German MEP Ingeborg Grassle is known to be close to Angela Merkel Photo: TV5Monde
The Administration of the European Parliament continues to insist that there is no conflict of interest in the case with the grant of 60,000 euros given to the company of Monica Yosifova. Bivol sent a request asking whether the fact that at the time when Monica Yosifova’s signed the declaration of conflict of interest she cohabitated with the Chairman of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Sergei Stanishev, could put her in a situation of conflict of interest.
“At the time – 15 June 2012 – there was no conflict of interests. The fact that someone is the wife or girlfriend or husband of a politician does not exclude him or her from deploying any type of professional activity,” Marjory van der Broeke, Head of the Press Unit of the European Parliament’s Directorate General for Communication, insists.
German MEP Ingeborg Grassle, who was first to raise the issue before the Budgets Committee of the European Parliament, disagrees. According to her, the administration of the European Parliament breached the Financial Regulation for not analyzing the risk and not verifying whether the statement was true or not. She wrote this in response to the same question asked by Bivol. Grassle refers to Article 57 of Regulation № 966/2012
26/10/2012 Official Journal of the European Union L 298/332.
Conflict of interests
1. Financial actors and other persons involved in budget implementation and management, including acts preparatory thereto, audit or control shall not take any action which may bring their own interests into conflict with those of the Union.
Where such a risk exists, the person in question shall refrain from such action and shall refer the matter to the authorising officer by delegation who shall confirm in writing whether a conflict of interests exists. The person in question shall also inform his or her hierarchical superior. Where a conflict of interests is found to exist, the person in question shall cease all activities in the matter. The authorising officer by delegation shall personally take any further appropriate action.
2. For the purposes of paragraph 1, a conflict of interests exists where the impartial and objective exercise of the functions of a financial actor or other person, as referred to in paragraph 1, is compromised for reasons involving family, emotional life, political or national affinity, economic interest or any other shared interest with a recipient.
3. The Commission shall be empowered to adopt delegated acts in accordance with Article 210 setting out what is likely to constitute a conflict of interests together with the procedure to be followed in such cases.
In the European Parliament, however, there is no specific ethics committee to deal with such contentious cases and it is not clear who the arbitrator is when the administration and lawmakers are not of the same opinion about conflict of interest.
The development of the scandal – pressure on media and European censorship
The scandal with the grant for Monica Yosifova’s company “Active Group” was revealed in a publication of Bivol from October 31, 2013. Then, the socialist PR machine exerted total pressure on Bulgarian media to withhold this information. On their part, the Directorate General for Communication in Brussels did everything possible to delay the provision of financial documents related to this grant. The attempt of journalists from Bivol to present this information in the Council of Europe ended with unprecedented censorship – the video from the presentation was cut exactly at the place when journalists spoke about their search for documents in the scandalous contract with “Active Group” under the Access to Public Information Act.
For two long months Bivol led persistent correspondence with EP to get the documents and the financial parameters of the grant. We published all documents that we obtained and informed of the refusals on the backdrop of full media blackout. During all this time, the political opponents of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) in Bulgaria – the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and the Reformist Bloc – kept silent, while some even expressed opinions that it was petty to hold someone accountable for such meager amount.
Things changed drastically after a publication in the German magazine Der Spiegel of December 21, 2013. In mid-January this year, German MEP Inge Gassler, known as a „Financial Doberman“, member of the Budgets Committee and the Budgetary Control Committee (BUDG, CONT), raised the issue about possible benefits for people from circles close to EP President Martin Schulz. In an interview with DPA, she emphatically stated that she suspected conflict of interest and the „the administration of the European Parliament should be held accountable.“
On January 22, Sergei Stanishev urgently and unexpectedly left for Brussels. On January 23, Monica Yosifova sent an email to the Directorate General for Communication (it was not made public until January 29), stating she was relinquishing the project and was going to return the received advance pay of 30,000 euros.
This is clearly not enough for the European right-wing, which is seeking an explanation why the grant was awarded in the first place. Yesterday, February 5, German MEP Michael Gahler asked Martin Schulz whether „a criminal act“ could have been committed as Monica Stanisheva has declared in writing that she was not in conflict of interest.