Bulgarian MPs block graft law veto
The bill, which was first approved by the legislature last month, calls for the streamlining of the anti-corruption bureaucracy by consolidating several agencies into a single body, the cumbersome-sounding Counter Corruption and Forfeiture of Unlawfully Acquired Assets Commission.
It has been claimed by critics that, because the new agency’s management would be appointed by parliament, it would lack independence and could be used by the ruling party to persecute opponents.
Anti-corruption reforms have been pushed for by the European Union, which still follows Bulgarian efforts to crackdown on corruption 11 years after joining the bloc. Bulgaria is the EU’s poorest country and widely considered to be its most corrupt.
Graft watchdog Transparency International says Bulgaria is the EU’s most corrupt member.
Bulgaria this week acquired the rotating presidency of the European Union.
The new agency in Sofia will reportedly also have the ability to seize illegally acquired funds and property.
The bill’s passage was delayed because President Rumen Radev (pictured) vetoed the bill by refusing to sign it, questioning its legislative efficiency and criticised the bill for not offering any protection to whistleblowers. He claimed it would therefore prevent anonymous tip-offs.
But the motion to override the presidential veto was passed by 146 votes in the 240-seat chamber, with support from members of the ruling centre-right GERB party, allies in the nationalist United Patriots and opposition MPs from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Volya parliamentarians. Socialist Party members voted against the anti-graft legislation.
“The president’s veto was like the last chance to adjust your policy on corruption,” Kornelia Ninova, the Socialist Party’s chief, told the chamber.
Radev also opposed the creation of a five-member board responsible for overseeing the corruption-busting organisation, fearing political interference as board members are to be elected by parliamentarians.
“Today, by rejecting the president’s veto, our country will fulfil a commitment to the European Commission,” GERB legislative leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov told the parliament.
The president reportedly now has no choice but to approve the divisive bill.
President Rumen Radev greets US troops. Picture credit: US European Command