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US Embassy Cables: Brussels Says Only Sticks Work with Bulgaria

Bulgaria: US Embassy Cables: Brussels Says Only Sticks Work with Bulgaria

Fresh diplomatic cables of the US Embassy in Sofia on WikiLeaks as published by theEl Pais newspaper

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000325

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2019
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ECON, BU
SUBJECT: BULGARIA/EC MONITORING TEAM: “HOW DO YOU MAKE
THEM REFORM WHEN THEY DON’T WANT TO?”

REF: A. SOFIA 0225
B. 08 SOFIA 0365
C. 08 SOFIA 0499

Classified By: DCM Alex Karagiannis for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: XXXXXXXXXXXX (please strictly protect) confided that the Julyreport on Bulgaria‘s anti-crime and corruption efforts would be negative, but the EU political level would “water down” the tone of the final version. The report‘s release might be delayed until September because of the formation of a newCommission. In contrast to previous conversations, XXXXXXXXXXXX emotionally reflected Brussels, growing and by now extreme frustration with Sofia’s cosmetic fixes to get a “good report” while failing to undertake real reforms. He confirmed that the Dutch want to invoke the safeguard clause when the report is released and that others, including the Swedes who hold the next presidency, favor extending the Mechanism beyond its three-year mandate.

END SUMMARY.

2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX

——————————————
Judicial Reform — Fatigue and Frustration
——————————————

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said the monitors raised key issues with the GOB such as the appointment procedure for top judicial officials, vote buying, and progress in organized crime and high-level corruption cases. XXXXXXXXXXXX called the appointment/nomination procedure for the top judicial officials “non-transparent” because the vote on the nominees is secret and does not take into full account disciplinary actions against the nominees.

Furthermore, the process lacks real debate among the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) members on the nominees’ qualifications and does not allow the members to release “opinions” on why they voted for or against a nominee. The non-transparent procedure permits the selection of corrupt and/or incompetent judges and prosecutors to the higher courts, perpetuating the cycle of incompetence and corruption in the Bulgarian judiciary.

XXXXXXXXXXXX said the entire team believes the Bulgarians only address issues in theCommission‘s report to get a “good report,” not to create a better judicial system.

For example, Prosecutor General Boris Velchev asked if his nomination of a certain person for a position in the prosecutor’s office would be recorded negatively in the upcoming Commission report. They replied to Velchev that if he thinks the nomination would be reported negatively, then it is a “good sign that it probably would be.”

XXXXXXXXXXXX added that Velchev often asks how he is perceived in Brussels when they discuss reforms in the prosecution service. Another example is that Sofia City Court has two courtrooms specifically available for hearing EU funds fraud cases, while available courtrooms for other cases are hard to come by.

4. (C) The Bulgarian government — especially PG Velchev and European Minister Passy — are lobbying heavily for a positive monitoring report, magnifying modest progress. The government keeps presenting the Commission a list of on-going high profile organized crime and corruption court cases (the number has grown from 30 to 52 over the last two and a half years) as “successes.” Incredibly, several of the “success” cases have been suspended. Several other cases, against notorious shady businessmen Angel Khristov and Plamen Galev AKA the Galevi brothers, and others can hardly be calledsuccesses as these defendants gained immunity by running for parliament. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the team found this “loophole” quite disturbing, along with how some Bulgarian officials vehemently defend the law that permits this phenomenon. Along with the “Galevization” of politics (referring to the Galevi brothers election campaign), Brussels is also concerned with vote buying and general election fraud.

————————
Only Sticks Seem to Work
————————

5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the Commission feels they have “tried everything” to make the Bulgarians reform their judicial system, but concluded “how do you make them reform when they do not want to?” The government‘s defensive arrogance — and lack of political will — is intensifying enlargement fatigue in Brussels. He underscored that EC pressure via the monitoring reports and withholding EU funds are the only ways to produce results. He confirmed media reports that Dutch Minister of European Affairs Franz Timmermans requested the Commission to consider activating the safeguard clause against Bulgaria and Romania when the EC releases both reports. (Activating the safeguard clause in Justice and Home Affairs would mean that the European Union would not recognize Bulgaria‘s legal decisions and exclude Bulgaria from legal and police cooperation.) XXXXXXXXXXXX said currently only The Netherlands is demanding the safeguard clause, but others are increasingly fed-up with Bulgaria (and Romania’s) lack of progress. There is talk within the Commission about extending the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism beyond the three years stated in Bulgaria‘s and Romania’s EU Accession Acquis. Sweden, which holds the next EU presidency, favors extending the monitoring mechanism and is committed to pursue “rule of law issues” in both countries.

6. (C) The report‘s release date hinges on EU internal political maneuvering for the formation and nomination of the new Commission and the election of its next president – a process that begins in July. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the team is preparing the report to be released the last week of July, but it may be published the second half of September if the new Commission formation is drawn out. The team’s report will be critical, saying overall reform has stopped, but likely the final ECreport will be “watered down” as in the past for political reasons.

7. (C) COMMENT:

XXXXXXXXXXXX’s frustration with the Bulgarian government‘s lame and insincere reform efforts was striking. It appears to be spreading in Brussels where at least the working level appears to be feeling “buyers remorse” over letting Bulgaria and Romania into the club too early. According to reliable contacts, Brussels Eurocrats have dubbed enlargement fatigue the “Bulgarian Break,” further tarnishingBulgaria‘s bad image within the EU (REFTEL A).
END COMMENT.
McEldowney

 

A Case of Self-Destructive Behavior? – Bulgaria and Its Academy of Sciences

Don’t let yourself be fooled! – The government of Bulgaria is actually bent on destroying the country’s best research institution, no matter all protestations that it intends nothing of the sort.

A string of attacks stretched over more than a year is now coming to its crucial point. The law on the destruction of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) has been tabled to Parliament and is currently under review.

The draft bill is officially labeled an act of amendment of the previous Law on BAS and nowhere posits the explicit closure of the Academy. Although submitted under a thin disguise by ruling GERB party back-bench MP Rumen Stoilov, it reproduces intentions voiced over 2010 in turn by Minister of Finance Simeon Djankov, Minister of Education Sergei Ignatov, PM Boyko Borisov and Speaker of Parliament Tsetska Tsacheva. And those intentions were precisely radically dismember BAS and put it under the direct control of the central government.

The literal wording of the draft act may be consistent with the persistent assurances of the likes of Borisov and Ignatov that their proposals do not include closing down BAS. Once you throw a glance at the bill, however, you realize that those assurances are definitely not true. The bill involves the removal of the central governing body of BAS and the splitting of its many institutes into “independent” units. The latter are so independent as to be placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, with their fate being sealed by a decision of the Council of Ministers.

The funding for those institutes and other bodies deriving from the former Academy is to be also set at the mercy of the Ministry, and is not decided upon by Parliament as part of the official Bulgarian state budget (thus turning the remains of BAS into so-called second-level spending units).

Talk about state-directed science. Talk about academic freedom and freedom of research. But that is not the worst. For unlike Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR – where science misshapenly suffered state control – the current Bulgarian center-right GERB cabinet doesn’t care much about knowledge.

Apart from the general worry of placing science under the inadequate (mis)management by bureaucrats, in this case we are facing a far more imminent life threat. The passing of BAS institutes under government authority means certain closure of a sizeable part of them. This is no scaremongering, if we bear in mind (1) the glee with which the GERB cabinet has been expending less and less funds for education and research, (2) the inexplicable hate-campaign against BAS carried out by the government since assuming power. Consider the following.

In the mid-year revision of the state budget for 2010 – the failure of a budget heralded by finmin Simeon Djankov as Europe’s best – education and research suffered a cut of some staggering 40%. In public statements, both Djankov and education minister Ignatov have been persistently seeking ways to argue for disburdening the state from the need to finance education and science.

More particularly, Simeon Djankov, that esteemed researcher of World Bank fame, is perhaps the most obvious reason for accusing the cabinet of BAS-hatred. In his loathing for the institution, the finance minister has not been shy to use expressions that hardly befit a senior statesman. Characterizing the country’s best research institution as a bunch of “feudal dotards” (whatever that meant) is sufficient ground for ensuing resignation.

As things stand, Djankov’s remarks have found resonance with a certain feeling of resentment among segments of the Bulgarian population. Overwhelmed by an ill-functioning quasi-capitalist climate that they still feel alien, many Bulgarians have formed equally ill-functioning notions of such things as “the market”, “the role of the state”, “individual initiative,” and “responsibility for the public good.” Faced with their meager salaries and hobbling businesses, they don’t see the need to finance an institution that they do not feel as contributing. Everybody wants use and profit – now. Science doesn’t work that way.

Add to that the wide misperception that the Academy is a creature of the Commies – one of the lasts behemoths remaining from the era of a regime allegedly responsible for Bulgaria’s present woes – and you have a feeling of what kind of attitudes the cabinet and its finance minister are exploiting.

Face it – BAS is Bulgaria’s top research institution. Period. The Academy is putting out 60% of the scientific production of the country. Closing the Academy means obliterating those 60%. And we’re not speaking only quantity here. At least as per the leading global scientometric rankings, such as those of Thomson Reuters or Scimago, BAS is by far the top research institution in the country in terms of the quality of its work.

Those facts notwithstanding, the powers that be have been trying to trick people into believing that the Academy is working at a tremendous cost to the state (the taxpayer!) and is not willing to reform. False again! In 2009-10 BAS staged a sweeping internal reorganization, reducing the number of its institutes from 69 to 42, which led to significant reductions in staff. And it has been continually introducing heroic steps to cut spending, such as asking workers to go for unpaid leave and similar measures unbefitting an EU member state.

In the “updated” 2010 budget BAS had EUR 30 M, against EUR 48 M in 2009. That is some 0.4% of Bulgaria’s GDP and won’t be any different in 2011 (in times when countries like e.g. Austria boosted funding for research as a strategic anti-crisis investment). Balancing off the meager financial input and the substantial research output, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences might well be the most cost-effective institution in the country.

Of course, this is not all. Research and learning boost economic development. The phrase “knowledge-based economy” is not the less apt for all its triteness. Some people seem to be unable to get across their minds that even non-applied, fundamental research boosts economic development. Science and culture are very much like wealth – like Adam Smith observed about the latter, it eventually “trickles down” to benefit all.

Such strategic thinking has never been a strength of recent Bulgarian rulers. But now we have what appears to be a concerted effort to achieve results counter to all strategic thinking. Bulgaria is attempting to cut off itself what little remains of its vital brains. Why, you might ask?

The reasons can be grouped into three. First, BAS’s assets. Second, an ideological motivation of sorts. Third, an effort to replace Bulgarian academia, as it exists now, with something else.

The first is the most obvious and widely discussed. Simeon Djankov is popular not only with his insulting statements about the Academy. He has also a strong record of speculating about the benefits of selling BAS’s many properties. This is put down in print, in Bulgarian newspapers, even before Djankov assumed the position of Minister of Finance. He has even estimated their worth – some USD 250 M. A tiny amount, you may think, for dooming Bulgaria to intellectual and economic backwardness.

And the World Bank guru has expertise in that field. As an advisor to the government of Georgia, he had proposed exactly the same scenario for the country’s Academy of Sciences, ostensibly to optimize spending. Academy was split, assets were sold. Georgia’s scientific production dropped tremendously.

Then we have the ideological motivation, which, being a matter of principles, is the most contentious. Some would rather think that the state should not be in support of research and education, which must rather be placed on a so-called “market principle.” This type of thinking can be seen as gaining strength not only in backward post-Communist Balkan countries, but also in strongholds of knowledge as Germany, the UK and the US.

But then think again. Think of the commitment that the US government has always been having towards research, development, and fundamental science, including humanities. Think of the level of donorship to educational and research institutions that the German businesses have always had. For them, this is a matter not only of supporting developments that might benefit them commercially – it is much more a matter of prestige and responsibility for the common good.

Then think about the level of commitment Bulgarian businesses, as they exist now, can be expected to allot to independent research.

This second argument is nevertheless tightly bound with the third. Circles around Minister of Education Sergei Ignatov have been pressing for an increased role of private education in Bulgaria. What’s wrong with that, you might ask. But then consider that Ignatov is not only a former president of, but has also retained strong ties to the New Bulgarian University – the country’s major private university. And that he has been pressing for the introduction of the unheard-of idea of support for private educational institutions with state funds.

To boot you have the Minister of Education’s attempts to implode the university system by introducing ill-advised legislative acts modeled on his NBU inner regulations, but that is another matter.

If state-fostered education is no longer a priority for Bulgaria’s rulers, then what can we say about an allegedly old-fashioned and rigid research institution that is educating no one, but is just producing science.

Fortunately, the political climate or just the general sense of rationality among other political parties in Bulgaria is not entirely unfavorable to BAS. Up to now, all parties represented in Parliament other than the ruling GERB have spoken up quite strongly against the legislative proposal. This includes not only the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement of Rights and Freedoms, but also the rightist Blue Coalition and the nationalist Ataka, as well as non-aligned MPs.

This is something remarkable, as it is the first time both the official opposition (BSP and MRF), and parties that usually support GERB have united against GERB, who have a large minority of 117 MPs out of 240 and have to rely on support from the Blues and Ataka.

While there are signals that reason may prevail this time over, yet we should not be overly optimistic. For instance, the Blue Coalition have tabled an alternative amendment bill that does not include the dismantling of BAS – but yet once again includes putting its financing in the hands of the Ministry of Education, instead of Parliament as it is up to now. MPs from the Bulgarian Socialist Party have proposed yet another draft bill that introduces greater financial accountability, but does not make the Academy dependent on the government.

In the meanwhile, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is suffering a string of paralyzing months. Researchers are facing the fact that no one might care much about their work. Already meager salaries are not paid in full. Uncertainty lingers.

Yet the situation raises depressing thoughts not only for researchers. Bulgaria is on its way of making one major step further in its lasting, self-imposed, deep economic and intellectual marginalization.

By Ognian Kassabov – novinite.com

The properties of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) are at the heart of the attacks on the establishment

The properties of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) are at the heart of the attacks on the establishment, said BAS in an open letter in connection with allegations by Education Minister Sergei Ignatov made during Question Time on Friday that the Academy mismanages its properties. BAS says that the findings contained in a report by the Public Financial Inspection Agency refute the allegations. The Academy yet again recalls that in 95 per cent of the cases BAS research institutes are housed at the properties that have caused a great deal of controversy whether BAS really needs them. BTA

GREEDY BULGARIAN MPS UNTOUCHABLE FOR ETHICAL COMMISSION

December 10, 2010 1 comment

Bulgaria’s Parliamentary Ethical Commission has not been able to take up the case with the 16 Bulgarian MPs who shamefully skipped work last week to “receive” luxurious cell phones.

Parliamentary Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva from the ruling centrist GERB, who already condemned the MPs’ behavior, arrived in the Bulgarian Parliament especially to participate in the discussion. However – only one of the jokingly labeled by the media “New Cell Phone Lovers’ Parliamentary Group” – Rumen Takorov from the leftist opposition party BSP – appeared before the commission.

The 8 GERB MPs, who were involved in the scandal, have sent a letter citing their declaration on Wednesday, in which they apologized to all their voters and declared they will donate half of their salary for December for charity.

Tsetska Tsacheva was disappointed with the MPs’ absence and pointed out that she has prepared a new set of ethical rules for the members of the Bulgarian Parliament, which she would have presented before the commission, should the MPs had gathered.

The Ethical Commission does not possess any legislative basis on which to discuss the MPs’ behavior in this case, according to several representatives of different Parliamentary Groups.

The joint operation between the private channel bTV and the “168 Chasa” (168 Hours) weekly consisted of offering luxurious cell phones, worth over BGN 6000 to 42 Bulgarian MPs. An expensive party was “organized” at a hotel in downtown Sofia where the phones were supposed to be handed out to them.

The party coincided with a Parliamentary session. Sixteen of the invited MPs skipped work to get hold of the “gifts” despite the fact the ethics code bans them from accepting gifts worth over BGN 200.

The MPs did not realize they were being tricked, even though the invitations were signed by a company named Klaus Barbie, who is a notorious Gestapo member and war criminal, known as the Butcher of Lyon.

novinite.com

 

BULGARIAN ECONOMY PERFORMS BETTER THAN EXPECTED IN 2010 Q3

Bulgaria’s economy registered slightly better results in the third quarter of 2010 that the initial data sets of the National Statistical Institute (NSI) indicated last month.

Thus, final NSI data showed on Thursday that in the third quarter Bulgaria’s GDP grew by 0.7% compared with the second quarter, and by 0.5% compared with the same quarter of 2009. (The initial forecasts were for 0.3% and 0.2% respectively.)

In July-September 2010, Bulgaria’s GDP amounted to BGN 19.4 B (BGN 2 581.2 per capita) estimated in current prices, or EUR 9.921 B (EUR 1 319.8 per capita). Calculated in US dollars based on an average exchange rate of USD 1 = BGN 1.516360 in the third quarter, the figure is USD 12.8 B (USD 1 702.3 per capita).

In comparison, in the third quarter of 2009, Bulgaria’s GDP amounted to BGN 18,056 B (EUR 9.232 B).

In the first nine months of 2010, Bulgaria’s GDP amounted to BGN 50.664 B. In comparison, in the first nine months of 2009 Bulgaria’s GDP amounted to BGN 48.339 B – or EUR 24.715 B (fixed exchange rate of EUR 1 = BGN 1.95583) – or USD 33.723 B (at an exchange rate of USD 1 = BGN 1.433396).

The added value generated by the Bulgarian economy in the third quarter of 2010 amounted to BGN 16.480 B in current prices. The total added value of the goods and services that Bulgaria produced in the same period of 2009 was BGN 15.2 B.

The industrial sector’s share in the added value, however, is down by 1.7 percentage points, to 29.4%. The share of the services is 60.1%, up by 0.5 percentage pints, and the share of agriculture is BGN 10.5%, up by 1.2 percentage points.

In the third quarter of 2010, the added value of the Bulgarian economy is down by 0.4% compared with the second quarter.

Bulgaria’s export grew by 8.9% in the third quarter compared with the previous three-month period, while the domestic demand declined by 2.7%. The import of goods and services declined by 1.3% quarter-on-quarter.

Compared with the third quarter of 2009, the added value of the Bulgarian economy remains the same. However, the added value share of the agriculture sector grew by 3%, while that of industry declined by 1.3%, and of services – by 1.4%.

Bulgaria’s export grew by 18.5% while the import dropped by 3% in the third quarter of 2010 year-on-year. The collective demand, however, is down by 7.8%, while individual demand dropped by 5.9%.

novinite.com

 

Nazi butcher Klaus Barbie hands out luxury mobile phones, valued at over €3,000 to corrupt Bulgarian politicians.

A total of 16 Bulgarian Members of Parliament succumbed to a trick designed by two media in order to expose their greediness and prevalence of personal interests over legislative responsibilities.

The joint operation between the bTV private channel and the “168 Chasa” weekly consisted in offering luxurious cell phones, worth over BGN 6000 to 42 Bulgarian MPs. An expensive party was “organized” on Wednesday at a hotel in downtown Sofia , on which the phones were supposed to be handed out to them.

The party coincided with a Parliamentary session. Only 26 of the invited MPs stayed, 16 of their colleagues skipped work to get hold of the nice “gifts”.

The members of the parliament did not realize they were being tricked, even though the invitations were signed with the name of Klaus Barbie, a notorious Gestapo member and war criminal, known as the Butcher of Lyon.

“You are abusing the name of a respected cell phone company. This is illegal,” ruling centrist GERB MP declared before the journalists upon being “caught in action”.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov condemned the 22 MPs, who skipped work due to a media hoax offering them “free luxurious cell phones.”

“I am ashamed by their behavior,” Borisov admitted, but still pointed out that his ruling centrist GERB’s MPs have been less greedy in comparison to their colleagues.

Parliamentary Speaker Tsetska Tsatseva, who was one of the invited but did not attend the fake event, also expressed her dissatissfaction

The joint operation between the bTV private channel and the “168 Chasa” weekly consisted in offering luxurious cell phones, worth over BGN 6000 to 42 Bulgarian MPs. An expensive party was “organized” on Wednesday at a hotel inSofia , on which the phones were supposed to be handed out to them.

The party coincided with a Parliamentary session. Only 26 of the invited MPs stayed, 16 of their colleagues skipped work to get hold of the nice “gifts”.

The members of the parliament did not realize they were being tricked, even though the invitations were signed with the name of Klaus Barbie, a notorious Gestapo member and war criminal, known as the Butcher of Lyon.

novinite.com

BRITISH ACADEMY, ROYAL SOCIETY BACK BULGARIAN TOP SCI BODY AMID ATTACKS

The presidents of UK’s leading research institutions are among those who have sent letters of support to the Bulgarian Academy of Science, which has been facing extreme budget cuts and likely closure forced from the government.

Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy – UK’s leading center for humanities and social sciences – has sent out an official letter to senior Bulgarian officials, including PM Boyko Borisov, in which he calls for a strong committment on the part of the state for science and research.

“It is a striking fact that in these very difficult economic times, many countries are making investment in knowledge and research a priority, and are even increasing their investment at a time of cuts elsewhere. They do so because they know that research contributes to innovation and economic growth, and helps build social stability,” writes Sir Roberts.

The letter concludes asking senior Bulgarian officials to “reconsider the cuts to a vital part of Bulgarian national life and of the Bulgarian economy.”

Lord Martin Rees of Ludlow, President of the UK Royal Society – one of the oldest and most prestigious research institutions in the world – has on his part sent a letter of support to the BAS President Nikola Sabotinov, expressing his “concern” at Bulgarian budget cuts for research, calling that science be “at the heart of European countries’ plans for future prosperity.”

Lord Rees of Ludlow has asked Sabotinov to forward his letter to all Bulgarian senior officials he is in contact with.

He further states that the Royal Society is “proud of its links with BAS” and speaks highly of the Academy’s plans for development and already instituted reforms.

The presidents of Britain’s top research institutions are just some of the international research leaders who have already sent out letters in support of BAS.

The messages include a strong-worded letter to PM Borisov from Prof. Jüri Engelbrecht – President of ALLEA, the umbrella organization of Europe’s science academies.

Further letters of support have been sent out by the presidents of the Serbian and Turkish of science, as well as by a number of Bulgarian researchers working abroad.

In the meanwhile, the Bulgarian Parliament is set to review Wednesday a controversial legislative amendment which envisions dismantling BAS into separate institutes under the direct jurisdiction of the Minister of Education and the Council of Ministers.

novinite.com