PES President Sergei Stanishev and his spouse Monica Yosifova

On June 15, 2012, Monica Yosifova has signed on behalf of the company “Active Group” a declaration that she was not in conflict of interest. The declaration is part of the documentation in the application process for a grant of the European Parliament under the program of the Directorate General Communication to promote the work of the institution in Bulgaria and the European elections. Bivol requested and obtained the declaration within one business day.

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At this time, Monica Yosifova was living together with Sergey Stanishev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, and the couple had a one-year-old daughter. In September of that year, Stanishev was elected President of the Party of European Socialists, PES

Payments under this project began in the spring of 2013, roughly the time when Monica Yosifova and Sergey Stanishev wed and legally became spouses – May 20, 2013. In May, “Active Group” received the first tranche of 29 679.93 euros for this project. This became clear from documents requested and received by Bivol, based on Regulation 1049 /2001.

From “no conflict” to “it smells of taking advantage”

At the beginning of November last year, Bivol asked the EP whether this could constitute a conflict of interest. The Directorate General Communication answered on November 6, 2013, that there was no such conflict of interest as the project has met all criteria of the European Parliament and Monica Yosifova “received no salary for this project.”

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In its last issue for 2013, the prestigious German paper “Der Spiegel” published a reportage on the subject, entitled “Dubious PR contract.” The article focuses on the political problem that this contract creates for the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. MEP Inge Grässle, member of the Budgetary Control Committee, has requested a probe of this contract on the grounds the case “smells of taking advantage.”

Der Spiegel also cites EP’s Directorate General Communication having no idea of the family relationship between Monica Yosifova and Sergey Stanishev when contracting the grant and not seeing conflict of interest.

The financial terms of the agreement remain secret

Bivol asked to see annexes to the contract with the financial parameters of the project and the exact allocations: salaries for IT professionals, web hosting, and consumables, among others. So far, under this project a site, http://razberiep.eu/, was created, based on the free software WordPress, which hardly cost more than 1000 levs, and a graphic template for 60 U.S. dollars. There is also a Facebook page, while a drawing competition for children has been already held in six cities. However, the conducted and upcoming activities seem to be times cheaper than those provided for the project – 128 000 euros, of which 60 000 come from European taxpayers’ pockets.

Bivol was denied access to financial documents on December 20 last year on grounds their publication will affect “trade secrets.” Moreover, according to European officials, there was “lack of overriding public interest.”

Pressure on the media and censorship of “Grant Gate”

The October 2013 publication of Bivol about the scandalous grant was passed with silence by all Bulgarian media, except Mediapool, Capital and the PIK agency.

The mention of the difficulties to obtain public information precisely about this contract led to censorship of Bivol journalists in the Council of Europe.

The resulting effect, however, was exactly the opposite – European media became interested in the case, as evidenced by the publication of Der Spiegel, which, though belatedly, received wide coverage.

Meanwhile, documents leaked through BSPLeaks, made it clear that as early as 2009, Monica Yosifova had an active political role in BSP, as she was orchestrating political campaigns in favor of the party.

This fact promises an interesting development of the Budget Committee hearings as the conflict of interest is clearly not limited to the marital relationship of Monica Yosifova and Sergey Stanishev.

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