Who leaked the Luxleaks?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 28/11/14

Yesterday a Ukrainian television asked me who leaked the Luxleaks. Not that they thought I knew. Their basic question was “Quid prodest”, who benefits from Luxleaks? They had in mind their country, which badly needs a strong Europe, rather than a weak one. The assumption is that by weakening Juncker, Europe is weakened. So who was pulling the strings?

Short question, short answer.

I said two things. First, I have no doubts that the Luxleaks, the famous Luxembourg tax files, were given to journalists by an intelligence service. We journalists are not equipped to get such files ourselves.
Secondly, the respective intelligence service has obviously been tasked to weaken Juncker. And indirectly, to weaken the EU.

I said I could think of two leaders who want to weaken the EU – David Cameron and Vladimir Putin. Cameron was against the appointment of Juncker in the first place, and according to my information, the Luxleaks were given to the journalistic consortium in May. That’s when Juncker won the European elections as “spitzenkandidat”.
Also, now that Luxembourg is under the spotlight, the London City can breathe.
But on the other hand, Luxleaks is now pushing the EU toward tax harmonisation, something London doesn’t want.

Putin too would like to weaken the EU, I said, and didn’t elaborate, as I was speaking to a Ukrainian audience.

Journalists protect their sources. That’s good; our profession is based on this trust. Journalists have also the duty not to be manipulated. Should they have refused to run the files? It’s a tough choice, because the Luxleaks are very valuable material.

L’Europe germano-allemande

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 04/11/14

I don’t know how to say it in English, but a French-speaking friend of mine calls it L’Europe germano-allemande. For several decades we were used to the French-German tandem, but now we have Germany all over the place.

The real leaders of the two big political families are Germans – Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz. I am the last one to believe that the official leaders, like Manfred Weber (German as well) or Gianni Pittella hold the real power in EPP and S&D.
Behind the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker there is Germany and behind the Council President Donald Tusk there is Germany again. I am one of those who strongly believe that Tusk’s appointment is a long-planned Berlin project.
When important inter-institutional decisions need to be taken, the German spokesperson of Juncker calls the German Secretary General of the European Parliament. Or one “spitzenkandidat” calls the other. Martin Selmayr and Klaus Welle played ball very well over the Commissioners’ hearings, and that’s why the Juncker team was appointed on time, for the first time since 1994 when the system of hearings was introduced. How did they do it? One example is by agreeing the rules –like the short answers which do not allow the commissioners-designate to get into big trouble.
German players, German arbiters. German football is excellent, but German Christian democrats playing ball with German Social Democrats at all major derbies on the European football field, does it make much sense? Even if here or there, there is a Polish player?
My short forecast is that the football hooligans with Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and Le Front National in France in the forefront, will steal the show at some point soon. Affaire à suivre.

Which MEPs voted against EU-Ukraine association?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 17/09/14

Basically extreme-left and extreme-right MEPs voted against the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, according to the monitoring by Vote Watch Europe.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv simultaneously ratified yesterday (16 September) the landmark EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA).

MEPs backed the agreement with 535 votes in favour, 127 against and 35 abstentions. The monitoring by Vote Watch Europe provided insight as to how each individual MEP voted, including the names of the MEPs.
Accordingly, 14 MEPs from Austria vote for and 4 against. Those who voted against are from the far-right Freedom party.
From Belgium, 18 MEPs voted for and one MEP from the centre-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) voted against.
From Bulgaria, all 14 MEPs voted for, with no votes against and no abstentions.
Also from Croatia, all 11 MEPs voted for, without negative votes or abstentions.
From Cyprus, 4 MEPs voted for and 2 against. Those who voted against are from the communist “Progressive Party of Working People – Left – New forces”.
From the Czech Republic, 15 MEPs voted in favour and 4 against. One of them, Jan Keller, is a Social Democrat, another one, Petr Mach is from the Eurosceptic “Party of Free Citizens” and three are from the Communist party.
From Denmark, 6 MPEPs voted for. The only MEP who voted against is from the Eurosceptic “Peoples’ movement against the EU”.
All six MEPs from Estonia voted for, without negative votes or abstentions.
From Finland, 12 MEPs voted for, nobody voted against and one communist MEP abstained.
France is the country with the largest number of votes against. 42 French MEPs voted for and 27 against, of which 24 from the far-right Front National and 4 from extreme left forces.
From Germany, 73 MEPs voted for, and 10 against. One of those voting against is from the green “Ecology-Democratic Party”, one is from the Eurosceptic “Alternative for Germany, five are from the leftist “Die Linke” and one is from the extreme-right “Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands”.
Greece is the only country from which more MEPs voted against. Eight MEPs voted for, and 12 against: 6 from the leftist Syriza, two from the Communist party, one from the extreme right “Golden Dawn”, one from the Eurosceptic party “Independent Greeks”.
From Hungary, 18 MEPs voted against and two from the extreme-right Jobbik party voted against.
From Ireland 6 MEPs voted for and 3 against: one from the leftist party Baile Átha Cliath and two from Sinn Féin, which is also associated to the leftist GUE/NGL group.
From Italy 46 voted for and 8 against, of which 3 from the “Tspiras list” and 5 from the separatist “Lega Nord”. Eighteen Italian MEPs abstained, of which 17 from the “Five Star Movement” of Beppe Grillo and one from Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia”.
From Latvia 7 MEPs voted for and one green MEP against.
All 10 MEPs from Lithuania voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
Also all 6 MEPs from Luxembourg voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
From Malta, 5 MEPs voted for and a socialist MEP abstained.
From the Netherlands, 14 voted for and 7 against. Three of them are from leftist forves and four are from the extreme-right Party of Freedom.
From Romania, all 28 MEPs voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
From Slovakia, 11 MEPs voted for and 2 abstained: one of them being from the socialist SMER party, and one from the liberal “Freedom and Solidarity” party.
From Slovenia, all 7 MEPs voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
From Spain, 41 MEPs voted for, 10 voted against and one abstained. Those who voted against are from leftist forces and the one who abstained is from a green party.
From Sweden 13 MEPs voted for and 2 against. Those who voted against are from the far-right “Sweden Democrats”.
From the UK, 39 MEPs voted for, 22 against and two abstained. The UKIP party massively voted against, while one conservative and one green MEP abstained.

More details: http://www.votewatch.eu/en/term8-eu-ukra…

Macedonia rams into yet another ‘historic’ controversy with Bulgaria

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 15/09/14

“On the occasion of the 1150th anniversary of the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia, the Czech Television and Barrandov Studios Prague, along with co-producers from Slovakia and Slovenia, have shot a film entitled “Cyril and Methodius – The Apostles of the Slavs“. This historical saga, under the directorship of Petr Nikolaev, is advertised as the first Czech movie in the “docudrama” style (similar to analogous historical productions of BBC).

The film publicity, however, has angered the spirits on the Balkan Peninsula, who have been focused on the following claims:

“This Czech-Slovak project is conceived as Pan-European and takes into account also the historical facts and events that have relevance for other nations, including the Poles, Russians, Macedonians, Serbs, Greeks, etc. The project was also presented to “His All Holiness” Bartholomew (Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, the presiding Archbishop of the World Orthodox Church) and received a positive response.”

Firstly, a number of reactions have come from Bulgaria. As is known, the First Bulgarian Empire saved the work of the two holy brothers Cyril and Methodius by hospitably accepting a group of their disciples and appointing them as prelates, bishops and teaching priests in the medieval Literary Schools of Preslav and Ohrid to pioneer the translation of religious books to Slavic (Old Bulgarian) language, thereby spreading throughout Europe both the Glagolian Slavic script and the in situ created Cyrillic Slavic alphabet (which is today used by many nations around the globe). Hence, the Bulgarian public opinion and media have been revolted by the omission of Bulgarians among the nations which the film addresses.

Simultaneously, the Greek observers and media have been extremely irritated by the explicit mention of “Macedonians” as a nation whose ethnicity is currently questioned by both Greece and Bulgaria, due to numerous historical reasons. Greek media have also been astonished that a film with such claims has allegedly been endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, given his firm previous position not to recognise either a Macedonian state name, nation and language (as per the steady policy of Greece), or a Macedonian Orthodox Church (as a result of its uncanonical schism with the Serbian Orthodox Church).

In turn, the media in the Republic of Macedonia have indeed been excited by the alleged “recognition” of a Macedonian nation by the Czech movie makers and the Ecumenical Patriarch. Thus, the Macedonian media did not miss the opportunity to bombard their EU neighbours with a new massive cannonade of hatred speech by using plenty of rather colourful epithets and expressions (often of racist nature) which make every untrained ear to blush from shame.

As a result of all this media noise, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has issued an official statement on behalf of His All Holiness Bartholomew to declare the following:

“In connection with mass media publications in Greece, FYROM, Bulgaria and elsewhere regarding the production of a Czech film about the life of the holy Thessaloniki Apostles Cyril and Methodius, which concern a presumed position allegedly expressed by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, we state hereby that the Patriarch has nothing to do with the case of this film, whence we categorically deny everything published on that occasion.”

In the light of this unambiguous declaration, the most logical question is what might be the motivation which urged the cinema makers to advertise their film by misusing the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name in such a deceptive way? Is it only due to the understandable wish for adding prestige and intriguing moviegoers in order to increase public interest and resulting sales?
Observers, who are familiar with the political life in the Republic of Macedonia, suspect however some hidden reasons driven by much stronger material and political interests.

Pro-opposition Macedonian media published lists of dozens of companies and properties in the Czech Republic, claimed to be owned or controlled by Sasho Mijalkov – a cousin of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and key member of his nepotistic governmental clan. Mr. Mijalkov is a graduate of the Prague University and director of the country’s secret services (Administration for Security and Counterintelligence). Macedonian authorities are extremely sensitive towards any release of information regarding this “Czech trace”. For instance, one of the opposition leaders, Mr. Ljube Boškoski, who attempted to unveil these mysterious estates in 2011, has been eavesdropped during the whole electoral campaign which ended with his immediate arrest, accusation, conviction and jailing. Then, under unclear circumstances in the prison, he signed letters of excuse to Mijalkov, Gruevski himself and his mother, whose names have been involved in the scandal. Thus, the case of Ljube Boškoski has been mentioned in the 2012 Human Rights Report of the US Department of State as an example for political imprisonment.

On this background, evil tongues on the Balkans repeatedly blamed the Czech Commissioner Stefan Füle for not applying all stringent EU accession criteria to the Macedonian EU candidacy and for alleged attempts to accept the country through the “back door”.

The above suspects have also been enhanced by the previous involvement of the Czech Barrandov Studios in co-producing of the highly controversial Macedonian film “The Third Half” which embittered the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia.

In conclusion, the unfortunate promotion of the recent Czech production “Cyril and Methodius – The Apostles of the Slavs”, by exploiting misleadingly the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name, demonstrated clearly how circumstances beyond the cinematography and historical truth can spoil a noble initiative. Instead of uniting people and nations to enjoy a piece of art and to celebrate together the two holy brothers and illustrious Patrons of Europe, a counterproductive effect of creating controversies and confrontation might be achieved. It seems that the human nature did not change so much between the 9th and the 21st Centuries.”

Miroslav Rizinski
Civil society activist, political observer and
former political prisoner in the Republic of Macedonia (2007-2011).

I was leaked the Juncker commission

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 03/09/14

I was leaked by a strange individual the draft organigram as of yesterday (2 September) of the Juncker Commission. I take it as a compliment for the strong coverage by EurActiv. See it yourself, and read EurActiv with details tomorrow.
The organigram was leaked by apparently someone external to Juncker’s services, as the person couldn’t provide any explanation whatsoever about the President-elect political thinking. Also, the document is clearly not a final version and subject to change. But it speaks for itself and is full of surprises.

If you find it difficult to read the photo, visit my Twitter account where the portfolio of every commissioner is specified.

Is it a scoop? No, I was leaked, probably not by Juncker himself, who must be furious. But papers circulate and maybe some insiders wanted it that way, to test the water. Read EurActiv.
Here is the list of the Juncker college, according to this draft, which is still subject to change. If you use it for professional reasons, would be nice to attribute the leak to EurActiv:

Luxembourg – Jean-Claude Juncker – President (EPP)

Poland – Elżbieta Bieńkowska – Vice President, Budget & Financial Control (EPP)
Estonia- Andrus Ansip – Vice President, Growth, EMU, European Semester, Social dialog (ALDE)
Latvia – Valdis Dombrovkis – Vice President, Energy Union (EPP)
Slovenia – Alenka Bratušek, Vice President, Digital & Innovation (ALDE)
The Netherlands – Frans Timmermans – Vice President, Better Regulation (S&D)
Italy – Federica Mogherini – Vice President, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (S&D)

Sweden – Cecilia Malmström – Justice and Anti-Fraud (ALDE)
Hungary – Tibor Navracsics – Customs (EPP)
Greece – Dimitris Avramopoulos – Migration, Rights, Home Affairs (EPP)
Croatia – Neven Mimica – Regional Policy (S&D)
Bulgaria – Kristalina Georgieva – Taxation, Fight against Fraud (EPP)
Ireland – Phil Hogan – Agriculture (EPP)
Malta – Carmenu Vela – Fisheries (S&D)
Germany – Günther Oettinger – Trade (EPP)
France – Pierre Moscovici – Competition (S&D)
Finland – Jyrki Katainen – Economic and Monetary Affairs (EPP)
Denmark – Margrethe Vetager – Environment (ALDE)
Portugal – Carlos Moedas – Employment and Social Affairs (EPP)
UK – Jonathan Hill – Energy and Climate Change (ECR)
Spain – Miguel Arias Cañete – Research and Innovation – (EPP)
Czech Republic- Věra Jourová – Transport and Space – (ALDE)
Cyprus – Christos Stylianides – Internet and Culture (EPP)
Romania – Corina Creţu – Humanitarian Aid (S&D)
Belgium – Marianne Thyssen (?) – Skills, Youth and Multilingualism (EPP)
Slovakia – Maroš Šefčovič – Development (S&D)
Austria – Johannes Hahn – Neighbourhood (EPP)
Lithuania – Vytenis Andriukaitis – Health and Food Safety (S&D)


* Update, 4 September *

EurActiv’s main story: ‘EXCLUSIVE: The Juncker team revealed

Read the EurActiv article, see the infographic

BREAKING: Poroshenko will participate to EU summit as Ukraine wanted

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 29/08/14

Published at 20.45hrs Brussels time. Diplomatic sources just told me that the services of Council President Herman Van Rompuy just invited by email EU heads of state and government to the EU summit starting at 17.00hrs tomorrow (not 16.00 as previously announced), at which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “will make a communication”.
Obviously, Ukraine has succeeded to have its President participate to the summit, and have a real session on Ukraine.
My information is that Ukraine had made this request, kept on insisting, but for many days had faced a refusal.

Read: Kyiv asks EU summit to discuss Ukraine

Electing Tusk as Council President is a sanction against Russia in itself

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 29/08/14

EU leaders are meeting tomorrow to elect successors to Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton. They are also expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine, where reportedly the Russian army has openly invaded, and decide further sanctions.

The Ukraine situation has strongly boosted the chances of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to succeed to Van Rompuy. Poland has been the most ardent supporter of pro-European Ukraine and his election will certainly deal a blow to Moscow.
As a journalist I have many times witnessed the irony with which Russian officials describe their EU counterparts, namely Van Rompuy and Ashton. I’m sure they would be more respectful of Tusk.
Electing Tusk will also confirm the stature of Poland as a major player in the EU. Poland’s major strength is that the country is strongly pro-European and that its 10 years of EU membership can be described as a success story, illustrating the benefits of EU enlargement and EU reunification.
Poland’s turbulent history has had many low periods, but this time POLSKA is at its peak.

MH17: Why didn’t the EU put its flags at half-mast?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 25/07/14

Every little act is a symbol that you care. I fail to understand why the EU didn’t put its flags at half- mast following the downing of MH17. Friends from France, Spain, Bulgaria called me and asked: did the Commission put down its flags? It didn’t.

The Malaysian airplane carrying 298 people of which 222 Europeans was shot probably by mistake, but it was a murder. Those are innocent victims of another war on European territory. The Netherlands, a country that lost 193 nationals in the crash, took the lead in the identification of the bodies. Dutch government buildings flew the flag at half-mast on 18 July, the day after the crash. But I don’t think the Dutch felt that the EU was with them on that day. By the way, Downing Street has put the Union Jack down, as 10 UK citizens perished in the crash.
Many European citizens felt as bereaved as the Dutch. But the EU institutions left them down.
P.S. This is the answer I got: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/pla…

Vassilev-Peevski, CCB bank run: oligarchy in Bulgaria exposed

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 13/07/14

Credit dossiers for a total of 3.5 billion leva (1.78 billion euro) of Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) have disappeared and a sum equivalent to 206 million leva (105 million euro) has been withdrawn in cash upon order by its president of the supervisory board and the majority shareholder Tzvetan Vassilev, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) announced on 11 July. Tzetan Vassilev is left on the photo.

BNB Governor Ivan Iskrov also said the license of CCB will be withdrawn, the bank will be declared bankrupt and all deposits and accounts of individuals and companies, with the exception of the accounts of Vassilev, will be transferred to CCB’s subsidiary bank “Crédit Agricole Bulgaria”, which will be nationalized.
Vassilev spoke from Vienna, denied any wrongdoing and basically said the developments were a conspiracy.
So much for the news. Now some comments.
Several media in Bulgaria titled “The robbery of the century”. It is assumed that CCB, one of the few Bulgarian-owned banks in the country, is the “bank of the power” – this is where most of the state assets used to be deposited.
In return for the favour, CCB contolled a media empire which paid lip service to the government – previously of Boyko Borissov, presently of the coalition between the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the Socialists. The media empire also badly attacked political foes and critics, including in the media.
A key figure in the story is Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker and MEP from DPS. Deevski is right on the photo. As it is common knowledge, the biggest concentration of Bulgarian media ownership and distribution concerns primarily the New Bulgarian Media Group Holding, of which Peevski’s mother Irena Krasteva is the owner, and of which credible press investigative reports suggested long ago that Vassilev is the creditor. I wrote about it myself some time ago.
In fact, the European Commission’s latest monitoring report on Bulgaria’s deficient law-enforcement system largely focused on Peevski, without naming him.
CCB has also reportedly financed the expensive European election campaign of the party “Bulgaria without censorship” of former journalist Nikolay Barekov, who is now an MEP. Vassilev has made no secret he wanted to play a role in politics. Barekov denies having been financed by CCB.
Then, the relations between Vassilev and Peevski deteriorated greatly, for undisclosed reasons. The Bulgarian prosecution took seriously Peevski’s signal that Vassilev had hired three people to kill him and investigated Vassilev’s offices, which contributed to a bank run on CCB that accelerated the early elections.
According to media reports, DPS has largely taken control over the siphoning of Bulgaria’s state resource, in terms of public procurement, governmental decision-making and law-making. Also according to publications in the Bulgarian press, the Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov often appears to act (or not to act) according to Peevski’s will.
Now the main topic in Bulgaria is “who will pay” over the salvaging of the bankrupt CCB. Some views support the conspiracy theory – unnamed big creditors created the bank run, so they will not have to pay.
In Bulgaria, huge wealth is visible (against the background of massive poverty), although few economic activities exist. It is assumed that much of the wealth has been created during a major previous bank crisis, in 1996.
Maybe we see a remake of the story. How was it possible that CCB and Peevski created such a powerful center of oligarchic power? Despite the fact that several media outlets in Bulgaria have warned against both against Vassilev and Peevski’s alleged foul play? How is it possible that the Bulgarian Central Bank did not notice for years the wrongdoings of CCB, before Iskov cried wolf a few days ago? Why major political forces were so largely silent, what was their interest to keep their eyes wide shut? Who are those people and companies who safely withdrew their millions just before the bank run became obvious?
Vassilev’s bank offered extremely generous interest rates for savers, and this is why most of the Bulgarian elite had put their money in his bank.
Many Bulgarian commentators today speak as if they were paid communicators by Vassilev. And nobody in the Bulgaria major TV stations asks those commentators before inviting them to comment: do you have put your money in CCB?
I don’t have any and will try to remain objective when returning to the matter.

Game over for Stanishev in Bulgaria. New life for him in the EU Commission?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 06/07/14

Stakes are high that Sergei Stanishev, (outgoing) leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and (still) President of PES, the Party of European Socialists, will be his country candidate for EU Commissioner.
Boyko Borissov, former Prime Minister said bets that Stanishev will be the Bulgarian candidacy, to be announced by the outgoing Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski. Borissov is better informed than me on home issues.

Oresharski said he will resign on 23 July. He also said he will attend the extraordinary 16 July EU summit, where top EU jobs will be discussed.
In an article I wrote for the Bulgarian press, I appealed for the President Rossen Plevneliev to represent Bulgaria at the 16 July summit. I also suggested that political forces should agree before that for a candidate. Current Bulgarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, current Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, appears to be a strong candidate for the next EU executive and it would be logical that Bulgaria would bank on her.
Stanishev made many mistakes, the biggest being the attempt to appoint Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker, as head of the country’s law-enforcement agency. Another has been to accept a government formula with the support of the extremist Ataka party. Further mistakes included waging an all-out war with political opponents inside the Bulgarian left, which brought anxiety and despair among the supporters of this political force.
When I wrote the article I wasn’t aware of the date of the resignation of the Prime Minister. It looks absurd that Bulgaria would be represented by an outgoing prime minister. Bulgaria has a long-standing practice that its President attends EU summits. Especially if there is a good reason for it.
In the meantime, yesterday (5 July) a forum of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was held, where a decision was taken that a Congress (the highest decision-making structure) would be convened on 27 July to elect a new leader, and that Stanishev was not going to be a candidate again.
This basically means that for Stanishev, it’s game over in Bulgaria. But does it mean that he should be given another chance to follow up at EU level?
It’s very much in the hands of Oresharski, and of Jean-Claude Juncker. The future Commission President may just mechanically take up the candidacies from capitals and play the (Russian) roulette gamble with the hearings in Parliament. Or Mr. Juncker could say: Stanishev is not a good candidate for the project I intend to lead.

Reuniting Europe rss

Georgi Gotev is senior editor of EurActiv more.