All rental and wage costs for employees at the six Bulgarian offices of Maria Gabriel, who is the nomination of the Bulgarian government for EU Commissioner, are exemplary and duly audited. She does not pay rents of relatives and does not hire family members but refuses to provide invoices and contracts to confirm her statements. This was reported by her press office in a telephone conversation with Bivol. They further specified that the information center in her native small town of Hadzhidimovo (population of 2,900 people) was active only during her first term as MEP.

The grounds for the refusal are the decision of the EPP parliamentary group not to respond to journalistic inquiries on the subject. Bivol sent on April 4 uniform requests for submission of documents to all Bulgarian MEPs. We asked them to give us access to rental contracts and contracts with their employees in their national offices. No answer has been received so far.

By refusing to provide these documents, Maria Gabriel declared her allegiance to the existing

Omerta for uncontrolled spending

A year and a half ago, the European Parliament also refused to provide this information to a group of European journalists and they then filed a lawsuit against these denials with the European Court of Justice because of their violated right of access to information on how and why European MEPs spend their general expenditure allowances.

A specific Bulgarian contribution is the disclosure that money from the EP was used to pay for the services of internet trolls. As Bivol revealed, former Bulgarian MEP and current Vice-President of Bulgaria, Iliyana Yotova had paid the Leadway Company for building her “online reputation”. The same company served with troll comments in forums and social networks Yotova’s Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the right-wing Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB).

The case in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg (ECJ) started in November 2015, when 28 complaints were filed (one on behalf of each journalist). Journalists have called for all documents to be published, detailing how MEPs spend these allowances, including the general allowance, the travel, the daily allowance and allowance for additional staffing. For the first time, journalists are suing a European institution for refusing to give access to information on these costs.

The journalists’ lawyer, Slovenia’s former Information Commissioner Nataša Pirc Musar, says that “personal data protection rules were not properly interpreted and that the denial of access to requested documents was unjustified”.

“We find it very concerning that the European Parliament has no control over how EUR 38.7 million of European taxpayers’ money is spent each year and it is even more concerning that the Parliament itself finds this justified,” she has said.

Despite the general decision of the European Parliament’s administration not to give access to the documents, some individual MEPs decided to publish their invoices or give journalists access to them. There is not even one Bulgarian MEP among them. That is why Bivol asked individually all Bulgarian MEPs to submit documents for their expenses.

According to Bivol sources, besides the EPP, the ALDE and PES groups have also forbidden their members to grant access to the invoices and documents justifying their spending of the general expenditure allowances.

We received an evasive answer to the question whether Maria Gabriel would give a personal example by providing the invoices and contracts – that she wanted to but could not because she was bound to the party’s decision as EPP Deputy Chairman in the European Parliament.

The issue whether Gabriel will break the Omerta after leaving the European Parliament and becoming EU Commissioner remains. Something we will not omit to ask.

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