzerland. They emphasized their concern that the legitimization of politicians implicated in corruption undermines European values.

The letter underscores the importance of upholding ethical standards and principles of transparency in political engagements, particularly when interacting with individuals associated with corruption allegations.

Who is Peevski?

Delyan Peevski is a Bulgarian politician and former media mogul who has been serving as a Member of the National Assembly of Bulgaria since 2009. A member of the DPS party, he briefly held the position of Director of the State Agency for National Security (SANS) in 2013, which sparked widespread national protests. In 2024, Peevski was unanimously elected as the co-leader of the DPS party alongside Dzhevdet Chakarov.

Peevski has been subject to sanctions by both the United Kingdom and the United States under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. In June 2021, the US Department of the Treasury designated Peevski, along with public official Ilko Zhelyazkov and oligarch Vasil Bozhkov, for their involvement in public corruption. This designation also included 64 entities owned or controlled by Bozhkov and Peevski. Similarly, the UK imposed sanctions on Peevski and other high-profile Bulgarian figures under the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations in 2021.

 

Here is what the letter states:

"Your Excellency,

We are addressing you on the occasion of the official announcements of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) about a meeting of a delegation led by the co-chairman of the movement Delyan Peevski, with you and high-ranking representatives of the embassies of several countries, held at your residence on May 9, 2024 -members of the European Union (EU).

In our capacity as civil organizations, long-term committed to the problems of strengthening the principles of the rule of law in the Republic of Bulgaria, we declare the following:

Despite the continued criticism of the EU regarding the rule of law and the effective fight against corruption in the Republic of Bulgaria, these two areas continue to be just as problematic as they were ten or twenty years ago. Evidence of this is abundant, the most recent of which can be found in the several ad hoc parliamentary committees that have set out to investigate specific corruption schemes in the upper echelons of justice. Their fruitless end turned out to be another illustration of how high up in the judiciary (and in other branches of power) the root causes of the problems in Bulgarian justice and law enforcement should be sought.

That is why the meeting held a few days ago, organized by you, between ambassadors of countries from the European Union and the co-chairman of the DPS Delyan Peevski, sanctioned for corruption by the USA and Great Britain, causes great concern in our country.

Such meetings, especially on Europe Day and a day before the start of the official election campaign in Bulgaria for the election of representatives in the national and European Parliament, are a sign of legitimization of the current status quo. Such actions do not help to solve the problem of corruption and the rule of law in Bulgaria, but on the contrary - they create a feeling of impunity for Bulgarian politicians, with European consent.

We fully understand that it is a challenge for diplomatic representatives to find a balance between institutional cooperation and political hygiene, especially in countries with chronic problems with the fight against corruption like Bulgaria.

Meetings with a politician like Delyan Peevski, sanctioned by Great Britain and the USA for corrupt actions and who has become one of the symbols of corruption in Bulgaria, for us, however, are beyond the red line of permissible compromises. Arguments for why this is so can be found in the analyzes and publications of our organizations, as well as many other independent media and civil society organizations, published over many years.

Especially in the conditions of a massive and permanent Russian disinformation propaganda campaign on the territory of the country, we consider it particularly important that the representatives of the EU member states defend and affirm European values in Bulgaria.

The legitimation of politicians sanctioned for corruption cannot be a European value.

What we are stating here is not just the opinion of a few civic organizations. The personal political rating of the politicians sanctioned for corruption clearly shows that this opinion is also shared by the majority of Bulgarian citizens.

In the situation thus created, we consider it necessary to hold a meeting between the representatives of the embassies of the member states of the European Union and representatives of civil organizations, to which meeting we undertake to invite you as soon as possible.

We remain with wishes for successful action in the name of our common European future.

Signed by:

Anti-corruption fund

Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives

Institute of Market Economy

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Danaya Foundation"

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Tags: DPS, Peevski, European, corruption

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