Bulgarian Pickpockets

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October 7th, 2018- for the third time in less than 12 months, Europe was shocked by the murder of an investigative journalist. Viktoria Marinova was the administrative director of TVN Television in which she presented the relaunched programme Detektor. On the 30th of September Marinova invited 2 journalists, Dimitar Stoyanova and Attila Biro, on her programme to discuss the GP Gate Scandal - a story they were detained for by Bulgarian police. At the heart of the story lay the tampering and subsequent destruction of evidence, pointing towards corrupt practices by a construction company, suspected of scamming European funds through prominent businessmen and politicians.

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During this relaunched programme, the three discussed the findings of their investigation to set the scene for the next aired episode which was to tackle the Hitrino Train Derailment - an incident which left 7 dead and 29 injured. According to fellow Bulgarian journalist Atanas Tchobanov, Hitrino is one of the places where GP Gate suspects won a suspicious public tender.

Yet, on October 7th, before Marinova’s second episode could air, her body was found by a river, where she had been beaten and raped prior to her murder. Among the suspects are Russian citizens, linked with the Bulgarian Branch of Russian Multinational Energy Corporation Lukoli. Tchobanov, openly attacked Bulgarian Authorities’ incompetence and unwillingness to investigate the GP Gate scandal and thus, called for an EU backed investigation of her murder.

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The death of a journalist holds an immeasurable amount of implications. The work of Marinova, much to her murderers’ (or rather, their commissioners’) discontent, will not be buried away with her. Yet, Marinova’s work brings forward a discussion one might not particularly like to admit. One of the arguments propagated during Brexit discussions was the discrepancy between funds received from the EU, and payments made to the EU from the country’s Gross National Income. Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union and therefore stands to benefit substantially from the 25% of EU funds meant to diversify and strengthen poorer EU countries’ economies through projects and infrastructure. However the flaw in the system lies in the fact that those same funds, at least as alleged in Bulgaria’s case, are entrusted in the hands of ministers who succumb to hefty bribes from consultancy companies. Beyond national governments, corruption and fraud have even wormed their way into agencies, resulting in a squandering of resources intended to be used for the Union’s collective benefit.

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Corrupt officials and governments are single-handedly tampering with the reputation of the Union on an international level. Through journalists like Marinova, these allegations come to light and are brought down from the highest levels of government to individual citizens. This has, in turn, fanned the flames of Euroscepticism, and vilified the Eastern members of the Union. It is the lack of transparency and proper political practice that contributes to the tarnishing of the values of the European Union. This is a problem which the EU must tackle through active oversight of the funding process, and by strengthening the rule of law at all levels. However, we must come to realise that in order for the EU to shine as the beacon of European values to its millions of citizens, member states must first wipe the grime from their own windows, and let the light in.

Written by

Alexandra Gaglione

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