Prof. Georgi Dimitrov
As a rule of thumb, whenever EU news reaches the Bulgarian public space, the joke about exporting our computers to Japan becomes up-to-date – it turned out that was not about computers but canned produce and we had not exported them but they were shipped back to us because they were scrap.
The joke becomes very appropriate when we talk about EU attempts to support the fragile local efforts to safeguard rule of law, which took the form of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification after 2007. That is the case when the probability of a total substitution of the intent and contents of the news is maximal.
The biased party-political “misunderstanding” of what this mechanism is about and the persistent efforts for its removal date long back. Already in the book of 2014, titled “The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism: Shared Political Irresponsibility”, one reads:
“(….) the expressed attitude to the reports (under the CVM) is limited to the non-official standpoints of the authorities. A number of colleagues, who are regularly invited as experts by the respective institutions, have testified to what these attitudes are. The general and repeated observation is that the only question they have been asked is how the monitoring can be cancelled. They have never been asked what to do in order to fulfill the expectations towards our country”.
It should be pointed that these attitudes are shared not only by the current or the former officials in power, but are a systematic pattern of reaction for all representatives of the political class in Bulgaria (as well as in Romania), for whom protecting egotistic and corporate interests in breach of all rules and legislation, is a natural predisposition. For those politicians, but also magistrates and high-rank civil servants, for whom “policies in favor of the common interest” is just claptrap, the sole existence of the CVM is a nuisance detail. A bit like the Magic mirror in the Cinderella fairytale that reminds the step-mother Queen that she is not the fairest of them all. The reason being that the annual reports of the European Commission are so courteous of the people in power that the picture they paint shows a face with but a few wrinkles. Yet the CVM mirror however is particularly annoying by stating common truths. Because the people looking at it know that they are without any real alternative – the pattern of the situation will remain unchanged no matter how the political personalities will change.
“Down with the Mirror!”
The public reminder – because the CVM reports are just this and nothing else – is not limited to stating again and again that there is a widespread, politically protected corruption, that there is no genuine judicial reform. More importantly, the promised political commitments during our accession to the EU (foremost, protection of the fundamental values of the Union – democracy, rule of law, human rights) are still not accomplished. This is why the reminder of these facts is irritating for the bearers of this social pathology.
In this regard when on the 25 and 26 of October 2016 headlines from all media, especially those closest to the authorities, stated the end of the European monitoring over the routine abuses of power in Bulgaria, masked in court practices, and sometimes in the form of (policed) organized crime, things appeared habitual – including the bolded headlines:
“From 2017 the monitoring over Bulgaria and Romania is over” – Dariknews, 25 October 2016” http://dariknews.bg/view_article.php?article_id=1617196.
“European Parliament: The monitoring over Bulgaria and Romania ends” 25.10.2016 18:12; – “24 Chassa Daily” online https://www.24chasa.bg/novini/article/5833623.
“European Commission has decided: Monitoring over Bulgaria and Romania is over” Frognews, 25.10.2016, http://frognews.bg/news_121650/EK-reshi-Otpada-monitoringat-na-Balgariia-i-Rumaniia/.
“MONITORING OVER BULGARIA AND ROMANIA IS OVER” – Bulgaria-news, 26.10.2016 15:59, http://www.bulgaria-news.bg/category/world/europe/article/post90827.html.
Similar statements were made even in the news of the leading TV channel bTV.
It is no surprise that the main source of this interpretation is Emil Radev, MEP, representative of the party in power at that time – GERB. He has utilized the specific circumstance to present his fantasy as reality.
If the Bulgarian journalists had made the effort to quote the EP press release or more precisely – the resume of the decision of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs or the EP resolution, submitted by the Dutch MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld and adopted with huge support from MEPs from all party fractions, the headlines would be completely different.
For the first time since the creation of the EU, one of its key political institutions admits that the core values on which the Union is founded, are not protected inside the Member States. Because of this it is a necessity to create an institutional instrument, profound in its complexity, but comrising guarantees for objectiveness, competence and productiveness, for the implementation of routine policies for protection of our fundamental human rights, in protection of the right to access to fair trials in due course, as well as an outcome – a responsible democracy.
Moreover, it is stated that this is a pressing task for the whole EU. Because of this the Parliament endorsed the European Commission the task to create within one year a comprehensive and encompassing mechanism, utilizing all institutions, which would safeguard the fundamental EU values. Its support would be a continuous responsibility of the national parliaments which – in partnership with the national civil societies and the Commission, through a public and expert-based approach – would guarantee that the ongoing public debate will put sustainable pressure over the officials in power to resolve problems specific to the respective European societies.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Bulgarian CVM is over. Far from it, the only link between the mechanism and this news is an indirect one. Taking a lesson from the failure of the CVM in Bulgaria and Romania, the MEPs have insisted, with a huge majority, that the newly developed “EU pact for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights” should contain institutional mechanism that would guarantee that it would give results in the battle against all who hope the CVM is over.
Thanks to the attempts to plant fake news into the information space, we learned one very good local news. Despite being an exception from the mainstream media chorus, in the public space in Bulgaria opinions of real experts could be found on the topics of human and civil rights protection that navigated correctly into the emblematical nature of this key European event and made very useful comments. .
Therefore a forthcoming battle will be fought to turn these marginal opinions into mainstream discourse in Bulgaria, decisive for Bulgarian public attitudes. We intent to keep on fighting this battle!
 “Capital” newspaper published a material “No, the monitoring over the Bulgarian judiciary is not over”
(http://www.capital.bg/politika_i_ikonomika/bulgaria/2016/10/26/2851311), based on the opinion of OSI expert Ivanka Ivanova; “Mediapool” portal published an opinion of Hristo Ivanov (“Commission monitoring is not over, but it is deepening” http://www.mediapool.bg/hristo-ivanov-monitoringat-na-ek-ne-otpada-a-varvi-kam-zadalbochavane-news255790.html), “Sega” newspaper published on the 26 of October an analytic article titled “EP proposed monitoring for all member-states” (http://www.segabg.com/article.php?id=828183). “Dnevnik” newspaper published a very specific analysis with useful links, titled “The European monitoring over Bulgaria and Romania will not be over soon” (http://www.dnevnik.bg/evropa/2016/10/26/2850972_evropeiskiiat_monitoring_nad_bulgariia_i_rumuniia/).