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Bulgarian MEPs: One for the money, two for the show?

And the richer MEP is... Andrey Kovatchev [Dnevnik]

By Krassen Nikolov

Given the low standard of living in Bulgaria, the country’s MEPs can save relatively big sums of money during their term in the European Parliament. This is the first conclusion that pops up after checking the declarations of assets of the 17 Bulgarian MEPs. In any case, those who have already served as MЕPs are substantially richer than their colleagues who have so far been MPs in the national parliament. There is a caveat: no information is available for some of the new MEPs, since until now they were not under obligation to declare their assets.

All MEPs pay EU tax and insurance contributions, after which their monthly salary amounts to €6.824,85. But MEPs also receive allowances for just being present at the Parliament sessions, and in fact their monthly income is substantially higher. Anyway, the final MEP salary is enormous for the standard of living in the poorest country in the EU. So the question of the motivation of politicians to serve in Brussels is legitimate. One for the money, two for the show: the leading motivе for becoming an MEP is questionable. There is prestige in being an MEP, undoubtedly. But there is also good money. For comparison, MPs in Bulgaria receive about €2,000 per month.

Here is what the last asset declarations of the new MEPs show. They are filed in 2018 and are for 2017. The deadline for the publishing of their new declarations has not come.

Andrey Kovatchev (Group of the European People’s Party/GERB) is an MEP for the third time. Although he has lived in a modest rented 70 square meters apartment in Brussels since 2011, he is a millionaire in Bulgaria. Kovatchev has four bank deposits. The biggest one of € 522,267 euros is in a foreign bank. The three other deposits are in Bulgaria – the first one is of €47,911, the second one is of $53,550 and the third one is for 1,500 leva (€760). He has also declared that he has €10,500 in cash. The average salary in Bulgaria is €630 euros. Andrey Kovatchev has also invested €18,000 euros in foreign investment and pension funds. The MEP has a mortgage loan for €120,000.

His declared salary income for 2017 is €80,000. A year earlier he declared €14,000. The discrepancy is not clear.

Andrei Novakov (Group of the European People’s Party/GERB) is a second term member of the European Parliament. In 2018, he declared that his wife Tatyana Novakova bought in 2016 half of a 80 square meters apartment in Plovdiv for about 5000 euros, which seems a very low price. This year, the average cost per square meter in the city has been between 400 and 500 euros. Mrs Novakova uses a rented apartment in Sofia for which she pays an annual rent of €4,200. As this is more than her declared annual salary, the rent is paid by her husband.

Novakov’s €232,000 bank deposits are held abroad. The money come from “salary and savings declared in previous declarations”, says the document. A year earlier, however, Novakov has declared only one deposit of €52,500 in a foreign bank. His annual salary as MEPs cannot explain this big rise.

Eva Maydell (Group of the European People’s Party/GERB) is also a second term MEP. In 2018 she has declared 3 properties: A 95 square meters apartment and 240 square meters house with yard in Austria, donated to her husband Niklas Maydell, an Austrian national. Mr Maydell has also bought a house with a yard in Spain. The whole property is 24 700 square meters, and the house itself is 260 square meters. Its price is declared at 787 200 leva (€402,000 euros). The money reportedly comes from salary.

In Belgium, Eva Maydell uses a 220 square meters apartment the monthly rent of which is €3,400. In the declarations, the annual rental expense is noted. Maydell has a €141,728 deposit in a foreign bank. Her husband’s yearly salary is €100,030. A year earlier Eva, then still known by her maiden name Paunova,  declared a €160,485 deposit. In her case her savings have decreased.

By comparison, Asim Ademov (Group of the European People’s Party/GERB) is MEP only since 2017 when he replaced Mariya Gabriel, who was then approved as European Commissioner. He is significantly poorer than his colleagues with a longer experience in the European Parliament. His savings are in two deposits – $3,331 and €43,000. Ademov, however, has to pay loans to two banks – €23,000 in total.

Nevertheless, his short time as MEP has obviously been beneficial. Before that, as a vice regional governor of Blagoevgrad he has declared possessing only €2,115 euros and $3309 dollars in bank deposits .

Emil Radev (Group of the European People’s Party/GERB) is also a rich person according to Bulgarian standards. He is an MEP for the second time. He has 5 bank deposits in Bulgaria and 4 abroad. The deposits in Bulgaria are not big. But those in foreign banks are of nearly €300,000. The money in these deposits reportedly comes from salary. Radev has paid €104,000 euros for shares in “Invest Consulting 2002“ AD (joint-stock company). He has not declared his salary earnings.

Sergei Stanishev (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats/BSP), who is the president of the Party of European Socialists and a second term MEP, has three deposits in the country. In the biggest one, he holds €154,757. His wife Monika Stanisheva also has deposits, the largest of which is of €114,553 euros. She also has a foreign account with €10,000.

In 2017, Monika Stanisheva bought an apartment and a garage in Sofia for nearly €170,000. The family also uses a 420 square meters house in Brussels for which they pay €60,000 of rent per year. Mrs Stanisheva also rents out a 700 square meters house in Sofia for €20,000 per year.

Iskra Mihaylova (Renew Europe Group/DPS) is a second term MEP. But her savings are not as big as her colleagues’. She has declared $8,000, €22,500 in cash, € 55,000 in a bank abroad, and $8,780 in Bulgaria. It’s strange how Bulgarian politicians hold large sums of cash.

Angel Dzhambazki (European Conservatives and Reformists Group/VMRO) is an MEP for the second time. He has declared a €197,000 deposit in a foreign bank. He has declared that his money comes from salary which is said is of €102,000. A year earlier, Djambazki had €183,000 euros less on his bank accounts. It turns out that in a year Djambazki managed to save more money than he got from his salary.

Ilhan Kyuchuyk (Renew Europe Group/DPS), who is a second time MEP, has not even declared his salary. He has declared only his wife’s money – €27,000.

Atidzhe Alieva – Veli (Renew Europe Group/DPS) is a first term MEP. So far she has been vice chairman of the State Fund “Agriculture”. The institution was at the center of a scandal involving the misuse of European money under the Rural Development Program just before the elections. In her last declaration she has put down only her annual salary of €22,000, and her husband’s earnings of €98,000.

Elena Yoncheva (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats/BSP), who has so far been a member of the national parliament, has declared only €9,000 in cash, and bank loans for a total of €112,000. She declares her annual earnings at less than €17,000.

Her colleague Petar Vitanov (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats/BSP), who is also a first-time MEP, has declared his annual salary as an MP – €21,000. He has savings of only €7,500.

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