German MEP says “the deal could be tainted.” The contract with the wife of PES’ president will be investigated by the Budgets Committee of the European Parliament
Active Group, the company of Monica Yosifova, is giving up the scandalous project funded by theEuropean Parliament and will restore the advance pay of 29 679.93 euros it received shortly after she married the President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Sergey Stanishev. This is written in a letter sent via email to the editorial office of Bivol. The letter is signed personally by Monica Yosifova.
Details from this grant were revealed in a series of publications of Bivol from October-November 2013. The European Parliament rejected suspicions of conflict of interest, but refused to provide detailed financial information on the spending of the grant. Bulgarian media kept silent about the case until the information was published in “Der Spiegel” magazine at the very end of 2013. Prior to this, Bivol’s presentation before the Council of Europe was blatantly censored by organizers because it mentioned the case.
After the publication in “Der Spiegel,” MEPs decided to get involved and asked the Budgets Committee of the European Parliament to check this grant.
Monica Yosifova assesses media interest and the upcoming review of the grant as “attempts to burden it with malicious and unfounded accusations to be used unscrupulously and speculatively for political strife.” She also rejects suspicions of conflict of interest.
However, it remains unclear why Active Group has decided to forgo the project and to return the money when it sees nothing wrong with it.
Bivol will insist on a discussion of the case by the European Parliament and on a full analysis of lack or presence of conflict of interest.
We will also insist on an apology from the Council of Europe for the unprecedented censorship of our presentation and on an independent investigation to determine whether this censorship has not been the result of political pressure from the highest levels in PES and in European institutions.
Below is the full text of the letter of Monica Yosifova (she has signed it as Stanisheva):
Last week, the company “Active group” Ltd. sent a letter to the European Parliament, with which it notified the institution that it is terminating the implementation of the project “How Do We Understand EP.” All funds invested to date in the project are the company’s own. The advance payment in the amount of 29 679.93 euros will be refunded.
The company “Active group” Ltd concluded this contract after participation in an open tender procedure, announced on the website of the European Parliament, and was approved to sign the framework partnership agreement with the prestigious institution in 2012
This is a resounding recognition of the professionalism of our team and the quality of the project.
In recent months, however, we have witnessed a series of attempts to burden it with malicious and unfounded accusations to be used unscrupulously and speculatively for political strife. As an agency that has been shaping its professional reputation for over 12 years, it is impossible for us to jeopardize the purpose and the goals of this project. Activities, embedded in it, were designed to build trust, not to feed unhealthy political interests.
This project has already sparked interest in Bulgarian media. The answer of Ms. Marjory van der Broeke, Head of the Press Unit of the European Parliament’s Directorate General for Communication, sent to them was eloquent enough – the project was deemed eligible for subsidizing on the basis of the opinion of an independent evaluation committee, composed of 6 members of different European Parliament services. Our project complied with all the selection criteria and was rated as one of the best proposals.
Although, there is a clear refutation of the European Parliament of all unsubstantiated allegations, speculations on the subject have not stopped. Moreover, they have reached the point of questioning established and transparent mechanisms for competitive selection procedures of EP’s partners. Precisely such procedure was applied in allowing our agency to participate as a partner of the European Parliament in 2012.
We consider it our professional duty to protect the reputation of our partners; to not allow to destroy the meaning of the projects we are working on and to give an example of proper market conduct. For this reason, we made the difficult decision to terminate our participation in this project, assuming the responsibility for all ensuing duties and obligations.
Manager of “Active Group” Ltd.
Bivol reminds that:
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.
At this time, Monica Yosifova was living together with Sergey Stanishev, Chairman of theBulgarian 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 Yosifovaand 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.”
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.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian