EU and Bulgaria: a struggle
Moscow is getting ready for the Year of Bulgaria in Russia, and Brussels expects the year of Bulgaria in the EU. The Russians will have no problem accepting us and our ways, and we can already expect success with them – because they know our reality.
The situation with the Europeans is more complicated. They, unlike the Russians, are our main ally now. And we will have to answer to ourselves the question that we set aside for three years: Will Bulgaria reach European standards, or will EU have to rework the standards? In other words, a struggle. The deadline is the end of 2009, as is written in the joining contract.
In 2008, we were witnesses to a diplomatical paradox. The more Bulgaria participated in European debates, the more it fell into isolation. The diplomacy has a simple measure to show the rank of each country in the international relations – the exchange of official, high-ranking visits. This marks “who wants to play with who”, and the foreign visits are the important ones.
According to that measure, Bulgaria ranks poorly during the second year of having a EU member status. The Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov was officially invited in just one EU country – Poland, and was visited by only two EU colleagues – from Cyprus and Hungary. We might count the visit of the Czech president, but he only visited to present his book – not a visit on official level.
The statistics of the prime minister Sergey Stanishev are even poorer – he was barely invited anywhere in the EU, and very few of his European colleagues visited Bulgaria.
The road map of the president Parvanov only serves to show how far has Bulgaria strayed from her allies despite her official membership in the EU. The president was in Azarbaijan, Israel, Egypt, China, Uzbekistan, Argentina, Mexico, Serbia, Qatar, Albania, Turkey and Turkmenistan. All of that meant stregthening of relations with former Soviet republics, which was the political line 20 years ago.
Acknowledgement of the new strategic orientation of Bulgaria however, was non-present in his travels. He also did not mention the European Union in his New Year’s speech for the first time.
The prime minister Stanishev visited Slovenia, Russia, Moldova and Macedonia, tried to counter the Brussels sanctions with a meeting with George Bush but failed, and visited Germany just to meet provincial leaders, but not the chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Bulgarian dialogue with Europe now almost completely goes through Brussels, and thus through the European Commisson. And Bulgaria has bad communication with the EC, as is already evident – and, according to the government, this bad communication is the cause for the failures in Europe.
To improve the situation, the prime minister formed an international adviser team, headed by the ex-prime minister of France Dominique de Villepin. His infamy in France however, only served to cool France to Bulgaria even more. In their role as EU chairman, Paris dissolved the duo “Romania-Bulgaria”, saved their favorite – Bucharest – from financial sanctions, and left Sofia to the will of the eurocrats in Brussels.
The role of de Villepin “helped”, but the government’s attempt to juggle with the favors of France and Germany could prove far more fatal to the country. As a result, France and Germany are noticeably forming, along with the Netherlands, the UK and Austria, a union of countries that strongly criticize Bulgaria.
Their displeasure of Bulgaria’s unwillingness (or inability) to departfrom the image of a corrupt and crime-filled country is also turning against the EC, that put their reputation at stake by reccomending Bulgaria’s joining of the EU in 2007 – despite the obvious imperfections.
Brussels now faces a serious problem – Bulgaria’s resistance to destroy corruption through reminders, threats and sanctions. Thus, in an unflattering manner, 2009 will be the year of Bulgaria in the EU.
By turning into the “weak point” of Europe, as it is frequently called by foreign media, Bulgaria will receive intensive treatment – like a patient. Bulgaria can only expect a hard European therapy, but if it will improve it’s health, then greater good will come out of it all.
by: Svetoslav Terziev, “Sega”