Brussels Is Deaf and Blind to BG Unrest
Borisov continues to be a player who comes in handy for the European institutions
The European institutions are not in a hurry to take a stand on what is happening in Bulgaria. They are pretending to be neutral or even distracted by the anti-government protests demanding resignation for more than 40 days.
At the same time, they continue to reiterate the importance of the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
Protesters in Sofia and other Bulgarian cities accuse the European Union of inactivity. According to them, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is the convenient player whom Brussels is in no hurry to part with because it is unknown who will come after. In practice, the European institutions are doing what they do best – they are monitoring, calling upon and then they intervene when things escalate. This is, of course, not a personal attitude towards Bulgaria but an unspoken rule in the domestic and foreign policy of the community. Brussels officials are always the last. Their most generous gesture to the protest in BG so far has been to call for respect for the rights of the demonstrators and for the legal actions of the police.
At the same time, the country was called upon to pursue the implementation of the reforms, especially with regard to the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption: "Our opinion remains unchanged. The transition to the new rule of law monitoring mechanism will enable the commission to continue working with Bulgaria. The European Commission works on the basis of mechanisms that monitor the ongoing challenges to the rule of law. We do not look away from the events in Bulgaria, we’ll continue to monitor the rule of law there with the new mechanism from the beginning of autumn."
Eyes wide shut
On the 35th day since the start of the anti-government protests, a demonstration entitled "Mass Eyes Closing" took place in front of the German Embassy in Sofia.
"We want to know how the claims to the rule of law that accompany any European directive to Bulgaria fit in with the wide-closed eyes of the European political elite for its GERB partners," the protesters asked.
The event received a serious response in the German media. The leading idea was that Bulgarians still expect the EU to help them get rid of what they call the mafia: a cartel of oligarchs linked to organized crime. But it has already become clear to everyone that Brussels is not particularly interested in the events in Bulgaria and continues to grant it money. It will receive 29 billion euros from the EU budget by 2027, almost twice as much as in the previous programming period. EUR 16.7 billion from the budget (grants), EUR 7.7 billion from the Recovery Fund (grants) and EUR 4.55 billion from the Recovery Fund (loans) are provided for Bulgaria. When the aid was announced, Prime Minister Borissov thanked the first people in the community and, as in a satirical play, reminded that there was money enough but transparency and the rule of law are required.
Helene Kortlander of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation is convinced that the EU partners are aware of how Borissov's government is using European funds, simply because the persistent abuses are too obvious. "But Brussels is happy to be lied to and continues to pay," she said.
According to Clemens Ferenkote of the German public media network ARD, the Bulgarian protest is directed mainly against the Prime Minister, who represents the symbiosis between power, oligarchy and bribery. Some Bulgarians, she continues, are convinced that corruption has infiltrated the entire country.
Better than Orban
Euro leaders see Borissov as a comfortable, predictable partner. He has always tried to strictly follow the guidelines, our country has even excelled at financial discipline which cannot be said, for example, for Italy and Spain. It is important for the institutions in Brussels that Borisov and his party are a pro-European partner, that they helped solve the migration problem and kept the European external border closed. Ethnic tensions in Bulgaria are rare, and Roma integration programs abound, not to mention that they are of no use. The Bulgarian Prime Minister and his government quietly complied with the European Commission when it decided that "South Stream" should not be built and with a bunch of other requirements. That is why there is silence in Brussels and Berlin about the protests and the crisis in our country. It's a not big deal that their guy commented on their buttocks, swore like a porter, ruled like a militiaman and some wads of cash were shot in his bedroom. Laws are laws. Is there a country in Europe with no theft, graft, ties, lobbying or scams…? Europe has its own problems, the coronavirus has done enough damage.
"European party families find it difficult to deal with problematic members in their own ranks. Ideological differences are often huge but at the same time all the votes that can be gathered in the European Parliament matter. Very hesitant and only after sufficient provocations did the EPP speak in a plain text against Viktor Orban's Fidesz. Compared to Fidesz, Borissov's GERB is a paragon," Helene Kortlander said. And she is absolutely right. In Bulgaria, decent people were shocked when EPP leader Manfred Weber called Borissov a "fighter against corruption." Obviously Europe is more aware of this topic than the Bulgarian citizens or it is a ruthless, impudent hypocrite.
In any case, Europeans have less and less trust in Brussels and there is no prospect of this trend changing any time soon.