Bulgarian parliament adopts anti-corruption bill in first reading

By bne IntelliNews July 4, 2016

The Bulgarian parliament has adopted a new draft anti-corruption law in its first reading, Dnevnik daily reported on June 30.

Last September, the parliament rejected an earlier anti-corruption bill in its first reading, a setback that was highlighted by the European Commission in its annual report on the country’s progress under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) published on January 27. “The government has announced its intention to resubmit the proposal in an amended form, but the rejection underlined a lack of political consensus behind the reform process,” the CVM report said.

On June 30 the new bill was supported by 130 lawmakers in the 240-seat assembly, 28 were against and 13 abstained. The votes against came from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, 21), opposition nationalist party Ataka (six) and one independent MP.

Both the first text and the new version of the law were proposed by Deputy Prime Minister (now also Minister of Education and Science) Meglena Kuneva, the leader of Bulgaria of Citizens Movement (DBG), one of the parties in the junior ruling coalition partner Reformist Bloc. On May 13, DBG warned that it would withdraw its support for the government if the parliament rejected the new bill as well.

The latest bill envisages the creation of a national bureau, which will unite the current anti-corruption agency BORKOR, a unit of the national audit office, as well as the commissions dealing with conflict of interest and withdrawal of criminal assets. The bureau will be elected by the parliament.

During the debates in the parliament, the draft law was heavily criticized. One of the main criticisms concerned the possibility for anonymous tip-offs, bTV reported. Unlike the first version, the bill now envisages a preliminary check of tip-offs.

Atanas Zafirov from the BSP said that part of the proposals contradict the Constitution, Dnevnik reported. Yavor Haytov from the Bulgarian Democratic Centre (BDC) said that the party will withdraw its support for the bill in the second reading if its comments are not taken into account. BDC accounted for 10 of the votes in favour.

Kuneva has proposed the creation of a working group that will improve the bill before the second reading and vote.

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