Financial Times: Bulgaria Joins Europe’s “Аwkward” Squad
“EU funds have increased the corruption in Bulgaria. In particular, they have been used to buy - directly or through public procurement - most of the media and thus to cover up the actions of the politicians”. A quote by Simeon Dyankov, Minister of Finance in the first government of Boyko Borissov (2009-2013), says in an article in the Financial Times - right after Bulgaria joined the EU. The publication describes that there is growing concern in Brussels about tolerating corruption and hiring loyal, but incompetent, people in the administration. Examples were used not only from the domestic but also from the foreign policy of the current government in Sofia.
A comparison is made between Bulgaria and Romania as similar countries. However, the Financial Times describes that Romania was sharply criticized in 2018 by Brussels for the ruling Social Democrats' encroachment on the independence of the judiciary. Some diplomats say that probably less attention was paid to Bulgaria then, because Brussels did not want to criticize both representatives of the 2007 class at the same time. The turn to authoritarianism in Central Europe and the change of government in Bucharest in 2019 changed this approach.
The article lists some of the criticisms in the European Commission's first report on the rule of law in Bulgaria this autumn, including non-transparent media ownership, pressure on journalists and attempts to change the law on NGOs in a way that was rejected this summer by the European Court of Justice on similar case for Hungary.
There are also no results in the fight against corruption, "which is one of the aspects highlighted in the protests of the summer of 2020." Reports of an investigation into the house in Barcelona with possible links between Borissov and the case, as well as photos of the prime minister's bedroom, have not been overlooked.
Referring to the preliminary review by the Venice Commission on GERB's draft of a new constitution - increasing the powers of the Prosecutor General Geshev ("considered by some a close ally of Borisov") and limiting that of the president and justice minister - authors describe it as "alarming ".
Pressure on the government is growing due to its opposition to the negotiations with Northern Macedonia, the Financial Times writes. "They thought Borisov would lead the process," said Vessela Cherneva, director of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. The veto "puts the entire European project at risk in an unprecedented way," she added. Dyankov believes that Brussels has realized the threat of corruption in Bulgaria too late and that institutions and leaders must be convinced that if nothing is done, the country and Borisov will join Kaczynski's Poland and Orban's Hungary in Europe’s awkward” squad.
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