Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The country of unlimited opportunities is no longer the US but Bulgaria

Ralitsa Kovacheva, January 13, 2010

A scene in front of the kindergarten at 08.20 in the morning. A father is dragging his child toward the entrance and in the street horns are beeping as if the sirens for an air-strike are on. What happened was that the father had parked his silver van in the middle of the street, which is small enough to make it hard for 2 cars to bypass each other and there are always automobiles parked on both sidewalks. Thus the drivers had to wait for the parent to take his offspring so that he could clear the traffic. In spite of its absurdity, on a first reading, this case reminds me of the hearing of Rumyana Zheleva in the European Parliament. On a second reading though I understand what caused the association: the feeling of everything-is-allowedness and the lack of any self-criticism. Which is quite typical for Bulgaria's elites and is an example to follow for all candidates who would like to follow this path.

Look at the Bulgarian foreign minister who perspired for 3 hours in front of the MEPs only to think 330 versions of one and the same answer, which no matter of the question sounded like this: "We should be proactive and with common actions of the international community to relieve the human sufferings". In spite of the numerous calls of the MEPs to be more concrete, Ms. Zheleva kept arrogantly to remind them that they were asking questions to which she had already responded. Do you get what I mean now? Hoe many of you when appearing on an interview for a job or at an exam would indulge to go with an empty head and a broad smile? Not to mention that in this case you represent not only yourself but your country and on top of everything you are a foreign minister which presupposes competence that is not at the minimum possible level.

Indeed, Ms. Zheleva had no problem to sit in the European Parliament, backed only by her self-confidence, her ambition and the approval of the premier Boyko Borisov. This is insulting! It is insulting because of the efforts everyone of us makes every day to progress and which often fail because of people like Ms. Zheleva and like the father with the van who feel strong not because of their competence but rather with their company. They are part of the elite, part of the game. They do not need to know and to be capable of anything - it is sufficient that they want. Now we have to see whether this would prove enough for Ms. Zheleva to get the high position which she aimed.

Have you noticed how the issue of her preparedness for the job is being slightly removed in another direction - about attempts of her enemies to take her out of the game? Antonia Parvanova who played dirty even according to her own standards, can actually help Zheleva if Barroso and the experts decide that her business activities are OK and she had not tried to hide a conflict of interest. In such a case Zheleva would really look whiter and better in the eyes of everyone even in the eyes of Ms. Sargentini who was the only one that insisted mostly to learn the truth. And the version of the ruling party GERB that because of the personal attacks against Zheleva she did not manage to present herself in her overall brilliance will sound even more trustworthy.

Whatever the outcome, thanks to the European Parliament and the hearings procedure of the Commissioners-designate, made entirely transparent and public, we witnessed a humiliation of a kind, unseen so far. The Bulgarian foreign minister, nominated by the Bulgarian government for a Commissioner had to blush in shame as a student who is repeating a class, and whose answers were defined as unsatisfactory. As a colleague from Brussels wrote - "you should have been here and be tapped on the shoulder with the question "are you very ashamed?"".

Yes, we are ashamed, so what since the one that has to be ashamed is not. That father was not ashamed either for holding for 5 minutes "at a horn" too many people only because for him the rules do not apply. The same way they obviously do not apply for the political elite. Most probably the scandal would be varnished by the government and the prime minister, most probably he will find a way to revenge the enemies, most probably Rumyana Zheleva, even if she doesn't become a Commissioner, will continue to feel cosy in herself and at her position of a foreign minister. Because it is obvious that the US is no longer the country of unlimited opportunities - Bulgaria is - even if you are (or because you are) with limited capabilities.