Articles ISSN 1313 - 0544

Bulgaria – The Country with Two Faces

Author: Velin Peev / 01.02.2010
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Undoubtedly, this week was marked by the passions around Rumyana Jeleva's hearing at the European Parliament. The general conclusion among the media and the public was that the incident is yet another shameful stain on the reputation of Bulgaria to Europe and worldwide. This is not far from the truth. Yes, it is required to disclose all information in her declaration of property until she was MEP and it was not done. A rule - broken. However, so far there is no official information whether she has entered into a conflict of interests because of her business activity, which is the main reason why these declarations are required. I.e. she is not guilty of severe conflict of interest charges, but of failure to comply with the procedure that tries to prevent it. This error was sufficient to discredit her, but another blow followed - her competence for the job. It was not great and this was too much to accept.

But how to find perfectly prepared people for the various departments in the European Commission when the procedure is turned upside down? First, each country presents its candidate for a Commissioner, with his / her personal qualities, skills and political capital, and then s/he is being place in a department. The logical way of things would be if a department lead by a commissioner is necessary, the department must be defined first and then the appropriate person looked for. Just as any job anywhere - first comes the job, then the person to do it. Instead, the Commission does it the other way around: the people are being given, and then the President "puts the puzzle together". Under such a system is absolutely inevitable to have cases of discrepancies between candidates and departments.

But what's done is done, and Bulgaria is once again tarnished. But not quite. In contrast to the political pratfall in Brussels, Journal this week The Wall Street published a material, which gives Bulgaria's fiscal policy as an example of the EU and the euro area, which have got in huge budget deficits during the global economic downturn. Some of the statements of the author: "Bulgaria, the newest and poorest member of the European Union, is emerging as a fiscal model for a number of EU countries struggling to fend off debt crises," "It is expected to be the only EU nation to balance its budget in 2010", "Bulgaria's economic progress could see it leapfrog longtime euro aspirants, such as Romania and Hungary, where sharp downturns have required bailouts from the International Monetary Fund", etc. To recall other facts that de facto recognize the Bulgaria's successes - rating agencies increased the country's credit rating and foreign banks improved their forecasts for the Bulgarian economy. Of course, in Bulgaria we know very well that this result is because the state deferred its payments to private enterprises, but to deny the effects of reducing state expenditures would be false.

Despite the good words about fiscal and economic policy, this material has also repeatedly stated the problems that continue to tear Bulgaria: corruption and lawlessness. Undoubtedly, the bad environment, which people in Bulgaria are accustomed to, is why Ms. Jeleva tried to circumvent the rules. This highly concentrated for a short time mix of public vilification and praise make me remember when Bulgaria was discussed only with criticism - it is only 13 years ago when the country was the last one to take example on economic issues from. Now it is not quite that, and this should motivate us. We need this motivation for the necessary reforms at hand, which we are being criticized for, and which we should make. I sincerely hope that it will take the country less than 13 years for that.