Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Per un euro bucato

euinside, December 15, 2009

A Balkan sense of outwitting or a true belief that Bulgaria has managed to make a good deal? This is the question I've been thinking over the past few days after I learned that Bulgaria will contribute to the Global Fund that will help poor nations around the world to fight climate change with 20,000 euro (yes, it's written correctly - twenty thousand euro) per year, starting from 2011. Aside from the shocking amount of money, which could be collected in less than several hours in Facebook, I was very impressed by the explanation the Bulgarian prime minister gave after the end of the big horse trading in the European Council on Thursday and Friday of last week. Then he said for the Bulgarian journalists in Brussels that against the background of the over 7 bn euro, promised by the EU to help poor nations around the world for the period 2010-2012, the sum Bulgaria had proposed means "Obviously, I have negotiated well".

In other words - "I outwitted them, I am the winner" - interpret this the way you like! This statement did overshadow the not less shameful result for the EU which from 5-7 bn euro per year, dropped its commitment to 2.4 bn euro for the same period. But why are these news shameful, many people might ask?

Because, first of all, this money will be spend to help poor (mainly island) countries to tackle climate change impact - floods, droughts, hunger, etc. This means that not a small part of this money will go to Western companies that will build there embankments, they will also offer their high technologies for renewable energy, for building of new houses for victims of climate disasters and, last but not least, many companies will push GMO foods through to help feed the starving.

It is a fact that Bulgaria is in a very hard financial situation right now. How serious the situation really is is a matter of another discussion as well as whether the public money is being handled well. But it is of great importance when the prime minister of a country wants it to be perceived as an equal partner, to make a tantamount contribution. Of course, the payments to the Fund are absolutely voluntary for EU member states, although the second day of EU's summit turned into a campaign for a forced voluntarity with the only purpose the EU to go to Copenhagen with much more persuasive position. But this does not mean that some countries might participate with sums that could easily be defined as mockery.

However, the premier went even further by saying that aside from the hardships of Bulgaria, the EU should unfreeze EU funds for Bulgaria and to commit itself to fast accession of Bulgaria to the Eurozone. But both things have nothing in common. Firstly, at present there are almost no frozen funds - but there are a lot of unabsorbed. Secondly, joining the Eurozone is not a political but a fiscal matter which requires a lot of work because joining the euro area is not anything like joining the EU or Schengen. It requires respect of many strict criteria that guarantee the very functioning of the single currency.

Furthermore, putting conditions without giving an account of some long-term perspectives is, to put it mildly, at least frivolous. What can these perspectives be? Roughly, they can be good and bad. The good are related to benefits from the opportunities for investments in poor countries like construction of wind parks, trade with solar panels, construction of embankments and any other things in which Bulgarian companies could participate and benefit well.

The bad perspectives are also some. On the one hand it is not impossible sometime in the future Bulgaria to have to accept climate change refugees and it is more than certain that the money needed to accommodate them would be much more than 20,000 euro annually. On the other - Bulgaria sometimes also faces unpleasant situations when the climate conditions are not good - bad crops because of floods or drought or homeless Bulgarians because of floods. How would the prime minister feel then if next year the farmers ask for compensations because of the drought or floods for their wrecked crops and, let's say France which is the largest beneficiary of agriculture subsidies from the EU, offers assistance of 20,000 euro for all the farmers?

Let us also remember how much time it took the previous government to secure assistance from the European Commission for the floods here 2 years ago. It's a matter of reciprocity you might say. That's right. Because it is the prime minister's responsibility how to distribute priorities when the budget is getting thinner and thinner. It is also his job to optimize the administration, to make it work efficiently, to create rule of law so that dissipation of public money is avoided. Last but not least, it is the prime minister's obligation to explain to the society his visions of the future in the long-term as well as why it is so important to give money to this or that group of people or countries.

The government deserves praise for paying a lot of attention to renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change in general. But this should not be left as bare words. Even less be overshadowed by statements of the type "I negotiated well" which very dimly reminds of a quite dirty retort about the poor people. It is also equally important to know that climate change will affect everyone, so the excuse that we work enough in this direction does not work because many other countries also do not work in this direction but pollute more. And they do not work either because they have not means to do it or are waiting for the others to make the first move. Thus, the vicious circles closes. And scientists say the clock is ticking.