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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Why is Bulgaria in the EU again?

Bulgaria map, shamelessly leeched from the CIA World FactbookIt’s a question I’ve asked before, not least when the backwards Balkan oddity first joined. And now, finally, the EU powers that be seem to have noticed that, erm… letting in a notoriously corrupt, organised crime-ridden country with a dodgy economy and poor track record on human rights may just have been a bad idea.

And so EU funding to Bulgaria has been cut off, with hefty warnings for that other bastion of economic might and social liberalism, Romania.

A handy summary of the European Commission’s report on Bulgaria has a number of highlights – all of which would tend to suggest that, erm, Bulgaria wasn’t quite ready for EU accession last year, and so shouldn’t have been allowed to join:

The Penal Code is outdated and is part of the reason why the judiciary is overloaded… The administrative capacity of both law enforcement and the judiciary is weak… There are signs of corruption in the health and education sectors… A strategic approach to fighting local corruption is missing. The anti-corruption Commission of the Council of Ministers has not been active in this regard… The fight against high level corruption and organised crime is not producing enough results…

And so on, and so on…

Of course, corruption alone is nothing too unusual within the EU. But Bulgaria also falls down in countless other areas, as the US State Department’s 2007 report on Human Rights in the country notes:

The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, police frequently beat criminal suspects, particularly members of minority groups… Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported complaints of police brutality from Romani victims who were too intimidated to lodge official complaints with authorities… Human rights groups continued to claim that medical examinations in cases of police abuse were not properly documented, that allegations of police abuse were seldom investigated thoroughly, and that offending officers were very rarely punished… Prison conditions generally did not meet international standards, and the government did not allocate funds to make significant improvements… The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, there were reports that police at times ignored these prohibitions… Impunity remained a problem. All complaints involving interior ministry personnel and other police forces, as well as military personnel, are adjudicated by the military court system.

And on, and on… They could also have mentioned the arbitrary arrest of political dissidents.

And it’s not as if its economy is booming either, ranking worse than Turkey’s, and – according to Wikipedia, at least – with inflation fluctuating between a low of 2.3% and high of 7.3% over the last five years, while “Bulgaria’s per-capita PPP GDP is still only about a third of the EU25 average, while the country’s nominal GDP per capita is about 13% of the EU25 average.”

Oh, and lest we forget, Bulgaria also signed a gas pipeline deal with Russia earlier this year which has caused some serious problems for the EU’s own planned Nabucco pipeline – designed to lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian gas – and thus handed the Kremlin even greater dominance over the European energy market.

So, as I say, the country is corrupt, has a poor human rights record and a dodgy economy, and seems to be making little progress with any of these, while at the same time is undermining EU efforts to stabilise the continent’s vital energy supplies – so what the hell is it doing in the EU? “Serious concerns” were being raised by the European Commission as late as May 2006 – just seven months before the country was allowed to join, so I’m genuinely fascinated to know who thought it would be a good idea…

More to the point, have any positives been gained from Bulgarian entry? – bar the amusement factor of rabidly right-wing Bulgarian MEPs making arses of themselves, that is.

The EU is meant to have standards. Membership is supposed to be a reward for having met those standards. Bulgaria patently has come up short – and yet it’s been rewarded anyway. Is it any wonder that Turkey’s getting so pissed off?

6 Comments

  1. The answer is clearly “for being white and Christian”.

    More sensibly though, how poor and corrupt were Greece and Spain when they joined?

  2. Pretty poor and pretty corrupt, true (and the same could happily be said of Portugal) – but Bulgaria and Romania seem pretty extreme cases even by these standards, plus have the added bonuses of atrocious human rights records. As human rights are one of the major excuses always put up to excuse the perennial delay on Turkish membership, it’s a pretty poor show all round.

  3. Same reason Italy’s a member, one would assume.

  4. Having learnt a lot about the Bulgarian Bar rules this week (one of the more unexpected consequences of starting a new job), which seem to drive a coach and horses through much of the Treaty of Rome, this doesn’t surprise me that much…

  5. Strangely(!) little comment in the media as to whether those countries (UK, France, Italy) who pushed for Bulgaria and Romania to join the EU have egg on their face. We are continually told that the EU is about ‘laws’, but it seems things essential like the chapter on Justice and Home Affairs of the acquis communautaire can be comfortably ignored if they are our mates.

    So, when we tell prospective EU members (i.e. Croatia, Serbia or Bosnia) that they have to tick all the boxes and anything else the EU fancy them to do, how can the EU demand it with a straight face? All the citizens of those states have been promised a land of milk and honey if they vote for the right ‘pro-west’ politicians, yet where are the results? Croatia will get in because of their historical allies and great supporters, Germany. Serbia will be milked to the point of revolt (I don’t see this current government in Belgrade lasting long if they don’t get something decent for handing over Karadzic), and Bosnia will be forced to ‘voluntarily’ rip up the Dayton Agreement to become in effect a unitary state with a moslem majority (it’s ok for them, but not for us…).

    So, the Media still does not consider Brussels to be humiliated. It’s always somebody else’s fault

  6. WELL I VE BEEN IN BULGARIA 2008 SUMMER AND I HAD A GREAT TIME

    PEOPLE ARE NICE AND HELPFUL FOOD IS GOOD

    IT IS NOT A RICH COUNTRY BUT STILL HAS A CHARACTER

    AS FAR AS I KNOW MOST PEOPLE NEVER HAD CREDIT CARDS AND NEVER WERE IN DEBT IN THEIR LIVES AND THEY CAN STILL LIVE GOOD AND LOOK AT USA HOW MANY PEOPLE LOST THEIR HOMES THIS YEAR?