Bulgaria: President Draws Attention to Business-Political Corruption Connection

Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev said on Monday that the energy sector is the country’s most susceptible to corrupt practices during the Twelfth Anti-Corruption Policy Forum, held by the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD).

Bulgarian president Rosen PlevnelievBulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev (Photo: Wikipedia)

"The conquering of the state on behalf of oligarchic interests has its beyond-national dimension, which is directly connected with the security of the country (…) The Bulgarian energy sector is the worst affected,”said Plevneliev.

During the forum, Plevneliev pointed to failed energy projects such as the shuttered Belene Nuclear Power Plant, the hydroelectric dam Tsankov Kamak and the scandalous Trakia highway deal in 2003.

According to Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, “59 percent of Bulgarians believe that their government is run by a few big entities which are acting in favor of their own interests.”

Plevneliev also stated his support for the anti-corruption bill introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Science Meglena Kuneva, aimed to tackle the high corruption levels and conflict of interest in the country through the creation of a new body. But he cautioned that the fight against corruption needs a consensus, not a compromise. 

“We are moderately optimistic about the adoption and implementation [of the bill],” said Linka Toneva-Metodieva, Program Coordinator at the Transparency International (TI) chapter in Bulgaria, in an interview with OCCRP.

Although this could mean a step forward the fight against corruption, TI says that one subject of concern is the relationship between politics and businesses in the country.

The lobbying practices have practically been omitted from the law, said Toneva-Metodieva. “There is a lack of public trust in the institutions and a feeling that the big companies are the ones that are dominating the political and economic life.”

TI also warns that some details still need to be addressed, such as the declaration and management of confiscated assets and implementation of anonymous anti-corruption alerts – considered one of the most controversial issues.

During yesterday’s forum, CSD also presented the results of the report State Capture Unplugged: Countering Administrative and Political Corruption in Bulgaria, which examines the level of corruption and the efficiency of the anti-corruption strategies and policies for 2015 – 2016.