Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Translation from "Brussels-language" by Simeon Dyankov

Ralitsa Kovacheva, April 24, 2010

The European Commission has not changed its assessment of the Convergence Programme of the Bulgarian government, said in Brussels Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for the Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, quoted by the Bulgarian daily “Dnevnik” . This statement provoked perplexity against the background of the finance minister Simeon Dyankov's boasting in Madrid last Friday (April 16th)

Then the press office of the Ministry of Finance sent an e-mail with the following subject: „MF-Dyankov-Madrid-Convergence Program-approved!”, that said: “The European Commission is considering the Convergence Program of Bulgaria as an adequate, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Simeon Dyankov today after the first session of the informal ECOFIN meeting in the Spanish capital Madrid.”

Further on, the message reads: “Given the above assessment and the need to ensure sustainable convergence, Bulgaria is invited to continue to apply strict fiscal policy as it has done so far as well as to take further measures to achieve the programme objective for 2010. This part refers to the recently discovered problems with the 50 annexes to contracts, explained Minister Dyankov. In his words, the Commission enables the Bulgarian government to discuss and assess the need for additional measures in the next few days.”

Even after a careful analysis the above text obviously shows, that it comes to an evaluation AFTER the provision of new data on Bulgarian deficit, although in Madrid the financial ministers did not review and approve the Convergence Programmes because of the absence of some of their colleagues. Even then euinside noted, that there are several contradictory theses in the press release, which does not give a very clear perspective where this "positive assessment" of the Commission came from - is it from a conversation at the informal Council or is it from a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Olli Rehn, or with the president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet.

"I cannot comment whether there were unofficial talks between Commissioner Rehn and the Bulgarian finance minister in Madrid”, said on April 20th Rehn's spokesman Amadeu Altafaj, quoted by “Dnevnik”. But he was positive that the last assessment the Commission made on Bulgaria's Convergence Programme was on March 17th, indeed describing the programme as adequate. The spokesman explained, that the Commission had been informed about Bulgaria's deficit correction, but it would analyze the new figures after Eurostat's budget data were, published on April 22th.

After the publication of Altafaj's statement, the Finance Ministry sent a press release, “regarding the allegations that the Convergence Programmes of EU Member States were not considered and approved at the informal ECOFIN meeting in Madrid last week”. It is clear that it is not about “allegations”, because that was officially announced at the final press conference in Madrid. But after a long and careful studying of the press release, the following things become clear:

“Based upon the up-to-date information submitted by our country and on the proposal of the European Commission, the members of the Economic and Financial Committee approved a revised draft opinion of the Council on the Convergence Programme of the Republic of Bulgaria, which placed a stronger emphasis on the risks to the attainment of the fiscal objectives of the programme so as the changed situation and the adjusted levels of Bulgaria's budget deficit for 2009 and 2010 to be taken into account. This revised draft opinion received political support at the informal ECOFIN meeting in Madrid.”

It is not clear why it was initially announced that the European Commission approved the Programme nor what “political support” in Madrid meant. But it is clear that instead of penciling the eyebrows the lack of objective information often leads to removing the eye, when the truth comes out. And that, sooner or later, always happens.