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Jourova faces criticism on muted response to Bulgaria’s rule of law failings

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EU Values and Transparency Commissioner Věra Jourová on Thursday had to defend herself against robust criticism from MEPs who pressed Brussels to account for its muted response to Bulgaria’s rule of law failings, POLITICO reports.

For two months, Bulgarians have packed the streets every night to protest that an oligarchic mafia has captured the state and extended its reach deep into institutions such as the judiciary, media and security services. They are demanding the resignations of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Chief Prosecutor Ivan “The Cap” Geshev.

Jourová debated for more than an hour with MEPs from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on the EU’s monitoring mechanism on the judiciary in Romania and Bulgaria. But the debate turned sour when some MEPs raised the issue of the anti-mafia demonstrations in Bulgaria.

“I sharply reject your accusation that I am an accomplice of … [Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko] Borissov,” the Czech retorted to Clare Daly, an Irish MEP from the far-left GUE group who attacked the Commission for being “complicit” in Bulgaria’s corruption. “Please, do not offend me like that,” Jourová replied.

Many of Borissov’s opponents accuse Brussels and Berlin of turning a blind eye to Bulgarian corruption because the prime minister is a key ally of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the center-right European People’s Party on the European stage. Jourová herself is a liberal.

Jourová, however, stressed the relative powerlessness of the Commission in a situation when problems permeate throughout an EU member country. “If democracy does not work bottom-up and top-down, the Commission cannot do much if the things go too wrong in the member state … We have to bear in mind what the Commission is and isn’t.”

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