Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Thank You, Mr Cameron, for the Bulgarian Rebellion

Adelina Marini, February 8, 2016

Something happened in the heat of the debate in the EU on the British question, which is probably insignificant for British public opinion, but is not so for the EU. Or at least it should not be. A meeting was held in the Bulgarian embassy in London of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (GERB, EPP) with Bulgarian citizens, at which the PM was attacked with questions about the unfavourable report of the European Commission under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, published more than a week ago, about the humiliating article [in German] in the German weekly magazine der Spiegel, titled “The Bulgarian politician Peevski: an iceberg of corruption” of the same week, about the multiple incidents of shocking connections between the judiciary and the PM, which the word “scandal” seems too bland for, as well as many other not less important questions about the future of Bulgarians in Great Britain after the referendum on its membership in the EU. The hour-long meeting was conducted in the presence of Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, and Ambassador Konstantin Dimitrov. 

The prime minister’s replies were disturbing and would lead to a resignation in any well-functioning democracy, but not in the Bulgarian version. To the question ”How are we going to catch up with the Romanians?”, which has a long history in the difficult Bulgarian transition from a totalitarian society towards liberal democracy, the PM replied that in fact Bulgaria was absorbing 20% more money from the EU funds than Romania. To the cries of “this is not important to us” Mr Borissov replied resentfully:”What do you mean it is not important?! Close to seven billion have been paid out in Bulgaria over the last year from EU funds”. The audience, however, continued to be outraged that the PM was not answering the question. “This does not answer the question! This is not the question! We are not asking you about the EU funds!” were the shouts that could be discerned in the general din. 

Indeed, this is not the question, regardless of the introductions to the reports on Romania and Bulgaria showing exactly how much money from the EU funds were spent by both states on judicial reforms and fighting corruption and organised crime. During the period 2007-2013, a total of 51 million euro were allocated in operational programme “Administrative Capacity” for projects in the judiciary. The signed contracts are for just 25 million euro, “due to a lack of uptake in the courts and prosecution offices”, says the report on Bulgaria. 30.1 million euro are allocated for the judiciary in the new programme period 2014-2020. And the conclusions of the report are shameful, as euinside already reported. 

The report on Romania shows that during the previous financial period Romania implemented a number of projects in the area of fighting corruption and judicial reform. The total amount of financing from the European Social Fund was 16 million euro, with the largest beneficiaries being the ministries of public administration, of justice, of education, and healthcare. In the European regional development funds Romania had available 15 million euro, which were invested in projects for integrity control, including the much commended system for preliminary control PREVENT, working in the sphere of public procurement procedures. In the current financial period, there are 103 million euro allocated to Romania for projects for a judicial reform, 35 million of which is specifically allocated for fighting corruption. 35 more million are in support of improving public procurement contracts. 

15 more million euro will be invested in building administrative capacity and technical assistance in the fight against fraud. Moreover, the European Commission is extending an invitation to the Romanian authorities to take advantage of a new instrument for financing structural reform. Such an invitation has not been extended to Bulgaria. The results of the considerably higher EU funds absorption rate in the most vulnerable spheres for both countries are visible in Romania, as can be seen in the report, which euinside also informed you about. 

One more thing has slipped the Prime Minister’s attention. In its winter economic forecast, presented this week, the EC expects the growth of real GDP in Bulgaria to drop to 1.5% this year, “as the boost from factors, including EU funds absorption, weakens”. Unlike the Bulgarian, Romanian economy is expected to grow this year by 4.2%. One of the main reasons for it is the trust of investors. Two days before the publishing of the reports on Bulgaria and Romania, ten mixed Chambers of Commerce sent a letter to the Bulgarian prime minister, stating that there is a “lack of rule of law” (the full text of the letter can be read in Bulgarian here).

“The prevailing feeling that the reform is not happening leads to uncertainty in the investors and the economic entities operative in the country. The will for investment in Bulgaria is dropping to the benefit of other states. If there are investments, there will be a dynamic and developing economy”, says the letter, signed by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce etc. To the question of Bulgarian citizens in the embassy in London about this letter the PM replied that he had a meeting with representatives of the unhappy trade chambers, who assured him that they were actually misunderstood. Moreover, he stated that during his visit to Bulgaria on January 29th Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán assured him that Hungarian investors were very happy in Bulgaria. 

You are probably already asking yourselves why should we thank David Cameron. For one simple reason. The opportunity for Bulgarians to live and work in a country with such deep democratic traditions like Great Britain is teaching them democratic values in a way, which is practically impossible in Bulgaria. Not that the PM is not criticised in Bulgaria. He is. The problem is that in most cases this happens in the media, most of which are with a dubious background, as is written more and more often in western media, including der Spiegel, and as the EC itself would undoubtedly establish if Bulgaria were still in the process of accession, as it is establishing about Serbia, or if it was monitoring this sphere as this website insisted. The meeting in London was a direct clash between the prime minister and voters, regardless of whether they are his voters or those of other political options. Great Britain was one of the countries, which was most adamant in supporting the EU’s enlargement towards Eastern Europe. It was also supported by David Cameron in his quality of a MP from the opposition, and later as opposition leader. 

The discussion with Bulgarians in London made it clear that some of them want to go back to their homeland, but they cannot, because conditions there are deplorable, and they are deplorable because there is no rule of law, no economic security, no equal opportunity to all. And these things are missing because the Bulgarian society is still unable to find the best way to cure itself of the cancer of oligarchy, corruption, organised crime, and unaccountable governments. This is why, when Great Britain’s remaining in the EU is considered, there should also be consideration given to those states, in which democracy is difficult to take root, or have changed course like Hungary and Poland. Certainly, British citizens will decide themselves whether to stay in the Union, or leave, but I just wanted them to know that their institutions and way of life have an impact on citizens of other countries, making them wanting the same, but at home. 

There is already a torrent of invitations in social media for similar meetings with Bulgarians in other countries of the EU, where there are also a lot of people who are sick and tired of being migrants, but are made to, because Bulgaria does not offer them what they want. The EU is much more than a common marked and EU funds. The big-bang enlargement to the East, which began in 2004 and ended in 2007, was a return to the western system of values. The situation in Hungary, Poland, and Bulgaria shows why and how difficult that is. So thank you, Mr Cameron, for giving Bulgarians a chance of receiving a good education in democracy and rule of law.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

*The attached video file is in Bulgarian language

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