вторник, 22 септември 2020 г.
They couldn’t be more different.
Belarus skirts the European Union’s north-eastern border. For twenty-six years, this country of 9.4 million inhabitants has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko. His autocratic style has exuded invincibility. He has skillfully played off Russia against the EU with the aim of guarding Belarus’s ambiguous sovereignty.
In the south-east of Europe, bordering the Black Sea, is Bulgaria. This country of 6.9 million is a member of NATO and the EU. It enjoys all the privileges of belonging to both organizations, receiving security guarantees and generous financial support.
Dempsey is a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe.
Yet, for all these geopolitical and economic differences, the citizens of both countries have been protesting against their leaders.
In Belarus, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets each Sunday since the presidential election on August 9, 2020. They feel cheated by an election they insist was rigged. They want Lukashenko to resign. They want fair and free elections. They want democracy and freedom.
Despite the violence by the Belarusian security forces who have detained probably thousands of men and women by this stage, the people of Belarus have not given up. Individuals from every walk of life are bravely demonstrating peacefully for their rights.
In Bulgaria, protestors have taken to the streets for over seventy days. They have had enough of the corruption and the style of leadership exercised by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the leader of several center-right governments since 2009. They want him to resign and hold new parliamentary elections instead of waiting until the planned election in March 2021.
One would have assumed that, in the case of Belarus, the EU would have reacted to the violence, beatings, and expulsions of leading opposition figures by quickly slapping sanctions on Lukashenko, other leading regime figures, and the security forces.
As for Bulgaria, a strong and united stance by all the EU institutions against corruption and the alleged money laundering might have sent a signal to the Borisov government.
Instead, in the case of both countries, the protestors have become hostage to special interest groups inside the EU. The upshot is that the bloc’s commitment to democratic values and freedom in Belarus and the upholding of the rule of law in Bulgaria have been thrown to the wind.
Cyprus, a country that joined the EU in 2004 but has since then repeatedly held the bloc hostage over a number of issues, was true to form on September 21. It again blocked attempts by EU foreign ministers to impose sanctions on Lukashenko and others involved in suppressing the demonstrations in Belarus.
“Today’s failure to agree on sanctions in support of Belarusians, suffering & fighting for democracy, undermine credibility of democratic values they are fighting for,” tweeted Linas Linkevicius, the indefatigable foreign minister of Lithuania and staunch defender of Belarus’s citizens. “Some colleagues should not link things that must not be linked,” he added.
Cyprus argues that the EU should impose sanctions on Turkey after Ankara has attempted to extend its drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, which would affect Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, besides changing existing legal maritime boundaries.
“Our reaction to any kind of violation of our core basic values and principles cannot be à la carte. It needs to be consistent,” said Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.
Borisov is being left off the hook too.
Members of the European Parliament sent a list of questions to Borisov about corruption, allegations of money laundering, and misuse of EU funds. So far, except for dismissing his justice minister, Borisov is hanging on. The European Commission, which over the years has been monitoring Bulgaria’s attempts to reform the judiciary and end corruption, mildly rebuked the government’s attempts to end the protests by force.
Borisov’s political future could change if the European People’s Party (EPP), the European umbrella for center-right parties and movements, spoke out against corruption. But it’s not in its character to do so.
The EPP continues to turn a blind eye to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whose Fidesz party is in the EPP and who has run roughshod over independent civil society organizations and ended the independence of several academic institutions and news media by either closing them down or bringing them under Fidesz’s control. And the EPP is taking a soft line on Bulgaria too.
“The EPP will have to make a choice and take a position over the scandals,” said Daniel Smilov, program director at the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia.
But the group sees no reason to criticize Borisov. “For the moment we don’t have any sign that he is involved in corruption,” said Pedro López de Pablo, the EPP’s head of communications. “It’s a big campaign against Borisov. This is a country divided between the left and the right. There are some problems in the judicial system in all these countries,” he added.
Other Bulgarian analysts take a different view. “People are fed up with the persistent corruption,” said Radosveta Vassileva, lawyer and social advocate. “The transformation of the country [since 1989] never went deep.”
It is that transformation—based on democratic values—that the citizens of Belarus are attempting to begin and the citizens of Bulgaria are trying to complete. It couldn’t be clearer to the EU what’s at stake.
събота, 19 септември 2020 г.
петък, 18 септември 2020 г.
събота, 12 септември 2020 г.
"Daniel Smilov, an analyst at the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, said Gerb’s constitutional manoeuvring would only make the protesters more determined. The recent scandals “are graphic examples of what people see as high-level corruption”, he said. “None has been properly investigated, leaving many with the feeling that Mr Geshev has served to cover up such misdeeds.”
Borisov under fire as Bulgarians lose patience with failures on graft
Protests intensify as tens of thousands demand prime minister’s resignation An anti-corruption protester confronts police in Sofia. Bulgaria is ranked lowest of the 27 EU states in Transparency International’s 2019 corruption perceptions index
Kerin Hope in Athens and Theo Troev in Sofia SEPTEMBER 6 2020
Elena Kasabova should have little reason to feel discontented. She has a well-paid IT job at a Sofia bank, enjoys holidays abroad with her daughter and is looking forward to advancing her career. But this summer she has joined thousands of Bulgarians staging daily street protests in the capital and other cities to press for the resignation of Boyko Borisov, the long-serving prime minister, and his close associate Ivan Geshev, the country’s chief prosecutor, over their failure to crack down on corruption. “Corruption is evident everywhere,” she told the FT last week. “As a conscientious taxpayer, I don’t see why donations are needed to fund children’s hospitals and basic medical equipment while the police, MPs and cabinet ministers drive around in the latest models of expensive cars paid for out of the state budget.” The protests have highlighted popular anger over pervasive graft in the EU’s poorest member state that observers say reflects collusion by high-ranking officials, shady business groups and senior members of the judiciary. Patience with the system is running out . . . High taxes and high levels of corruption make it very difficult to succeed, whatever sector you work in Petar Nedevski, the owner of a tourism business in Sofia They remained largely peaceful and relatively small until last Wednesday, when tens of thousands rallied outside a government building for the first parliamentary session after the summer break and police turned pepper spray and water cannon on the crowd. Bulgaria is ranked lowest among the 27 EU member states in Transparency International’s 2019 corruption perceptions index. The Centre for the Study of Democracy, a Sofia think-tank, said in a 2019 report that according to local businesspeople, at least 35 per cent of public procurement contracts involved corrupt practices. “Patience with the system is running out . . . High taxes and high levels of corruption make it very difficult to succeed, whatever sector you decide to work in,” said Petar Nedevski, the owner of a tourism business in Sofia who has attended protests every day since they began in early July. Bulgaria’s problems with corruption became entrenched in the 1990s when a group of oligarchs seized control of swaths of the economy as successive governments struggled to overhaul the country’s institutions following the fall of the Soviet Union. Their grip weakened as the economy expanded but most retained connections with politicians. This summer’s protests were sparked by a raid ordered by Mr Geshev on the offices of President Rumen Radev, who was elected by popular vote in 2016 and is an outspoken critic of the ruling Gerb party’s record on graft. Carried out by a heavily armed security team, the raid added to a simmering feud between Mr Borisov and the president. Anger has been intensified by a series of recent scandals, including allegations about kickbacks to government officials paid by a now-fugitive Bulgarian businessman in return for allowing him to take over the state gaming company operation, and leaked photographs of the prime minister’s bedroom at a state mansion showing a stash of €500 bills in an open drawer. Mr Borisov has said some of the photographs are fake. Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borisov is seen as determined to hold on for the rest of his term © Ludovic Marin/AFP A former fireman and Sofia mayor who is serving his third term as prime minister, Mr Borisov has dominated the country’s politics for more than a decade. But his approval rating has recently declined sharply, with opinion polls indicating that between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of Bulgarians support the protesters’ demands for his resignation. Mr Geshev came to prominence as a maverick investigator opposed to the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. His appointment as chief prosecutor last year prompted criticism from European-trained Bulgarian lawyers and led to street protests in Sofia. Last Wednesday’s protest came as the government was holding a special parliamentary session to prepare the launch of constitutional reforms later this year. It is unclear what the reforms will be, and opponents see the plan as a tactic to divert attention from Mr Borisov and keep his government afloat for the rest of its term. A general election is due next April. While the government secured enough votes to push ahead, it faces another hurdle in November, when it needs to secure support for an assembly to push through constitutional changes. Recommended Eurozone economy Bulgaria and Croatia enter euro area waiting room “Borisov is determined to hold on for the rest of his term but it’s by no means certain that Gerb will get the votes needed to establish the assembly . . . We’re quite likely to see a period of confusion and delay,” said Hristo Ivanov a former justice minister and a leader of Democratic Bulgaria, a pro-European party who has played a prominent role in the protests. Daniel Smilov, an analyst at the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, said Gerb’s constitutional manoeuvring would only make the protesters more determined. The recent scandals “are graphic examples of what people see as high-level corruption”, he said. “None has been properly investigated, leaving many with the feeling that Mr Geshev has served to cover up such misdeeds.”
Original link: https://www.ft.com/content/1c6beea7-1e6a-44f8-a97c-1d8beb38dfac