Category Archives: Bulgaria

Why the Structural Funds Don’t Work Properly in Bulgaria

The Open Society Institute Sofia has issued a report that outlines the main causes for the poor performance of Structural Funds in Bulgaria (summary in English here). The Structural Funds are the main instruments of the EU regional and cohesion policy. However, new Member States from Eastern Europe, and Bulgaria in particular, face significant difficulties in using those funds in their regional development.

Three problems are outlined in the report:

  • Deficits in the national programming of EU funds for the financial period 2007–2013;
  • Poor implementation of the principle of partnership with representatives of the civic sector in the national management of the Structural Funds;
  • Deficits of the regional planning in Bulgaria.

These findings are significant, since they put in doubt the implementation of the next EU multiannual financial framework in Bulgaria. The absorption capacity is clearly very low, and specific measures must be provisioned to avoid repeating the mistakes. The European Commission usually focuses its criticism on the institutional capacity of the Bulgarian administration and the quality of the management structures. But this report clearly indicates that the problem is much deeper and starts with the programming and planning stages.

 

 

The (Un)Importance of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism

The new set of reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Bulgaria and Romania were published by the Commission. The mechanism is used by the Commission to monitor the progress of both countries in the fields of judicial reform, corruption and organised crime. But does the mechanism matter?

It’s difficult to say. The CVM was an instrument used to extend conditionality beyond the accession date for Bulgaria and Romania. For three years after the accession the EU could impose safeguard clauses, including a specific safeguard clause in the area of justice and home affairs (art. 36 of the Accession Treaty). However, this period has expired. It the strict sense of the word CVM is no longer a conditionality instrument. Eli Gateva has written a very good paper on this, explaining that the absence of accession rewards combined with toothless explicit threats for sanctioning non-compliance produce very weak negative incentive structure.

On the other hand both the Bulgarian and Romanian governments pay attention to the recommendations in the reports and at least try to act on them. One reason for this can be the difficulty of acceding to the Schengen area. Both France and Germany have linked the two issues, although they are not legally dependent. So one may argue that the accession to the Schengen area is now a new conditionality tool, used to push reforms of the judiciary in Bulgaria and Romania.

There is also another interpretation – that “old” Member States have given up hope of achieving effective structural reforms of the judiciary in Bulgaria and Romania, and are trying to mitigate the damage by denying access to the Schengen area. This strategy will fail. Neglecting the structural deficits of law enforcement and the judiciary in Bulgaria and Romania can have wide-ranging implications for the whole European Union. It is not possible to “isolate” both countries in some sort of a triage. Their weaknesses impact negatively the overall security of the EU, and of the separate Member States.

That is why the CVM is still useful – at least as an instrument for diagnosis.

 

 

What is Going on in Bulgaria, Really?

Taped conversations, published by a Bulgarian newspaper, allegedly expose a cover-up of smuggling schemes by the Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, Tzvetan Tzvetanov. The full transcripts of the tapes reveal pressure on part of Tsvetanov on Customs Agency Director Vanyo Tanov, who complains that Tsvetanov and the Ministry of the Interior are pressing him and his staff not to check on potential abuses by certain large companies, and to focus instead on others. The only company mentioned by name which has allegedly benefited from this protection is Lukoil Bulgaria (a daughter company of the Russian Lukoil conglomerate). The CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria is allegedly a close friend of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. According to the leaked US embassy cable on organized crime in Bulgaria, Lukoil’s Bulgarian operations are suspected of strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime.

A caveat must be made: nobody has confirmed the authenticity of the tapes. The content is not conclusive and is subject to interpretation.

In any case this is worrying. Until now the Customs Agency Director has not denied the contents of the conversations.

In the light of these revelations the reservations of France and Germany over Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area appear more justified. The Prime Minister must take really decisive steps to dispel any suspicion of wrongdoing.

 

 

The Paradoxical Success of Bulgarian Commissioners

They are women and they come from Bulgaria. And they are also very, very successful.

Both Bulgarian commissioners – Kristalina Georgieva and Meglena Kuneva, have earned the respect of their colleagues at the European Commission. Both of them have also been named European of the Year by European Voice.

Now Kristalina Georgieva was not only named European of the Year, but was also voted European commissioner of the year. This comes after a failure of the previous Bulgarian candidate, Rumyana Jeleva, during her hearing in the European Parliament.

So a natural question arises – why are both Bulgarian commissioners so effective given the fact that Bulgaria is the poorest and one of the most corrupt Member States?

Both Kristalina Georgieva and Meglena Kuneva are extraordinary personalities, for sure. But their promotion in the European Commission signifies the fact that Bulgaria does have qualified public officials that are capable of working hard on their agenda. The trouble is that Bulgarian politics do not encourage the promotion of such figures in the national government. At least now we know what we should be looking for.

 

 

Expelling the Roma: Is It Legal?

The recent police operation in France leading to the expulsion of thousands of Roma citizens of Romania and Bulgaria has been a hot topic in the news for some time. Now Euractiv reports that Italy has also plans to expel Roma citizens of other Member States.

The big question here is – is it legal?

There are two separate legal systems that must be assessed in this case. One is the European Union law, and the other is the European Convention on Human Rights. These two systems must not be mixed together in the analysis, and they have different outcomes.

Let’s start with EU law. The citizens of the European Union have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaties and by the measures adopted to give them effect (art 3, para. 2 TEU; art. 20, para. 2, “a” and art. 21 TFEU). Most of these limitations and conditions are provided in Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. The main principle of Directive 2004/38/EC is that the right of residence for Union citizens and their family members for periods in excess of three months is subject to conditions. This is very important to note, since many EU citizens mistakenly believe that their right of residence is unconditional.

These conditions for the right of residence over three months are spelled out in art. 7 of Directive 2004/38/EC. The resident should be a worker or self-employed person in the host Member State or should have sufficient resources for himself and the family members in order not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State. Art. 14 stipulates the conditions for an expulsion measure and specifically points out that the expulsion measure should not be the automatic consequence of a Union citizen’s recourse to the social assistance system of the host Member State.

In addition to that Member States may restrict the freedom of movement and residence of Union citizens and their family members, irrespective of nationality, on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. Measures taken on grounds of public policy or public security must comply with the principle of proportionality and must be based exclusively on the personal conduct of the individual concerned. The personal conduct of the individual concerned must represent a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society. Justifications that are isolated from the particulars of the case or that rely on considerations of general prevention cannot be accepted (art. 27, para. 2 of Directive 2004/38/EC).

These texts are very concrete, and they raise important questions about the conduct of French authorities. In each and every case of expulsions the French state must have assessed the personal conduct of the individual, any general policy concerns notwithstanding. The information that is delivered by the media in this case is insufficient to assess the legality of the actions of the French Ministry of the Interior, but I am quite skeptical that they have been able to go though individual assessment of personal conduct in each of the cases. More, the reference to the ethnicity of the persons expelled is a serious breach of the principle of non-discrimination (art. 19, para. 1 TEU).

That being said, it is the European Commission that must decide whether in this case France has breached the relevant texts of Directive 2004/38/EC. I would also urge the European Ombudsman to independently observe this case.

Apart from the considerations about EU law, France is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has voiced some criticism towards the measures. Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms explicitly prohibits the collective expulsion of aliens. Now the question is whether the actions of French authorities constitute such a collective expulsion.

In conclusion the actions of the French authorities for the mass expulsion of Roma citizens of other member states may breach relevant EU law and texts of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. France should restrain from any actions that constitute collective expulsion. The European Commission should fully investigate this case. The Council of Europe should also carefully monitor this case.

On the Conflict between the Bulgarian Government and the Bulgarian Judiciary

A lot can and should be said on the problems of the Bulgarian judiciary system. But the recent attacks by the Bulgarian government against the Bulgarian courts in particular may prove to be really harmful. The courts have a very important function in a legal system, and their debasement will not serve any just cause. The very notion of statehood may be compromised.

Bulgarian Blog Version Now Functional

The Bulgarian version of the European Union Law blog was suspended by WordPress for a little over 24h. Now the blog functions normally. I apologize for any inconvenience. I still haven’t understood what was the reason for its suspension.