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Do the work on time

by Naneva Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 09:05:18 AM EST

or one way how Bulgaria and Romania can get to the EU in 2007
from the diaries, with small title edit.

Ivan Todorov, also known as Doktora, was killed with 15 bullets in the head in his Porsche Cayenne. The murder occurred in downtown Sofia last month, on February 22, despite the fact that security was heightened at the time due to the visit of the Turkish president.

Todorov, 42, was the target of numerous police investigations, including goods smuggling and money laundry. His name appeared to be investigated as a mastermind of a large international network of cigarettes trafficking.

Another alleged mobster dead. Organized crime in Bulgaria is still a problem. You can view the graph (in Bulgarian) of the number of murders during the period of transition. In the last few years, the digits have doubled.

Recently there was a diary in Eurotrib on Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the EU.  I believe it is appropriate time to look at the issues raised there from a somewhat different perspective.

Should Bulgaria and Romania be allowed to join the EU in 2007? Or should their accession be postponed by a year?

Much has been said about how much Bulgaria and Romania have done towards meeting the economic, political and legislative requirements for membership. I, however, would like to focus on the unfinished tasks this time. What still needs to be done? Can it be done on time? And if "done", is it really implemented?

Bulgaria and Romania will not be able to join the Union in 2007 unless the serious concerns presented in the 2005 Commission monitoring reports are resolved on time.

There are several criteria that Bulgaria and Romania need to meet before 2007 in order to be able to join the Union next year.

Most serious problems in Bulgaria and Romania:

-    Public administration reform: The legislative framework is still not completed; local and regional administrations need to be strengthened in the context of decentralization.
-    The justice system continues to lack accountability. Procedures are slow and cumbersome.
-    Corruption: the main problem is in the weak results of the investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption cases.
-    More efforts needed to stop trafficking of human beings; to improve conditions in some state institutions for children and people with disabilities.
-    The effective integration of the Romas requires sustained efforts.
-    Protection of intellectual and industrial property rights in the company law field.
-    Veterinary control system in the internal market.
-    Justice and Home Affairs:  preparations for applying the Schengen acquis and for the management of the future EU external border.
-    Fight against organized crime (esp. Bulgaria).
-    Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments.
-    Romania: Improvement of the administrative capacity in the taxation area is needed. Notably the slow pace of achieving IT system interoperability.
-    Industrial pollution and overall administrative capacity in the field of environment (esp. Romania).

Before dealing with all this on time, no accession would be possible in 2007.  


What is the case in Bulgaria in particular?

Open Society Institute issued a Citizen monitoring report  at the end of January, which shows what has been achieved since the European Commission report of October last year.

The citizen monitoring was directed to the five fields, which the European Commission had identified as most troublesome: agriculture, justice and home affairs, company law, freedom to provide services and regional policy. The pace of implementation suggests that all measures can be implemented on time. As a whole, 2/3 of the measures in the five fields have been implemented or work on them is progressing. Nevertheless, closer attention has to be paid to the quality of implementation as well as the enforcement of the measures.

The report shows that Bulgaria is still behind in two very important fields: agriculture and justice and home affairs. There are not enough guarantees that quick progress will be made in these fields, so as to meet the Commission deadlines.

As of January 16, rather not implemented are 41% of the measures in chapter JHA.

More work needed on:

  • Initiation of amendments and supplements to the Constitution
  • Adoption of an Act on the Ministry of the Interior, which regulates criminal police
  • Development and adoption of an Integrated Border Management Strategy
  • Implementation of the National Strategy for Combating Corruption with a focus on measures taken to curb high-level corruption
  • Meetings with the Supreme Judicial Council and other key judicial system institutions to discuss the implementation of a strict criminal justice policy against organized crime and corruption.

Over 41% of the critical measures on agriculture are being delayed or are not implemented:

Delays in:

  • A Framework law on the activities of the Paying Agency and the application of information system for administrative control, IACS, which is directly linked to identification of agriculture land, the implementation of the milk quotas, and the registration of processing enterprises
  • Building of long-term veterinary border inspection posts.
  • Restructuring of companies in the processing industry. Delay in animal legislation, and in the registration and preparation of animal farms


Reforms are on the go. But can all this be done on time?

On March 1, the Bulgarian government approved an important document: "The Bulgarian Contribution to the Monitoring Report of the European Commission." The report highlights all measures adopted by Sofia for the last four months in order to meet the Commission requirements.

Much has been achieved. True. But a lot still needs to be done. And in order for Bulgaria to be able to join next year, serious and immediate steps need to be taken.

Bulgaria hopes to get a good grade with its new law on amendment of the Constitution, improvement of the system for management of the court lawsuits, the magistrate trainings, and the accusations of corruption of high-level officials.

For the Judiciary, a new random case assignment system in courts was introduced. It will guarantee that judges go over cases impartially. Moreover, the integration of the common system for management of cases started. The system will allow for quicker inspection of lawsuits.  

In the fight against corruption, 35 suits against higher representatives of the state authorities were launched. They include suits against the former mayor of Sofia, Stefan Sofiyanski, and the former main architect of the capital, Stoyan Yanev.

But is this enough? And how many of the measures taken are truly working?

On May 17, the Commission will declare its opinion. By then, Romania and Bulgaria will try to shovel their way through.

Will they be able to do it?

Thanks, naneva, for this post.

How much international coverage did the death of Dotkora receive? I know several people in school were discussing it heatedly. Indeed, Bulgaria seems to be undergoing its Jazz Age. It seems some disagree the EU is the best thing for us and they are showing it as clearly as they can.

Gees, a year ago one of the big mafia bosses was shot dead at 1pm right in front of our university in the center of the town of Blagoevgrad, in southern Bulgaria! He was said to have been the biggest shark in the region. The amazing thing was that although for hours after he was shot people were crowding around the scene, a few days later everybody seemed to have forgotten about it. People and the local paper no longer mentioned it.

Most of the crowd members, i remember, said they weren't worried about their security because it's them big bosses that get killed like this - us poor people, who's gonna touch us and what for? Most of the people in the crowd also said that it served him right to die like this. So I guess the scenario with Doktora and all the other mafia bosses that got killed has been the same. The public seems to be immune despite all the coverage, most of it sensational.

But yes, the gist of the matter is: how ready are we to join the EU? But if it's not 2007, then 2008 is a sure thing.

by Brownie on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 03:45:30 AM EST
Thank you, Brownie, for this comment. It is true that dealing with organised crime requires much more work than what is being done at the moment.  

You say at the end, that if Bulgaria does not join in 2007, then in 2008 we are in for sure. True.

And what is the big issue then?! I believe that it is time that we started looking at it from a somewhat different perspective. Whether we join next year or a year later will show how much reforms have progressed, how much work has been done. And as soon as reforms start working (just one example: the public administration reform - all this bureaucracy), life will supposedly get better. As soon as we join, companies will feel even more free to invest in the region. And even if we join in 2008, and the work has not been done yet, then other safeguard clauses come into place, which may preclude us from taking the full benefits of membership. And one last thing, when serious issues are addressed and dealt with, Bulgaria itself will also be able to give more to the Union.

-- Fighting my own apathy..

by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 04:17:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Naneva, I want to address one more problem, related to Bulgaria's accession to the Union.There are people in Bulgaria who are not convinced that we should join the EU. They are too afraid that this accession will have negative consequences on the standard of living.As soon as the Euro becomes our official currency, all the prices will be changed from "leva" to "euro". For example, what has cost 1 lev, will cost 1 Euro. However, at the same time the salaries will not be directly translated into Euros. Rather, someone who has received 500 leva, will get 250 Euro. Thus, in the beginning Bulgaria will face serious challenges in the social sphere, and if the economy cannot sustain a decent standard of life, then probably this accession has to be delayed. All these concerns are related to this Euro scepticism and, I should say, some of them are not so pointless.
If we are to join the EU, we should not only be ready, but we should want it as well. As long as, there are Euro sceptics among the Bulgarian population, some of the necessary reforms cannot be carried out. Therefore, the question is not when Bulgaria will join the Union. Rather, we should ask ourselves when Bulgaria will be ready to address the challenges, related to its accession. And if we want to address them successfully,Bulgarians should truly believe in the benefits of this accession, so that the reforms will be carried out on time.
by hitchhiker on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 07:15:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As soon as the Euro becomes our official currency, all the prices will be changed from "leva" to "euro". For example, what has cost 1 lev, will cost 1 Euro.
That is preposterous, as supposedly 1 EUR = 1.95 BGN. Can you provide some backing for that statement?

Also, Bulgaria will not automatically join the Euro. The latest 10 member states have not done so as they don't yet fulfill the necessary macroeconomic conditions, so how can Romania and Bulgaria join immediately?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 07:21:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Migeru, a backing for my statement would be the case in Germany and Austria. There, as soon as the Euro became the official currency and replaced the Deutsche Marc and the Schilling, the prices in the cafes were just changed to Euros. So, something that cost 1 Marc or 1 Schilling, would cost 1 Euro!
I do not necessarily claim that this will happen in Bulgaria as well, but this is my presumption. It does not happen everywhere, but as you can see in the examples from Germany and Austria, it can happen.
Regarding your second remark, I do not expect that Bulgaria and Romania will join immediately the Union. Actually, if you have read my comment carefully, you can see that I do not think that Bulgaria has the necessary macroeconomic conditions. Rather, I think that neither the Bulgarian public, nor its politicians are ready for this accession and its consequences.
by hitchhiker on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 10:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, I agree that the prices of small items will be inflated. In Spain what used to cost 100 pta would have gone to costing €0.60, and it did... but at the earliest opportunity prices tended to go up to €1. Large prices stayed the same, with all necessary rounding done up, obviously.

However, considering that it will take 5, maybe 10 years after accession for Bulgaria to be ready for the Euro, I find backing this

They are too afraid that this accession will have negative consequences on the standard of living.
with the possibility of price-gauging by unscrupulous vendors a little disingenuous. If accession will have a negative impact on the standard of living, it won't be because of the Euro.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 10:50:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Migeru, certainly if the accession has a negative impact on the standard of living, it will not be only because of the Euro. Rather, I argue that with an unstable economy like the Bulgarian, the change of currency may lead to a difficult period.If Bulgaria has the necessary macroeconomic conditions,as you have suggested, the adoption of the Euro will not have a negative impact, especially in the long run. However, my argument is based on the conviction that the Bulgarian economy is not ready yet to sustain this change of currency.And even if only the prices of small items are turned directly into Euros, it may be a problem, at least in the short run.
by hitchhiker on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 12:14:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the Euro won't be introduced for at least 10 years after accession, given the macroeconomic conditions. The Euro has nothing to do with whether or not accession is a good thing.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 12:31:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Footnote on this discussion: a way to stop the up-roundings was invented and just implemented by Slovenia: to force sellers to show prices in Euro and Tolar years before adopting the currency.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 07:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remain convinced that political leaders of all parties (save the far right) are happily unaware of the significant change in the atmosphere in the EU. In short, there are no done deals and if the governments and opposition parties that support EU membership do not get their acts together, Bulgaria and Romania may be surprised to find themselves on the outside of the EU...though some Brussels watchers are beginning to get the picture..

Neneva has done a good job at pointing out the major areas that still lack attention. Whining that "but you just have to let us in" is not going to work in this new atmosphere and with European publics suffering from what has now been called "enlargement fatigue."

If there is a failure, it will be a failure of political will in Sofia and Bucharest...overly comfortable political elites and passive populations that would prefer to complain than to hold their political elites accountable in any other way. Holding political elites accountable does not end on election day; it begins. The sooner that Bulgarians and Romanians realize this, the better off they will be.

by gradinski chai on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 04:58:23 AM EST
Yes, i agree we need to start being more active so we can hold our politicians accountable. But we can't do that until we solve the problems Naneva has listed. On the other hand, to solve these problems, we need to be more vigilant. So it's a vicious circle.

I also agree that Bulgarian media and politicians still haven't shown us what's been happening lately within the EU. The majority of the Bulgarian public still seems to have those romantic views of the member states, whereas in reality apart from enlargement fatigue they also need to cope with problems such as ageing populations and ailing economies.

But then, if media and politicians told us the entire truth, what motivation would the population have to support our membership? People are already complaining about the expected problems: higher prices etc.

by Brownie on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 08:40:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I've said that in some of my previous postings, but I will repeat it: I do support a delay, not because I want it, but because I believe Bulgaria is not ready. And from what I have heard, Romania is not ready either.
One thing for sure is that  the rate of organized crime in Bulgaria has been by now impossible to control. Let us not only think about the people who got killed, but what they did to deserve their fate, what businesses were they involved with, and how many people they have also done harm? Doktora was the big boss of the cigarette smuggling business, and he was believed to be involved with Marko Milosevic, the son of the former president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic. Then the next question is: how such people as Doktora did what they did, and where was the state then when it had to interfere and sue, and send to prison all those people, who were spoiling its image in front of its European partners?
The other thing is that even if we become members on time, it would be better if we do not acquire an immediate access to all the EU freedoms. Why? Because Bugarians have a weird interpretation of what freedom is and they have a strange inclination to abuse it, and this will be good neither for the Union, nor for our country. In Bulgaria changes need to happen gradually, because overnight they simply cannot.

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 04:13:13 PM EST
Yes, Little L, i absolutely agree: the state has been doing little to punish the mafia and we need to do things gradually. I just disagree Bulgarians have a weird interpretation of freedom: i'd call it an immature interpretation. The reason is that we haven't had a lot of democracy, we haven't had enough time to establish our institutions and we still tend to have more respect for personalities, not for traditions. We just need time.

Another reason why a delay would be good is the perception of the Bulgarian public. Most common people seem to be saying, the EU will be bad for us - now we're making ends meet, what will we do when we join the union? Nobody seems to be responding to this in human language, to the point. The more chagrined the public is, the harder it'll be for our politicians to sell their policies.

by Brownie on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 08:25:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I totally agree with your interpretation of why Bulgarians have an imature interpretation of freedom. Communism leaves a permanent scar,which is difficult to erase.

Yes, it is also true that our politicians do not give the society sufficient information about what and why they are making certain policies. I have just a small disagreement with you. Most of the people in Bulgaria are very positive about the country joining the EU. The problem is that they do not exactly know what the good thing is, and which is more important, they do not believe the membership will affect them personally in a positive way. So, the attitudes of the society are a little controversial :-)

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 06:17:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I totally agree with your interpretation of why Bulgarians have an imature interpretation of freedom. Communism leaves a permanent scar,which is difficult to erase.

Well, there was not much of freedom and real democracy before 'communism' either, so these problems run deeper.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 06:27:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually from what I've heard from my parents, there was none. I was lucky enough to be born just 5 years before communism collapsed and don't remeber much. The only thing that's clear in my mind is how I loved bananas and oranges, and they never sold any, only for New Year. My father once went to Hungary and when he returned, he brought me two bananas, but by the time he was home, they had already gotten rotten. Sorry for going offtopic, I'm sure everyone from the Eastern bloc can share similar, if not worse, experience.

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 06:52:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I meant is that 1989/90 was our year zero in freedom and democracy, not a return, and the past what many of our right-wingers were either whitewashing or yearning to return to was rather ugly in many ways. Hence, this immature sense of freedom is not the consequence of 'communism', but of an almost unbroken sequence of various dictatures or oligarchies or rigged/limited democracies for thousands of years.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 07:01:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary...Really a great update of the situation...

Thnaks a lot

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 02:24:13 AM EST
Thank you, Kcurie.

What is the mood about Bulgarian and Romanian accession in your country?

-- Fighting my own apathy..

by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 05:42:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be good to see impressions from people who have first-hand experience with the situation in Romania. I see the country is passing an urgent order to fight corruption.

-- Fighting my own apathy..
by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 6th, 2006 at 05:41:06 AM EST
Sadly, but I am also for a delay...I love Bulgaria and wish all the best for our country (and I believe joining EU will be good!) but we just need to be ready before doing something like that...before becoming a part of the "Big European family".

Let's take for example the infrastructure in Bulgaria: our roads are under construction all the time and as soon as they repair them, they need to start all over again. There are wholes literally everywhere on the road. If you have a new western car you definitely must be cautious when driving it around (that's why Bulgarians use their old Ladas:)).

Furthermore, our public transport...The trains--oh, my...It is either too cold during the winter or it is so hot that you need to open the window (and the temperatures outside are negative) and there is always somebody that is smoking in a non-smoking area and doesn't get a fee.

But, once again, don't get me wrong--I love my country and am eager to see it joining the EU!

by Denny on Sun Mar 19th, 2006 at 02:49:16 PM EST

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