Dubious Bulgarian businessman entering the European Parliament?

Source: flickr.com; user: theglobalmovement

Bulgaria will most probably elect a highly dubious businessman and media mogul – Delyan Peevski – to become a Member of European Parliament. In 2013, 33-year-old Peevski was a target of the biggest protests in the country’s history – so how is it possible that his way to the European institutions already seems to be paved?

The background of an outstanding biography and election patterns

When he was only 21 years old, in 2001 Peevski became the parliamentary state secretary of the “National Movement for Stability and Progress” – a party of former Prime Minister and deposed Bulgarian Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Simeon II). Furthermore he as well became the chairman of the supervisory board of Bulgaria’s biggest harbour in Varna. He was later relieved of his duties since he lacked the necessary qualification being only a law student at that moment. Already then people started rumouring that the young man succeeded only due to his mother – a friend of the PM’s wife.

In 2005 Peevski became an investigating magistrate without a single day of experience although according to law, two years of practise are necessary in order to enter the position. Later that year, he was chosen by current PM and president of the Party of European Socialists Sergey Stanishev to be the deputy head of the Ministry of Disaster Management, which led to further scandals linked to corruption and misappropriation. When in 2007 the biggest tobacco company in the region, Bulgartabak, was privatized, Peevski was accused by Bulgartabak’s director of blackmail and it was supposed that the businessman was one of the secret investors behind the deal. The case was never solved.

After switching to the liberal party “Movement for Rights and Freedom”, since 2009 Peevski is a Member of Parliament. After the parliamentary elections in 2013 the media mogul was chosen to be the chairman of the State Agency for National Security, when previously important changes of the law in order to strengthen this institution had been passed. An uproar of Bulgarian citizens was the consequence and ten thousands protested against this decision, which led to Peevski’s resignation. People were relating his outstanding career to connections to the Bulgarian mafia, corruption, lack of transparency in the public institutions and greed.

Although there has been a great indignation about Peevski’s involvement into various scandals, he now officially is on the second position of his party for the European elections – a slap in the face for those protesting now for more than a year against corruption. Nevertheless, it is expected that he will enter the parliament in Brussels. Why? The “Movement for Rights and Freedom” currently has three MEPs and it is very likely that they will keep this amount after this year’s election. The party is popular for supporting the Muslim Turkish minority in Bulgaria – the infrastructure has been improved, Mosques have been built and approaches for education in Turkish have been presented in the regions where the movement is in charge of administration and politics. Business contacts and support for the formerly oppressed Turkish citizens created trust and support. Even though Peevski himself might not be popular, the party is expected to receive enough votes for him to enter, especially people in rural areas would rather elect a party that in its core supports their civil rights in spite of a suspicious candidate than any other. Peevski’s objectives seem to be blurred regarding the European Parliament, since he already is involved in several business branches in Bulgaria.

And what about Europe?

After the protests and the embarrassing debacle in the State Agency for National Security, the European public addressed the irregularities in Bulgarian politics, legacy and economy but due to the subsidiarity principle there is not much the European Institutions could do. While currently the European funds are threatened, there is no real institutional solution for the miserable conditions that effect the seven million inhabitants, of which 50% live below poverty line. Budget cuts would hit the citizens, but not the stiff network of stakeholders and investors keeping Bulgaria’s capital in their hands – the poor distribution is a result of the overhasty uncontrolled privatization of the economy after the end of the Socialist era.

The country’s issues support Euro-scepticism: while Bulgarians lost their faith in the European Union as a helping hand to fight corruption, rich countries fear the loss of money. It seems easy to reject the administrative level of the European community, but an opposite trend might lead to bigger benefits. Bulgaria is dependent on international support and checks in order to fight its problems, therefore it might be necessary to enable European legal institutions to investigate deeper on corruption and decide bindingly in case no improvements can be achieved. A shift of perspective towards the concept of a solidarity community is required in order to stabilize countries with weak institutions, so that not only citizens can benefit, but as well the European Union when stating real investment of the European funds, growth and efficiency of resources.

Photo: flickr.com; user: theglobalmovement