Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

CVM Must Be a Top Priority for Every Government

Adelina Marini, September 15, 2013

A week ago I spoke with Bulgarian MEP Ivailo Kalfin from the Socialists & Democrats group mainly on European issues, but we talked a lot about the problems we have in Bulgaria - from our expectations the European political parties to support or not support certain political forces in Bulgaria because of their behaviour on the domestic scene through the need of reforms of the Bulgarian left to the Reformist Block. Ivailo Kalfin is one of the very few representatives of the Bulgarian left-wing who speak openly about the need of reforms in that part of the political spectrum, who are not afraid to state their differences and criticism and who are completely aware what can and cannot be achieved. In this regard, one of the sad news is that to him the problems in the left wing are a result of a way of thinking. They cannot be changed in the short term or even through changing the leadership.

According to him, a modern, contemporary, left party in Bulgaria should fight for the confidence of 50% of the voters so that it could govern and realise its agenda, not "to cross fingers and pray whether it will reach 20% and will pass or whom it will make a coalition with". This can be realised through a radical change of politics and mindset. Trust can be build when parties turn to people and show them that politics is not entered only to be in power or to take benefits, but to perform a concrete public function. When decisions are taken politicians should be interested what society think of them. People should be stimulated to participate, Mr Kalfin added. But the right-wing also needs reforms, Ivailo Kalfin added and hoped that the Reformist Block can be that vital, modern and European right-wing we need.

I spoke with him on September 6th, the Day of Unification, which quite naturally led us to discussing the division in our society, looking bigger than ever before. The MEP is of the opinion that this division has been planted years ago, but the last months it has started to deepen extremely much. The division, he explained, starts growing when dismissals begin of people for political reasons, when people are divided into ours and yours, into party and non-party members. This emerged clearly as a problem when GERB came to power [former PM Boyko Borissov's party Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria, a member of EPP]. Ivailo Kalfin said that such a confrontation was not remembered since the return to Bulgaria of the former king, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when the extreme oppositions started to calm down. But such phenomena should not be counter-reacted with the same methods, the MEP believes.

Regretfully, however, it is naive to believe that the European political parties could have an influence, he said. Those are young political parties that are entirely focused on conducting European politics. The fact that they issue declarations, resolutions and opinions does not have much significance domestically. According to him, the Party of European Socialists, led by former Bulgarian PM Sergey Stanishev who is also leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, has a principled position, including with regard to Bulgaria. Unlike it, the European People's Party has double standards being silent for problems which it now blames the Socialists of.

Political parties might not be of much use, but instead Ivailo Kalfin recalled that the fact we are a member of the EU should be used because in the Union there are institutions that take care of respect of European standards. In this sense, he said, that after the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism is still active means that there are many things that are not on the level they should be. He refused to talk on behalf of the government to explain why the implementation of the benchmarks in the CVM is not a priority for the current government, saying that this should be a top priority for every government until the successful removal of the mechanism. But in order for that to happen, the country musty be extremely convincing that it does not need it.

I talked to Mr Kalfin before European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced that upcoming is the presentation of proposals for the establishment of a common European mechanism which will monitor whether the rule of law is respected by all member states. Some of the main guidelines the Commission is working on have been revealed by Vice President Viviane Reding, who is also a commissioner for justice, in a speech dedicated entirely on the future mechanism. It is still not clear whether this mechanism will replace the Bulgarian-Romanian one with which the two countries joined the Union.

But this mechanism will hardly cover all the problems that surfaced in Bulgaria - the division between people, the complete dependence of the government on the oligarchy, the total lack of a free media environment. Those protesting for almost 90 days expect the resignation of the cabinet and new elections. Ivailo Kalfin did not say it directly, but he sounded sceptical that this would happen even in the spring when the government signalled it could be ready to resign. But he still is firmly convinced that the way the parliament is currently divided to depend on Volen Siderov's desire to attend the sessions [the nationalist leader], the way the government works, require new elections to ask for confidence and start anew. Although it is technically possible, it is hardly realistic to expect that new elections could happen before the spring. Either way, Ivailo Kalfin does not see agreement on this issue in those such a decision depends on.