May 27. 2024. 8:11

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Bulgarian test for US Magnitsky Act


Ten EU citizens are on the US sanctions list under The Global Magnitsky Act, eight of whom are Bulgarians, yet, over the past few years, Hungary has overtaken Bulgaria in most international corruption rankings, with countries such as Romania, Greece, and Cyprus not far behind.

But why is the US targeting Bulgaria with one of its most powerful political tools?

In a situation where geopolitical tensions are high due to the war in Ukraine, Bulgaria is a weak link in NATO’s Eastern flank. For the past two and a half years, the Balkan country has been reeling from a political crisis unseen in recent decades, and Russian propaganda against the EU and NATO has seeped into significant parts of society.

Euro-Atlantic parties in Bulgaria still receive most of the votes but cannot form a government for one main reason – the country’s former long-time prime minister, Boyko Borissov.

Borissov’s party – Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), won the previous parliamentary elections in October 2022 and still has a chance to win the next one on April 2, 2023. Borissov is still the most-liked politician by 25% of Bulgarians.

Despite this, the GERB party is an unwanted partner of the other major pro-European political project in the country – the coalition between “We continue the change” and “Democratic Bulgaria”. They promise their voters that they will end the corruption during Borissov’s rule and impose a new style of open government. However, the formation cannot do this without forming a coalition with GERB. The only obstacle to this is Borissov himself.

And this is precisely where the US sanctions under the Magnitsky Act appear. They were imposed just two months before parliamentary elections.

The most important political figure on the list of Bulgarians recently sanctioned under “Magnitsky” is Vladislav Goranov, Borissov’s finance minister in the period 2014-2020. The US accuses him of corruption because he lobbied for the adoption of legal changes that benefit the gambling business and damage the state to the tune of €350 million. Goranov is to blame for these changes, and the entire GERB party, which supported the law in the parliament.

Pointing to Goranov, the US stops short of mentioning Borissov himself, an unavoidable factor in Bulgaria during his rule. The former Bulgarian prime minister is well aware that the US sees him not as a desirable partner on the Eastern flank but as an obstacle.

After the elections on 2 April, it will be clear whether the Magnitsky Act has enough influence in Bulgaria, removing this major obstacle to the formation of a stable Euro-Atlantic government.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)