Books on Bulgaria
Update No: 160 -
An utterly crucial
There are European countries that can
remain aloof, and very successfully so,
from the European Union (EU). Norway and
Switzerland both spring to mind.
But there are others where belonging to
the EU is definitely needed, with full
membership. Former communist countries are
to the fore here. They are used to
communal compliance, but without having it
sensibly applied. The EU can possibly do
it, not least in vital environmental
This is why it was probably wise to
include Bulgaria and Romania in the EU in
2007, an overture widely queried. They are
after all rife with crime and corruption.
But Brussels can withhold vital funds for
them until these impedimenta are tackled.
It is doing so.
Bulgaria in the EU
Bulgaria's PM Boyko Borisov presented on
August 26th a report in the Parliament on
the country's participation in the
decision-making process in the EU in the
first half of 2010.
The report also included Bulgaria's
priorities during the Belgian EU
presidency in the second half of the year.
"Bulgaria participated actively in the
discussions for the Europe 2020 strategy,"
said Borisov, regarding the EU long-term
strategy for economic growth and
He added that Bulgaria has successfully
defended its national goals in the EU. "In
accordance with the five leading European
targets, which are planned for the next 10
years, the country already has a draft for
the position on the national targets for
this period, which will be presented in
the next National Reform Program," Borisov
He has stated that in the next 10 years
Bulgaria needs to achieve a 76% employment
of men and women aged between 20 and 60
years, as well as an increase from 1,4% to
2% of the mixed investments from the
public and private sector in the fields of
science and development.
"Among our goals are also the decrease of
the amount of greenhouse gases by 20%
compared to 1990, an increase to 16% of
the share of wind energy, improving of the
energy efficiency by about 25% and a 50%
reduction of the energy intensity of GDP
Another important goal would be the
decrease by 11-12% of the number of
students who dropped out of school and the
increase by 35-36% of the number of people
between 30-34 years of age who have a
"Bulgaria has fulfilled its commitments in
the introduction and implementation of the
new EU legislation. The country also had a
constructive dialogue and has cooperated
with the EC and the EU member states on
all matters related to the Cooperation
Mechanism," Borisov said.
Commission buys time on Roma
The European Commission infuriated the
left, the liberal and green groups in the
European Parliament on 7 September, after
it failed to provide an answer on whether
France had breached EU law by organising
the expulsion of hundreds of Roma to
Bulgaria and Romania in recent weeks.
According to the European Commission, the
Roma are the EU's largest ethnic minority,
and trace their origins to medieval India.
There are many Roma sub-groups living in
Europe. The Commission frequently cites
the number of 12 million Roma across
Current census statistics state that
535,000 Roma live in Romania, 370,000 in
Bulgaria, 205,000 in Hungary, 89,000 in
Slovakia and 108,000 in Serbia. Some
200,000 Roma are estimated to live in the
Czech Republic, while the same number is
estimated to reside in Greece and an
estimated 500,000 are in Turkey.
Many Roma from Eastern Europe moved to the
West following the EU's enlargement,
creating tensions, particularly in Italy.
An estimated 15,000 Roma from Romania and
Bulgaria live in France. The French
government is presently expelling large
numbers of them in groups.
More on this topic
Fundamental Rights Commissioner Viviane
Reding appeared to play for time, as in a
much-awaited debate on the Roma
controversy in the Strasbourg plenary, she
said her services had not yet obtained or
analysed information from France over the
She also pointed out that the Commission
had found that not all relevant EU
legislation was taken on board by the
French authorities, stressing that she had
sent them a letter informing them of this.
Reding spelled out a number of measures
taken by the EU executive to address the
needs of the Roma minority, including
establishing a task force to beef up the
efficient allocation of targeted funds, a
Jumbo Council gathering member states and
several commissioners with relevant
portfolios, a call on future presidencies
to do more for Roma inclusion, and
measures to counter human trafficking,
which is a particular risk for this
"We cannot simply declare war on a member
state," Reding said.
The explanations by Reding infuriated S&D
(Socialists & Democrats) vice-chair Hannes
Swoboda (Austria), who said that that even
European Commission President José Manuel
Barroso had been more outspoken than her
over the issue during his speech in the
"Is France in breach of EU law or not?"
Swoboda fumed, accusing Reding of
believing anything that French State
Secretary for European Affairs Pierre
Lellouche had told her at a recent meeting
to clarify the situation.
"This in no way corresponds to your job as
commissioner," Swoboda went on, insisting
that such a lax attitude from the EU
executive would act as an encouragement
for other countries, such as Italy or
Hungary, to expel or crack down on their
On behalf of the liberal ALDE group,
Renate Weber (Romania) said France was
showing treachery by bribing Roma with 300
euros to make them leave the country.
She argued that the Roma who signed the
receipts were not aware of the
consequences, and that the model was
likely to be copied by Italy. Italian MEPs
immediately cried foul and booed the
During the debate, another 30 MEPs
expressed their disappointment, with those
from the left, the liberal and green
groups pointing to what they saw as
failure by France to abide by EU
In particular, it was stressed that recent
EU legislation required an advanced
notification of one month before an EU
national can be expelled, which they said
was not respected. Also, they spoke out
against what they saw as a failure by
France to proceed on a case-by-case basis,
as well as against the stigmatisation of
Roma as criminals.
More radically, the leftist GUE/NGL group
called the mass expulsions "deportations".
For their part, the centre-right EPP
(European People's Party) group and the
conservative ECR (European Conservatives
and Reformists) pointed to the fact that
their political opponents had been
politicising the controversy and had
little interest in addressing the real
issues of the Roma minority.
Timothy Kirkhope, deputy chair of the ECR
group, advised MEPs to hold their fire
until the Commission had produced a formal
ruling, rather than hastily condemning a
Simon Busuttil of the EPP group (Malta)
argued that the Roma were in fact trapped
by political manipulation, and he
denounced the "Shameful political game"
being played by the left side of the
Accusations triggered counter-accusations,
with French member Sylvie Guillaume of the
S&D group pointing out that political
manipulation as she saw it had in fact
started in France, where a more and more
unpopular president had politicised the
Roma issue to please part of the
Baroness Sarah Ludford (ALDE; UK) saw
weaknesses in the French defence strategy,
pointing to statements according to which
the country never took into account each
citizen's ethnic background, and others
according to which every fourth crime was
committed by a Roma.
Strangely enough, there were few speakers
from the French centre-right. Neither were
there many statements by MEPs from Romania
and Bulgaria, the countries of origin of
the Roma expelled.