European Commission concerned over illegal eavesdropping in Bulgaria

By EDRi · January 26, 2011

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Deutsch: [Europäische Kommission besorgt über illegale Abhöraktionen in Bulgarien |]

Based on a request for access to public information, Dnevnik daily newspaper
has been able to access and publish information showing that a
third of the wiretaps in Bulgaria have no proper legal coverage, being
performed without an authorisation from a judge.

This is possible due to a “flexible” formulation of the procedure for
requesting the interception of a person’s communications. An internal
directive issued by Boris Velchev, the prosecutor-general allows prosecutors
to request eavesdropping without the authorisation of a judge when a
criminal investigation has been opened.

According to Dvevnik, based on this procedure, 2 767 such cases of illegal
eavesdropping have already taken place in seven months. The daily also
revealed that, according to economists, Bulgaria spends 50 times more than
the UK on eavesdropping.

While the Bulgarian press reveals a significant increase of eavesdropping
under the government of Boyko Borissov, the Bulgarian Prime-Minister
justifies the government eavesdropping as an important instrument in
fighting organised crime.

The European Commission has recently requested information from the
Bulgarian authorities related to the legality of the eavesdropping
activities, following leaks into Galeria tabloid concerning taped phone
conversations in which apparently Boyko Borissov spoke of the need to
“protect” a controversial businessperson from customs checks. As a result of
the scandal in the press, Borissov asked for a vote of confidence in the
Parliament, which he won on 20 January 2011.

The ALDE group submitted on 21 January 2011 a question to the Commission
asking clarifications over the application of the Bulgarian wiretap law,
which infringes the Bulgarian Constitution, the provisions of the Lisbon
Treaty, the ECHR and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

“The current Bulgarian scandal over the escalating use of Special
Intelligence Means is a stain on the image of Bulgaria in the same way as
the Hungarian media law this week taints the international image of that
country. The data collected from the special services in Bulgaria is leaking
widely and the only independent mechanism for control over the special
services has been abolished. There is a widespread paranoia spreading
amongst Bulgarian society. The European Commission should step in and uphold
the rights of Bulgarian citizens under EU law before this situation gets out
of hand,” said ALDE MEP Stanimir Ilchev.

The European Commission is expected to present a report in February on
progress made by Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism
monitoring procedure.

One third of eavesdropping in Bulgaria illegal (21.01.2011)

Wiretap scandal rocks Bulgarian government (18.01.2011)

Any third monitoring of GSM and the Internet has no control (only in
Bulgarian, 22.01.2011)

Eavesdropping scandal in Bulgaria: Commission must investigate (21.01.2011)

EDRi-gram: Protests in Bulgaria against eavesdropping and data retention law