Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

It Was a Mistake for DSB and SDS To Isolate Themselves in EPP

Adelina Marini, August 20, 2013

Recently euinside interviewed representatives of four of the initially five founding parties of the Reformist Block (RB) - Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), Greens, Movement Bulgaria of the Citizens (DBG) and People's Party Freedom and Dignity (NPSD). Due to technical reasons, Blue Unity did not answer our e-mails, but after we published the article, I was contacted by the deputy leader of the party, Margarita Boycheva, who wanted to answer all the questions euinside asked the other interviewees. We are presenting you herewith the entire interview, first, because it is with only one representative of the RB and, second, because Ms Boycheva responded to some of the issues euinside considers as key in a very hopes raising way. Those are the issues related to the Control and Verification Mechanism (CVM) and about the cooperation with the European political families. Not less important, however, are her answers to the other questions as well.

euinside: Is your unification temporary?

Margarita Boycheva: Blue Unity participates in the Reformist Block with an utmost conviction that today's Bulgaria needs a strong, durable and unified political subject. A subject that is moved by right-wing principles, defends right-wing values and conducts right-wing policies notwithstanding of the political mainstream. A subject that has a clear will to overcome the individual narrow and already not cosy party trenches and to create a modern new party. We will not exhaust ourselves to draw precisely this path in front of the RB which, we believe, is the only right way for its development.

euinside: In the platform you have written down that an aim of yours will be new electoral rules. Have you got already unanimity on concrete ideas for changes and will you seek support for them beyond the Reformist Block?

Margarita Boycheva: Common proposals for changes of the electoral rules was one of the first initiatives of the RB. Among them are specific measures like creating a professional and competition elected central election commission, introducing obligatory preferential voting without a threshold, updating the register of voters, etc., all of the proposals related to the fairness and transparency of the voting process as one of the most important conditions for qualitative democracy.

euinside: You have also enshrined quite a lot of points in the platform that are directly connected with the CVM of the European Commission. What is your opinion about this Mechanism and how do you think the goals in it should be approached?

Margarita Boycheva: For a very long time now the CVM has been the red lamp that is blinking alarmingly in the Bulgarian social conscience, reminding us that we have unfinished business in the implementation of European criteria in the area of justice and internal affairs. In the political conscience, however, the regular reports of the European Commission are simply a convenient tool to service internal political interests. Ruling parties and opposition "read' those reports always diametrically opposite, hurling each other with drafts, quotes from the text, they weigh out the correlation between praises and criticisms by Brussels and nothing comes next. It is simply part of the meaningless political buttafuori.

The experience with Bulgaria has shown that the Commission advises, conveys criticism, requires reforms, but when the government does not have the political will to implement them the Mechanism, practically, remains ineffective. The biggest mistake of the government of GERB [the previous government of PM Boyko Borisov] was that it allowed the binding of the CVM with Bulgaria's accession in the Schengen area. In this way, the country entered another European priority of its own in the tier "unrealised". That is precisely why the reform of the judiciary is among the top priorities of our reformist unification with the clear conscience that it must be a projection of strong national will, not just of a European corrective.

euinside: Do you think the CVM should be enlarged to cover more areas that are currently uncovered? For example the media environment? What do you think about the idea of four member states political monitoring to be imposed on countries that have issues with the rule of law? Should Bulgaria support them at the European level?

Margarita Boycheva: These are questions that affect RB's overall vision about Bulgaria's European being. EU is not an evaluation agency nor is it a non-governmental organisation. EU is kept stable thanks to the idea of confidence among the member states. The economic crisis made the community face the self-recognition about serious problems like the substitution of data provided by the member states to the Commission, of political pressure, tax evasion, corruption, etc. If the member states do not maintain honest and transparent relations, if there is no trust among them, then the European community will not be successful and Bulgaria will be even greatly discouraged by its membership in it. Naturally, we support monitoring in the economic area in the form of the European semester or through covering certain macro economic indicators - there is logic in such an idea because of the economic crisis and the strong economic interconnectedness of the member states. However, we are sceptical about the idea the EU to create regular monitoring mechanisms. EU has enough other leverages to influence the member states.

Regarding the question should Bulgaria support or not on the European level, we in Blue Unity are unequivocal about that - Bulgaria should come out of the role of only being supportive and enter the role of being initiating. The country is absent in the most important debates in the EU which, for sure, does not have a positive impact for the image and self confidence of the country in the community.

euinside: Many people are not aware how precisely will you work together because, to a large extent, your political views differ, especially with the Greens. Are the points in the platform the only ones that unite you or there are others? For instance, on economic issues do you have agreement - about the fiscal policy, the social policy? Which are the topics that you differ upon and how will you work on them?

Margarita Boycheva: The issues we differ upon, indeed, are related mainly to the economy, social policy, energy and environment and then key sectors in the public adminstration. Hence it is important that we try on these issues to come up with as close as possible reformist positions and decide how far does the margin of compromise with our party positions stretch. In the past National Assembly the Blue Coalition worked very successfully, for instance with the Greens. We had joint public activities and legislative initiatives on issues related to GMO, the Belene nuclear power plant, the Law on Forests, the protests against ACTA, etc. While the RB is simply an idea-based unification of parties and citizens against the behind-the-scenes in politics, similar differences are a very good occasion for a debate. But if this unification turns into an electoral project then it will have to stand behind a specific governing programme. And there should not be difference and nuances in it.

euinside: Are you preparing for early elections? (in the form of a coalition Reformist Block)

Margarita Boycheva: We, in Blue Unity, expressed on a number of occasions the position that another broad right-wing coalition, stitched together in a haste under the pressure of circumstances, will be a highly humiliating proposal for our voters. These people are tired of giving their vote for compromise or insincere coalitions. They deserve a unified and inspiring political project. That is why, if we are at all going through a legal form of coalition we have to honestly tell people that this is the last step before the creation of the new right reformist party.

euinside: How will you deal with the scepticism among your voters? Many of your most passionate supporters and members are against joining a coalition of parties which, according to them and according to the ruling public opinion, are controversial - like, for instance, Kuneva's party, NPSD and since recently the UDF who, practically, resorted to betrayal earlier this year?

Margarita Boycheva: Suspending the wars between individual party structures which have lost legitimacy a long time ago, taming the fierce hard cores of the parties and their gradual preparation to flow into a single structure is an obligatory precondition for the success of the new right wing, we believe. If this does not happen, the Reformist Block is doomed to mimicry. Several people will enter Parliament from the RB, but this will change nothing in the country. The fact that we have disagreements with some parties in the block does not mean that we cannot work together in the future. The political face of the reformist unification must be cleared. We have to develop its vision and mission because, currently, we only have "12 beginnings of unification". They are an ambitious political statement, but they are far from sufficient.

euinside: Will you prepare something together for the European elections or will you work on national level only?

Margarita Boycheva: Blue Unity's understanding is that the reformist unification should work on all levels as a single political organism - on European, national and local level. This, we believe, means that it should have joint governing bodies, rotating chairmanship, single decision-making mechanisms with consensus, single structures on a local level and to convey single messages. All these are tested European practises which Blue Unity has already formally proposed to our partners in the RB and we expect this debate to begin.

euinside: The biggest risk of failure of the efforts of protesters, but also of your efforts to progress with the RB, is that if there are early elections we will practically face the same or just a little different outcome, but in fact those will be the same politicians, with the same level of immorality and unscrupulousness will enter the government. Have you thought about that? What can/should be done?

Margarita Boycheva: That is why our task is to propose those imperative reforms in the country that will radically change the way it functions. This, for us, the parties in the Reformist Block, passes through several key reforms - in the economy: change of the economic climate and the environment for the small and medium-sized businesses; in the area of law enforcement, in the area of the administration; the construction of the state and inspecting bodies, a change of the rules for public procurement and in the area of civil participation, media freedom and culture.

euinside: Currently, the protesters are subjected to huge pressure to come up with an alternative - their own or to attract parties they sympathise with. This is practically impossible because this protest is avoiding, just like the Devil avoids incense, any suspicions that someone is mounting it. Do you believe some kind of cohesion is possible? Is a contact possible? Joint actions?

Margarita Boycheva: We not only do take part in the protests, but we are following closely their dynamics as well. We have the ambition the RB to turn into a political response to the protesters' expectations. It is already clear that whichever Bulgarian government from now on will work at gun point of a permanent civil pressure and in a regime of complete transparency. But when the people who are today in the street at some point go home, they should know that there are politicians who will continue to stand for their demands. The reformist unification will be really successful when the active right leaning Bulgarians see for themselves they are represented by it.

euinside: Have you discussed the problems we have in Bulgaria with your party partners in the European political families and do you rely on support from them? What kind of support would that be?

Margarita Boycheva: Blue Unity deems it a big mistake the isolation the traditional right-wing put itself into in its own European political family. With the mentality of an angry little child we were clattering our foot in the EPP and were saying: "we will no longer play with you because you are playing with GERB". The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and the DSB underestimated the need of a permanent dialogue with EPP. In the past years, the only connection of the Blue Coalition with EPP was Nadezhda Neynsky as a MEP, a former vice chairwoman of the EPP and president of the Union for small and medium-sized enterprises in the EPP. The party leaders kept away from a regular, open dialogue with EPP. Now, the reformist unification has a chance to change that.