Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

For the benefits and the future of the European Commission CVM on Bulgaria

Ralitsa Kovacheva, May 17, 2010

The CVM (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism) of the European Commission on Bulgaria, is necessary and useful for the country. However, it is another issue whether Bulgaria fully benefits from such form of assistance given by the European evaluation. And what has to be done beyond the Mechanism in order efforts for reforms to be further invested. These issues have been discussed by the participants in a discussion about the benefits and the future of the CVM, organized by euinside and by political analyst Vladimir Shopov's blogeurope.

Perhaps the conversation got its strongest impulse by the question whether the so-called CVM (Cooperation and verification mechanism) is a tool for external control by the European Commission and to what extent problematic points, identified in it have been "interiorised”, i.e. have been recognized as part of Bulgaria's domestic agenda. And here a lot of different points of view have been raised.

Ms Boryana Dimitrova from the Alpha Research agency put forward the thesis that, yes, it was true, that criticism toward the judiciary in the Commission's reports was fully shared by Bulgarian citizens and vice versa, the discontent of citizens found its place in the next critical report. To come out of this vicious circle, however, internal resources are needed as well as a will for a change in the civil society on the one hand, and in professional communities on the other - in the present case, the justice, said Ms Dimitrova.

The mechanism does not deal with a very important problem in the Bulgarian judiciary, namely the reform in the Ministry of the Interior and the Prosecution, Rossen Bossev said, a journalist from the Capital weekly. In support of his view Ms Dimitrova quoted Alpha Research' data, showing that more than a half of respondents believe that releasing suspects out of custody is because of a lack of evidence.

The question whether the mechanism should be extended to cover more areas of concern however, received a negative response both from the Bulgarian participants and the representatives of member states. According to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms Vessela Tcherneva, it would be ineffective, if we ask for an extension of the mechanism ourselves. We should rather "adopt" it and write our own items to follow. A similar viewpoint was expressed by the representatives of the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain.

In a natural and unpretentious style, which is not typical for diplomats, they explained that in fact, the mechanism was “loose” and it was not perfect, but the purpose was not Brussels to tell Sofia what to do. The purpose is to provide guidance, but reforms must be carried out by the Bulgarian authorities for the benefit of Bulgarian citizens, the euro diplomats stresses. "Bulgaria should stop looking at the Commission and the EU as an answer to its problems," said Stuart Peters from the British Embassy.

In the context of the crisis in the euro area and the Greek case, logically the issue of confidence was raised and specifically, whether all EU countries share the same values and are willing to observe the same rules to an equal extent. These issues are being raised in Brussels too and within the framework of the Stockholm programme the issue of security and trust or, respectively, the existence of another form of control after removal of the mechanism is being discussed in particular, Andri van Mers from the Netherlands said. The German diplomat Dietrich Becker emphasized that the mechanism should not be regarded as an infringement of Bulgaria's sovereignty and that in spite of the CVM the country is a full and equal member of the EU.

It is clear, however, that the removal of the CVM is not an option before its benchmarks are fully fulfilled, the diplomats pointed out. In this sense, Ms Vesela Tcherneva sent a very strong message on behalf of the Government, saying that the mechanism was a mirror and the criticism in the Commission's latest report, has been shared by Bulgarian authorities as well. And most importantly that Bulgaria was not against the mechanism and had not raised the issue for its removal. Neither would use the forthcoming accession of Croatia to ask for the removal of the CVM (as Romania, for example- added by the author). Bulgaria would not create any obstacles for Croatia's EU accession, Ms. Tcherneva added.

Maryn Lessenski, an analyst from the Open Society Institute Sofia and the journalist Rossen Bossev expressed fears that the government was focusing primarily on police actions to tackle organized crime at the expense of a serious analysis of problems and a long-term vision to address them. In general, the NGOs expressed strong support for the mechanism and Commission’s reports, because even once in every six months, they raise important issues which would otherwise drop out of the political agenda. The civil sector is skeptical that without the Mechanism Bulgarian authorities would have the will and the vision to conduct vital reforms.

As with every thorough conversation, today's discussion raised more issues rather than provided answers. It is clear that the major theme of upholding the rule of law passes through many and specific problems that have to be defined, analyzed and resolved.

In this context was the conclusion of the German diplomat Mr Becker. He said that with or without the mechanism Bulgaria was constantly under the closest surveillance by foreign investors, by foreign direct investments and the whole world. So, if there is no rule of law and the investor cannot feel safe, than he would not invest in Bulgaria. We saw what happens (with the Greek experience) when investors loose confidence in a country.

Detailed statements of participants and videos from the discussion are coming tomorrow on euinside.