Ministry of Foreign Affairs pressures Ministry of Justice about Prokopiev's pawn

After the Strasbourg Court, the oligarch's tentacles reach a key EU agency

Ekaterina Zaharieva

The indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev has stretched his tentacles to yet another key European agency by attempting to secure a position in it for one of the pawns in his inner circle - the scandalous grants recipient Nadya Shabani. He is doing this with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which is pressuring the Ministry of Justice to approve the nomination by setting an absurdly short deadline of two days for a decision to be made.

The scandal broke out following a post on the website of Legal World, which warned, citing an official MFA document, that Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva had recommended that the Ministry of Justice considers Shabani for member of the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). This is a key European organisation, which is in constant cooperation with EU institutions and governments and even gives its opinion on cases in Member States. And that includes Bulgaria.

Because of these powers, the agency is one of the many European organisations to have been captured by the oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, who is now trying, with the help of the state at that, to protect his territory of influence there. His plan is to replace one pawn of his on the FRA Management Board with another, with the assistance of the MFA. He already managed to do so in the Strasbourg Court, where his pawn Zdravka Kalaydzhieva was succeeded by Yonko Grozev, co-founder of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, thanks to strings pulled by Prokopiev. The end goal of embedding moles in this type of institutions is the same - for Prokopiev to exert pressure on the Bulgarian state. Now Shabani has been put forward as candidate to take over the FRA position from Krasimir Kanev, head of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and just as scandalous of a grants recipient. Kanev has been sitting on the FRA Management Board since 2015, having been nominated by the failed former Minister of Justice Hristo Ivanov, currently leader of the oligarchic political party Yes, Bulgaria and an associate of Ivo Prokopiev. Now that Kanev's term is over, Prokopiev has set into motion a new plan to preserve his influence - to arrange it so that Shabani takes the position next. To that end, the MFA sent the justice minister her candidacy at the last possible moment, thus giving Minister Danail Kirilov the absurdly short period of two days to take a stand. Clearly this is an attempt to pressure the Ministry of Justice into accepting the nomination.

Just as scandalous is the fact that the nomination was not even technically put forward by Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva. Obviously - so that she could later avoid responsibility for the ridiculous candidacy - Zaharieva had a clerk, a head of department to be exact, send the letter. Telegraph Media reached out to Kirilov for a comment on whether he would really allow a person from the inner circle of an indicted oligarch to represent Bulgaria. The following is his response, as released through his press office: “We are taking the proposal under careful consideration despite the short two-day deadline we have been given outside of the context of the procedure, and by an MFA official lacking the necessary rank. And it (the procedure) calls for an in-depth debate about the candidates.”

Twice, Zaharieva skirted around directly posed questions about why she is backing for the position a person under the thumb of an indicted oligarch, telling a Telegraph Media journalist that she was in a hurry for a Bulgarian National Television appearance and that the questions should be sent to her in writing. Finally, she responded through her press office in the following way: “Nadya Shabani's name has been proposed not by Minister Zaharieva, but by the administration. No decision has been made, which means that there is no official nomination. As of now, Bulgaria is represented by Krasimir Kanev from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, whose term is expiring and cannot be extended. He was originally nominated by Minister of Justice Hristo Ivanov.” All this means is that Prokopiev managed to insert his preferred candidate in the FRA with the help of Hristo Ivanov, his pawn in the second Borissov cabinet, and now the oligarch is trying to preserve his influence in the agency through another pawn of his in the current cabinet.

Both the head of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Krasimir Kanev, and Nadya Shabani, who currently chairs the Bulgarian Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) are key figures in the NGO network created in Bulgaria thanks to financing from billionaire speculator George Soros and his Bulgarian disciple Ivo Prokopiev. Shabani was first part of the BCNL from its inception in 2001 until 2009, when she assumed a position at the helm of the State Agency for Child Protection. As the head of the agency, she was in charge of coordinating all measures and programmes under the umbrella of the Deinstitutionalisation of Children in Bulgaria Plan adopted in 2010 and funded by the EU to the tune of over €100m over the first four years. After ending her term by resigning “for personal reasons”, she returned to the BCNL as its head.

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