Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Friday (21 June) urged Bulgaria’s the new prime minister and other politicians in the country to agree a minimum number of priorities to resolve the country’s political problems.
Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski was met by Bulgarian protestors outside the European Commission headquarters and the country’s nearby permanent representation, with some waving banners reading ‘Mafia’.
Bulgaria has been mired in months of protests over economic conditions and political leadership. The previous government led by Boyko Borissov collapsed in February.
Oresharski’s three-week-old government got off to a rocky start when the cabinet nominated Delyan Peevski as leader of the State Agency for National Security. Peevski, a powerbroker who owns the New Bulgarian Media Group, has since withdrawn his candidacy for the job.
A new survey by the Alfa Research polling agency showed 85% of Bulgarians approve of the protestors, who have pressed for the resignation of Oresharski.
Oresharski has shown no intention of resigning.
Barroso said he had discussed in detail the political situation in Bulgaria with his guest. The situation in is “tense, reflecting the desire of the Bulgarian society to see lasting reform” and also “the highest principles of integrity in the political system,” Barroso said.
“Some of the recent developments in Bulgaria were not good and they raised concerns not only in in Bulgarian society, but among the European partners of Bulgaria, especially the controversy over the appointment of the head of the State Agency for National Security,” said Barroso, who added that demonstrations in Bulgaria had shown “the depth of concerns in Bulgaria about the rule of law.”
The EU’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria could help the country overcome its problems, provided that the authorities cooperated with it, the Commission president said.
“I also urged the prime minister to consult widely, especially in the fight against corruption and organised crime. The candidates should be chosen based on merit and should have the highest standards of integrity," he added.
Too much ‘polarisation’ in Bulgarian society
Barroso, a former Portuguese prime minister, said he had advised Oresharski that “a minimum national consensus” was needed to help get out of the current situation.
“The most important institutions, the most important principles, they should not be put in question, either from one side or from the other side of the political spectrum,” Barroso said.
Despite the political problems at home, surveys show that Bulgarians have high confidence in the EU. Barroso acknowledged this in a news conference with the country’s prime minister.
“What is particular in Bulgaria is that there is very strong support of the European Union. It’s one of the countries where there is more support in the EU, and where the opinions expressed by the European institutions have a particular weight,” he said.
Organised crime in Bulgaria is "unique" compared to other EU countries because it exercises a deep influence over the country's economy, according to the latest monitoring report by the European Commission published last July.
As shortcomings remained in Bulgaria and Bulgaria regarding judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the Commission has set up a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) to assist both countries with judiciary matters after their EU accession in 2007.
The European Parliament has recently debated the state of democracy in Bulgaria, a country described as the "weak link" in the EU and a threat to European values across the continent.