Corruption on the EU Border
Ironically enough, just days after Diana Kovacheva, Head of Transparency without Borders, an affiliate of Transparency International, was approved by the Bulgarian Parliament as the new Justice Minister, the organization published its annual report on the Corruption Perceptions Index, (CPI), ranking the country as the most corrupt EU Member State.
On the scale of 10, Bulgaria has registered a result of 3.3, which has placed it 86th out of a total of 178, and last among a total of 30 countries in the EU and Western Europe, scoring a little worse than neighboring Greece (3.4), which previously held the "title."
This was no news to most Bulgarians. Simple logic says that the poorest nation in the EU would be the most corrupt one, but corruption in Bulgaria has been part of life for a long time; it is almost a mentality (let's be fair, not only in our country, but in some parts of the world – the Balkans, for example); its metastases eat in Bulgarian society and economy and drive foreign investors away. Those who fail to succumb to it are seen by many as stupid and/or unadapt.
It started during the Communist regime when having the right "connections" to get a job, an apartment, a car, and even basic staples was a must. Now it spreads from the higher-ups where millions of BGN are at stake, down to the traffic cop and the caretaker at the hospital asking for cash, and so on, and so on.
They say fight against corruption begins with us – if we refuse to participate, it will go away. But if it is easier to snub the traffic cop, drive away and pay the ticket fine, it is another matter when a loved one lies dying...
Corruption must be eradicated from the top down – with the long-overdue judicial reform, more effective sentences in high-profile criminal cases, elimination of cumbersome trials, of lobbyist laws, etc., or so the experts say.
The lowest CPI Bulgaria registered so far was in 1998, after the Socialist-led cabinet Videnov crumbled under large-spread discontent; then went up to 4 at the end of the term of the right-wing cabinet Kostov, and reached its peak – 4.1, during the cabinet of former Tsar, Simeon Saxe-Coburg. The previous Three-Way Coalition lowered it to 3.6.
Also ironically, one of the most corrupt EU countries became THE most corrupt under the rule of those who came to power on promises to wipe out this ugly practice.
The signs of deterioration became apparent with reports from the last two years, but Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, told us then the data was from two years ago thus – it was the fault of the "evil" Three-Way Coalition, as is almost anything.
Now he explains the poor score with the organization's new methodology; the fact that in such rankings, results from his fight against corruption will be seen in the next 3-4 years; with vindictive businesses he hurt during this fight; with Bulgarians being whiners, and with all of it being based on mere perception...
Borisov, however, should not forget that what his people and the business notice, feel, perceive, matters more than what a leader and a party say, otherwise we go back to some other times in Bulgarian history.
For once, the Prime Minster and his ruling GERB should set their own example; stop calling subordinates to ask favors for friends and acquaintances (there was a Tanovgate scandal, now blurred and never proven, but there was, and many others – it is too long of a list to write); stop blaming everything and everyone (another too long list); take matters in their own hands, and do something to steer the country in the right direction.
Recently, Borisov vowed that Bulgaria will soon surpass Greece... In living standards, we hoped and wondered? We did beat them, right – in corruption...