Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Anticipating the report of the European Commission

Adelina Marini, January 31, 2008

We have started the accession negotiations 8 years ago - in February 2000. In the end of 1999 the European council took the decision to start negotiations with Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Romania and Malta. During the process of intense contacts with the EU, the regular progress reports, the attempts by Bulgarian governments to do some reforms in a way that we could join the EU together with the rest, it became clear that Bulgaria and Romania would be separated from the rest and, if everything is ok, would join in 2007. Probably a lot of people remember all this.

Maybe they also remember that the accession in 2007 was a matter of a compromise which resulted in the unprecedented monitoring mechanism in the sphere of justice and home affairs. The mechanism is applicable for Bulgaria and Romania only. Why all this happened?

This issue had been discussed quite a lot of times but we have to point out the reasons and they were quite complex - starting with the international situation and we finish with the determined promises that Bulgaria would do everything possible to correct all wrong-doings that were actually in all reports since the very beginning. The situation got even worse when in September 2006 the Commission published its regular report with a lot of criticism but also with a promise Bulgaria to join on the 1st of January 2007. The a lot of media and the government started a furious discussion on whether there are any differences between the September 2006 report and the previous ones. I'm still convinced that the only difference then was the promise for joining on the 1st of January. The whole text of the document was painfully the same - high level corruption, lack of results in the fight against organised crime etc.

We have to admit though that the Commission reports, although quite boring because of their uniformity, have evolved in a way because they've become more and more specific. The general phrases "there's a lack of progress in the fight against high level corruption and the organised crime" were replaced by: "sentences are needed for high officials". Then even that phrase was changed to "at least two high level officials should be sentenced". And all this until the accession. Now the expectations are that these phrases will again be included in the report, which is intermediary and its final version will be published in June.

Of course we could discuss at least several hours without any break the exact style of such types of documents, how often a sentence is a subject of long discussions in the Commissioners' College, among experts and the Commission or between the Commission and Bulgarian authorities. We could also discuss what Brussels means with this or that phrase and how we read it. But in the end of the day these reports excite only us, the media. No one else pays any attention.

So today or in the next few days the consecutive report will be published and my humble forecasts is that, again, there will be no use of it because historical experience shows that the EU really is very consumed with its internal construction but this often happens because of the pressure of much bigger global processes. In this particular case the EU is much more concerned, after it approved the Lisbon Treaty, from the "Kosovo" case which is not only in Europe's interest. Not less important for the Union are globalisation, the downturn in global economy, caused by a whole lot of factors.

In this regard Bulgarian authorities should not worry - it is very likely that no one notice if there are any sentenced for corruption politicians. Much more important at this stage is how European economy could survive the pressure of the emerging markets, the American economy which is also under a great threat, the demographic problems and so many other very important issues. In other words the EU knows very well that it could swallow little Bulgaria without choking but also without any sense of good taste and also without feeling satiated. The impotence of Bulgaria to deal with the problems, pointed out by Brussels, in fact, is our problem because it is us that live in Bulgaria and corruption effects us. And also the freeze of European funds because of the scandals surrounding the road agency proved this - the money of European taxpayers are safe but Bulgarian taxpayers will still not have any infrastructure and thus - no increase of wealth. And so on until the next Commission report.

The pity is that Bulgaria contributes to the European budget, according to the accession treaty - 1.2 % of its GDP. The government always say that we receive much more from the EU than we contribute. Yes, true but only if the EU would give us this money and we succeed in spending it effectively. So, for now what is certain is that we will continue to contribute to the EU budget but are we going to get anything in return is not that certain so far. And as we know ourselves and our mentality, it is even less certain that there would be any effect of any received money. So, my dear people, wake up but not because it is past 9 o'clock but because it is 2008 and Bulgaria still doesn't look as it had to.