The Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism did not respond to Bivol’s request under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), in connection with the revelation that Minister Nikolina Angelkova has used the services of lobbyists in the United States (US) during her working visit in February – March this year.

Bivol asked the following questions:

  • From what date and for what amount is the Ministry of Tourism’s contract with Corner Media for an advertising campaign in the US, described in response to Bivol’s questions by the press office of the Ministry from June 15, 2018:

Quote from the Ministry’s response: “In 2017, the Ministry of Tourism carried, though on a relatively modest scale, given the budget constraints and the size of the North American market, an innovative and successful campaign to promote Bulgaria as a tourist destination. The Ministry’s partner in the advertising campaign is Corner Media.”

  • How many contracts, for what services and for what amounts has the Ministry of Tourism signed with US companies since the beginning of 2017 until today?
  • Is there a contract with Sanitas International Inc, on what date has it been concluded, for what purpose and for what amount?

The answer received on June 26 reveals that the Ministry of Tourism is attempting to weasel out by referring to an article of the APIA, which allows concealing information due to trade secrets. To this end, the Ministry says it should ask permission from… the lobbying firms with which it has signed contracts.

However, according to the same Article 31 of the said Act, trade secrets relating to third parties cannot be an argument for non-disclosure of information if there is overriding public interest.

It is not necessary for the third person to consent if the entity is liable and the information relating thereto is public information within the meaning of this Act and when there is an overriding public interest in its disclosure.”

In a previous publication, Bivol revealed that the Ministry of Tourism has hired lobbyists in the US, who have arranged via email meetings with politicians, foundations and media for Minister Angelkova. They have received a minimum of USD 10,000 for their services.

Angelkova’s meetings in the US have nothing to do with tourism. After the official part of her work visit to Washington DC, she also shone at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.

The company Sanitas International Inc., whose services the Ministry of Tourism has used, is also known for defending the interests of controversial Bulgarian lawmaker, businessman and media mogul Delyan Peevski in the US against the claim of fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev’s under the Magnitsky Act.

The Ministry of Tourism firmly denies having paid lobbyists, although it is shown in black and white in public documents posted on an official US site.

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