FP Bulgaria issue 1 (30)

February 2010

The first online only issue of FP Bulgaria.

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After Europe (in Bulgarian)


Author(s): Ivan Krastev

The Bulgarian edition of "After Europe", published by Obsidian Publishing House.

After Europe


Author(s): Ivan Krastev

In this provocative book, renowned public intellectual Ivan Krastev reflects on the future of the European Union—and its potential lack of a future.

Democracy Disrupted


Author(s): Ivan Krastev

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Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities. Bulgaria Country Report

05 June 2017

Author(s): Ruzha Smilova

Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities Edited by Peter Vandor, Nicole Traxler, Reinhard Millner, and Michael Meyer. ERSTE Foundation publication

Democratic Innovation and the Politics of Fear: 25 Lessons from Eastern Europe

05 June 2017

Author(s): Daniel Smilov

Daniel Smilov's contribution to The Governance Report 2017, published by Oxford University Press

Political Finance in East, Central and South East Europe & Central Asia

Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns: A Handbook on Political Finance © International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 2014, 16 July 2015

Author(s): Daniel Smilov

The New European Disorder

ECFR, 11 November 2014

Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

Bulgaria: EP Elections a Rehearsal for Early National Elections

23 May 2014

EPIN publication with a general introduction and case studies from 11 Member States (Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK) "Between Apathy and Anger: Challenges to the Union from the 201

Author(s): Antoinette Primatarova

Bridge Over Troubled Waters? The Role of the Internationals in Albania

12 October 2012

Publication of Antoinette Primatarova and Dr Johanna Deimel with contributions by Margarita Assenova

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Putin’s Next Playground or the E.U.’s Last Moral Stand?

New York Times, 28 January 2019

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

The Metamorphosis of Central Europe

Project Syndicate, 21 January 2019

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

A European Goes to Trump’s Washington

New York Times, 30 November 2018

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

Steve Bannon’s New Best Friend in Europe

New York Times, 19 August 2018

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

Imitation and Its Discontents

Journal of Democracy, 05 August 2018

Author(s): Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes

The Pope vs. the Populists

New York Times, 12 July 2018

Central Europe is a lesson to liberals: don’t be anti-nationalist

The Guardian, 11 July 2018

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

3 Versions of Europe Are Collapsing at the Same Time

Foreign Policy, 10 July 2018

Author(s): Ivan Krastev

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Corrupt in Sofia

Wall Street Journal Europe
22 July 2008
Antoinette Primatarova


Corrupt in Sofia

July 22, 2008
Sofia, Bulgaria

For years the Bulgarian government has been promising Brussels and its own citizens that it would fight organized crime and corruption. But a string of leaked European Commission reports due out tomorrow come to a devastating conclusion. The country needs to "cleanse its administration and ensure that the generous support it receives from the EU actually reaches its citizens and is not siphoned off by corrupt officials, operating together with organized crime," one of them reads in part.
Some have argued that the EU was wrong to admit Bulgaria as a member last year, as Brussels now lacks the leverage to push the country in the right direction. But the leaked reports suggest that the EU might freeze up aid to its poorest member state, showing Brussels still has enough power to punish and shame Sofia. What's more, EU membership has invigorated civil society in Bulgaria, boosting domestic pressure for reforms. Euroskepticism may be a problem in the old member states. In Bulgaria and elsewhere in the region, though, it's a different picture. People here want EU involvement to help the country deal with its problems. And problems we have.
The European Commission will meet tomorrow to discuss its findings of Bulgaria's judiciary, management of EU funds and fight against corruption and organized crime. The Commission will also discuss possible sanctions against Sofia. The Bulgarian government, civil service, law enforcement and judiciary are all implicated in fraud, accused of links to the criminal underworld, according to the leaked reports. As a result, Brussels may bar two Bulgarian state agencies from handling EU funds, withholding up to €1 billion in aid.
Following the media reports about Brussels' findings, Bulgaria's European Minister Gergana Grancharova admitted in an interview that the center-left government is divided into two camps. Some ministers acknowledge the corruption problems and would like the government to fight it. Others would prefer that the government fight the European Commission.
It's no secret in Sofia who would like the status quo to continue. Unfortunately, President Georgi Parvanov falls into this camp. While paying lip service to the goal of fighting corruption, he and his political allies have been busier playing down the problem than eradicating it. They accuse the media and the opposition of being "hysterical" and unpatriotic. Arguing the charges of corruption are exaggerated, they like to appeal to the people's national feelings, urging them to rally around the government and its president.
They seem to overlook that ordinary Bulgarians are fed up with corruption and do not consider it their patriotic duty to defend the government against such accusations -- particularly when they are true. On the contrary, public awareness of the importance of combating corruption is on the rise in Bulgaria. According to the most recent Eurobarometer poll, 41% of Bulgarians consider fighting corruption a top priority for the EU. That's up from just 25% last fall.
While part of the government has been trying to stir up public resentment against the European Commission, others simultaneously tried to use the specter of anti-EU feelings to intimidate Brussels. Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev warned Brussels earlier this year that EU sanctions against his country could fuel Bulgarian euroskepticism and extremist parties.
Euroskepticism, though, is typically strong in those EU countries where public trust in national institutions is also quite strong. The Bulgarian case is different. According to the same Eurobarometer poll cited earlier, Bulgarians are among the EU citizens with the lowest opinions of their public institutions. Seventy-three percent of those polled mistrust their government, while 79% and 76% respectively mistrust their parliament and judiciary.
Ordinary Bulgarian citizens are no less critical of organized crime and corruption than Brussels is. Most of them see the EU as their ally. Being tough on corruption is not going to fuel euroskepticism in Bulgaria. The opposite is true. Brussels would be much more likely to turn ordinary citizens against the EU by being too lenient with the government.
The way the corruption scandals about EU funds are unfolding here in Bulgaria shows that Brussels has not lost leverage over Sofia. Brussels is actually playing an even more important role now than before Bulgaria joined the EU.
In the preaccession phase, the only real Bulgarian player was the government. The civil society and media were only incidentally involved in the corruption debate Brussels raised from the start.
Things changed, though, when it became clear that EU membership alone wouldn't bring an automatic end to corruption. Since January 2008, the questions of misuse of EU funds and corruption have been topping the news and public debates. The pressure from civil society and the media complements and enforces the pressure from Brussels in a way that promises to finally trigger real change.
Groucho Marx once said that he did not care to belong to a club that accepted people like him as members. I would claim that Bulgarians would not be happy with a European Union that accepts corruption, mismanagement and abuse of taxpayers' money. The Bulgarian government might be divided on how to react to the Commission's report. Ordinary Bulgarians, though, are ready to side with Brussels.

Ms. Primatarova, a former Bulgarian ambassador to the EU, is the program director at the Center for Liberal Strategies