March 2. 2024. 3:39

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US watches closely as Bulgaria develops anti-corruption reform


O’Brien travelled to Bulgaria after five more Bulgarians – among them, former ministers, and former heads of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant – were sanctioned under the US Magnitsky Act for corruption last week.

“The message of the sanctions is that the reform of the anti-corruption system, of the attorney general, of the anti-corruption commission, is very important for the EU, for the UK and for the US. It is in this that we measure our partnership,” O’Brien also told Bulgarian National Radio.

Most of the EU citizens that were sanctioned by the US for corruption under the Magnitsky Act are Bulgarian.

A year and a half ago, one of the richest Bulgarians, Vasil Bozhkov, who held a large share of the gambling business in the country, as well as the influential businessman and politician from DPS Delyan Peevski (Renew Europe) were sanctioned. Despite the sanctions, Peevski was again elected as a member of the Bulgarian parliament.

Bulgaria became an EU member in 2007, and despite repeated promises that it would fight corruption at the highest levels of power, the country has not achieved any concrete results in the past 15 years. This is the main argument the Netherlands and Austria used to veto Bulgaria’s entry into Schengen.

The continuation of the judicial reform is a condition for receiving EU grants under the Recovery Plan. Until now, main parties such as GERB and DPS have resisted the submitted judicial reform bills, which failed to pass them in the past four months.

Meanwhile, according to O’Brien, the purpose of the Magnitsky sanctions is for Bulgaria to investigate and stop corrupt behaviour at the highest levels of power to be a full participant in the world economy.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry announced that checks will be carried out on the available information about the people on the new US sanctions list.

Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said he had commissioned a full review of the information available to the police about the people on the US list. However, according to him, the fault lies with the Prosecutor’s Office.

“Does anyone need to see this shameful list (the Magnitsky list) to remember that such people exist and they should be investigated?” the interior minister said.

“For me, the motive concerning Vladislav Goranov is fascinating, that he motivated certain individuals to pass certain legislation. We can easily answer who had the majority to pass legislation. The Prosecutor’s Office cannot wait. Let it be active for once,” he added.

The US sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act were imposed personally against former Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, who was very close to GERB leader Boyko Borissov while he was the country’s prime minister in the period 2014-2021.

At the same time, the US motivates the sanctions with the adoption of the gambling laws in Bulgaria by the GERB parliamentary group.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)