The European Commission has published its fifth progress reports for Bulgaria and Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for 2011. The reports monitor the progress of the two Member States on progress with judicial reform, the fight against corruption and, concerning Bulgaria, the fight against organized crime.
The report on Bulgaria notes that Bulgaria has strengthened the Supreme Judicial Council and improved rules for the appointment, professional training, appraisals and promotions of judges. Several organised crime and corruption cases have reached verdicts in court. At the same time, an increased number of indictments in cases related to organised crime and fraud with EU funds have been achieved. The report notes that the leadership of the Bulgarian judiciary has yet to show a real commitment to thorough judicial reform as slow progress is not just the result of shortcomings in judicial practice and in the Penal Code. Again and again the Commission points out that judicial appointments still lack the necessary level of transparency and credibility. The report also notes that there is a lack of consistent disciplinary practice in the judiciary. The Commission sees weaknesses in the collection of evidence, the protection of witnesses as well as in investigative strategies, comprehensive financial investigations and the securing of assets. The Commission recommends that coordination within the prosecution and between the prosecution and the police should be improved. The most important recommendation of the Commission is to establish proposals for a reform of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office and the Prosecution in general regarding structures, legal attributions, composition, appointments and internal organization.
The report on Romania points to the significant steps Romania took since the last annual report of July 2010. Romania improved judicial efficiency, re-established the legal basis of the National Integrity Agency, continued preparations for the implementation of the four new codes, launched preparations for a functional review of the judicial system and carried out an impact analysis of its anti-corruption policy. At the same time, the report also notes that consistency and results in a number of areas remain a challenge and that progress in the fight against corruption still needs to be pursued. The report concludes that Romania needs to take urgent action to accelerate high-level corruption trials and to prevent their prescription due to expiry of statute-barred periods. The fight against corruption should remain a top priority, with support from Parliament, and urgent measures should be taken to improve the recovery of proceeds of crime, the pursuit of money laundering and the protection against conflict of interest in the management of public funds.
Posted in Enlargement, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged Bulgaria, Bulgarian Judiciary, Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council, Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, Corruption, organized crime, police, prosecution, Romania
Everybody has now heard about the plagiarism scandal surrounding the doctoral thesis of the German defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Meanwhile it turned out that the son of Muamar Gadaffi, Seif-al-Islam, has got a PhD from the London School of Economics that was in part plagiarized from Wikipedia.
Meanwhile to the East, Russian bureaucrats try to disguise their ignorance by acquiring doctorates or professorships while in office. It just turned out that the chairman of the Bulgarian commission in charge of seizing illegally acquired assets is not a professor, as he has claimed.
So what is it all about??? Why this struggle for academic titles? It must be linked to the status and prestige of these titles, of course. But it also signals incompetence that attempts to mask itself. In order words, these are the symptoms of both deep complacency in political life and lax academic standards.
Posted in Education, Science and Culture
Tagged academia, Bulgaria, complacency, doctorate, incompetence, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, London School of Economics, Muamar Gadaffi, Russia, Seif-al-Islam, titles
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.
Posted in Bulgaria, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged Bulgaria, Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, Corruption, France, Germany, judiciary, law enforcement, organized crime, Romania, Schengen
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.
Posted in Bulgaria, Foreign and Security Policy, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria, Lukoil Bulgaria, organized crime, Russia, smuggling, Tzvetan Tzvetanov, Valentin Zlatev, Vanyo Tanov, Wikileaks
France and Germany have officially announced that they will block the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area, Euractiv reports. The main deficiencies in both countries that they outline are the absence of a satisfactory juridical and administrative environment in the fields of security and justice, persisting corruption at different levels and worrying levels of organised crime.
This letter does not come as a surprise to this blogger. I have time and again noted that both Bulgaria and Romania are facing significant challenges in the reform of the judiciary and the fight against corruption and organized crime. Two questions, however, linger on.
The first question is whether Bulgaria and Romania were fit to become Member States in 2007. The European Commission believed so, and so did France and Germany at the time. However, this leads to the logical conclusion that both countries in fact experienced a deterioration of the rule of law since accession.
The second question is whether Bulgaria and Romania can actually, at any point in the future, join the Schengen area. This is not an absurd question, since if separate Member States reaffirm their right of individual assessment of the quality of the judicial systems of candidates, it may turn out that both Bulgaria and Romania are assessed against unachievable standards that surpass the present level of rule of law in the Schengen area. Again, this is a logically derived possibility.
France and Germany should understand that answering both questions will have its consequences for the level of solidarity and cohesion in the European Union.
Posted in Enlargement, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged accession, Bulgaria, Corruption, France, Germany, organised crime, Romania, rule of law, Schengen
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.
The European Commission has published its progress reports for Bulgaria and Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). The reports monitor the progress of the two Member states on progress with judicial reform, the fight against corruption and, concerning Bulgaria, the fight against organized crime.
Both reports say that further assistance and monitoring by the Commission is needed to support the reform processes in Bulgaria and Romania until all benchmarks are fulfilled and the CVM can be repealed. In other words the monitoring will continue for an undetermined period of time.
The reports for both countries are quite critical. For Bulgaria the report seems to underscore the fact that noisy police actions do not necessarily transform into successful convictions. For Romania the main criticism is directed against the new amendments of the law on the National Integrity Agency.
The report on Bulgaria notes a strong reform momentum which has been established in Bulgaria since the Commission’s last annual report in July 2009. The Commission believes that there is strong political will in the Bulgarian government to achieve a deep and lasting reform of the judiciary. According to the report Bulgaria has adopted important reforms of its penal procedures. Bulgaria has increased its efforts to fight against high-level corruption. Bulgaria has also stepped up efforts by carrying out a number of police raids on organised crime groups although little judicial follow-up to these raids has been reported. However, the report notes that the judicial process in Bulgaria lacks initiative and professional capacity. Complex investigations show a lack of direction and purpose, procedures are too formal and too long and often fail in court. The implementation of the conflict of interest law is insufficiently effective. Shortcomings in the implementation of public procurement procedures are widespread.
The Commission points to important shortcomings in Romania’s efforts to achieve progress under the CVM. Romania did not show sufficient political commitment to support and provide direction to the reform process and demonstrated a degree of unwillingness within the leadership of the judiciary to cooperate and take responsibility. Judicial reform has shown important progress with Parliamentary adoption of the Civil and Criminal Procedural Codes. The National Integrity Agency (ANI) was able to demonstrate a further consolidation of its capacity and track record regarding the identification of unjustified wealth, incompatibilities and conflicts of interest. However, the amendments to the law on the National Integrity Agency voted on 30 June 2010 represent a serious step back.
Posted in Bulgaria, Enlargement, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged benchmarks, Bulgaria, Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, Corruption, judiciary, organized crime, reforms, report, Romania
We now have the 2009 report of the European anti-fraud office, OLAF. The report outlines a number of case studies – misuse of Parliamentary expenses by an ex-MEP, embezzlement by the director of an NGO, widespread corruption and fraud in the management of the Global Fund in Uganda, etc. However, one Member State takes central stage in the report – and that is, yes, Bulgaria.
There were 68 active investigations in Bulgaria in 2009 – the most in any Member state for that period. 26 new cases were opened in 2009 in Bulgaria, out of 32 for the whole European Union. This is really extraordinary given the small population and scale of EU structural funding for Bulgaria. The main reason is that OLAF is currently investigating allegations of widespread fraud in the funding of meat-processing plants in Bulgaria under the SAPARD pre-accession funding program. Now, “allegations” does not mean “committed fraud”, but the issue is very worrying. The main issue here will be to distinguish real fraud cases from administrative irregularities. Given the scale of the investigations, they will have a systemic impact on the meat-processing sector in Bulgaria and thousands of jobs.
Posted in Agriculture and Fisheries, Budget and Finance, Bulgaria, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged 2009, activity report, anti-fraud, Bulgaria, meat-processing industry, OLAF, SAPARD