Ska Keller, President of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, met today with Bulgarian journalists in her Brussels home. She presented a 60-page report on corruption in Bulgaria, commissioned by the Green group, and answered their questions.
The report, titled “Combating corruption: from commitment to action”, as a subtitle “The messy fight against corruption in Bulgaria and the need for ambition in the EU institutions”.
While the continued pressure from the European Commission has finally led Bulgaria to adopt a specific anti-corruption law, Ska Keller made it clear the new legislation could do more harm than any good.
“Now with the new anti-corruption law you get a messing up of the structures. Existing structures are now been put in a mess, so different competence that are overlapping, unclear responsibilities and also, very importantly, the protection of whistleblowers that has been totally removed. Another issue is the corruptive behaviour that will be sanctioned, but it’s not clear what corruptive behaviour is. So it can be used to silence or intimidate opponents, media.”
On 28 December the Cabinet took the decision to open construction of tourist facilities in the Pirin national park. This sparked protests in which citizens in many citizens in Bulgarian cities and across Europe participated.
Ska Keller raise the issue when Prime Minister Boyko Borissov presented the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU to the European Parliament.
In reply, Borissov gave his “personal guarantee” that only a second ski lift would be built and nothing else. But she didn’t have the chance to ask a follow-up question.
Asked what her follow-up question would be, she said:
“It is very unclear who the owner is, of this ski-developing company. It seems that it’s someone from Cyprus, unemployed, who is not a public figure. It’s very unclear and it’s the unclearness who owns what and who’s behind what that leads to corruption. Also we know that the developer has used much more space in the Pirin national park than he is allowed to use, like 70% more than he is allowed, an nobody has done anything about that. That is certainly very harmful behaviour, it’s lack of interest on behalf of the state and it’s a really big problem for people and the planet.”
Ska Keller was asked about the positions of the Green/EFA group with respect of the Struma motorway. In November 2017 the Bulgarian government announced it will construct an international motorway partially through EU protected wildlife haven Kresna Gorge, threatening tragedy for one of Europe’s most biodiverse nature sites. The plan concerns the last remaining section to be built of the European E79 highway, which links Germany with Bulgaria and Greece, and has been funded with 800m EUR of EU taxpayers money. She said:
“What we will also bring up in the discussion with the ministers in the European Parliament is the issue of the motorway to Thessaloniki that goes through the Kresna gorge. That’s also a protected area, a Natura 2000 area, and again we see that a very important biodiversity area is being destroyed. Because if you build a motorway, you stop all sorts of activity that’s important for biodiversity. And on the top of that the motorway is partly financed by the EU. And we will ask the Commission if they also give money to that specific part that goes through the gorge. But of course it doesn’t really help the issue if they say – ‘oh, for this couple of kilometres we’re not financing it’, because it’s connected to the other bit. And there are proposed alternative proposals on the table.
Asked if she plans to go to Bulgaria, she said:
“I’m very happy if I can support the people. There are thousands of people in Bulgaria who went to the streets. And especially our green party Zelenite, who are very active on these issues for years. I’m looking if I can combine my calendar with future protests, and if it’s at all possible, I’ll go, yes. But we don’t have a date yet.