The Brief: Bulgaria, Romania and Juncker’s curtain call

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

When Bulgaria’s PM came to Brussels last week, in preparation for the country’s upcoming stint holding the EU Presidency, Jean-Claude Juncker said the Commission’s latest monitoring report would be “very positive”. It was released today and did not go down well in Bulgaria…

The newest Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report published today was considered quite scathing by the Bulgarian press, despite a positive spin put on it by the Commission.

Among other things, it says that the Bulgarian prosecution fights high level corruption only on paper and that the independence of Bulgarian courts is undermined by the introduction of “unpredictable” amendments to legislation.

In a nutshell, the report says that very little has been achieved and there have also been some negative developments.

Juncker’s statement from last week had created the impression that this may well be the final CVM assessment. But the report says nothing about such an optimistic scenario, although Juncker’s right-hand man, Frans Timmermans, says he wants to wrap things up within this Commission’s mandate.

So was Juncker’s optimistic statement a diplomatic lie?

If it were up to him, Juncker would have already recommended lifting the CVM. The Commission boss sees the big picture. He is known for not reading papers he’s not interested in, and for sure, the CVM reports for Bulgaria and Romania are of little interest to him. Indeed, the CVM matters little, compared to the rule of law problem in Poland.

What is significant, however, is Juncker’s own legacy and the shape in which he will leave the EU when he steps down in 2019. He has already made it clear that he will not seek a second term.

To succeed in preparing his legacy, Juncker is counting on the presidencies of Bulgaria and Romania to help him leave behind a functioning, post-Brexit EU when he steps out the Berlaymont’s front door for the last time.

Bulgaria will sit in the presidency hot seat from 1 January 2018, while Romania takes the baton a year later in January 2019.

Both countries are pro-European and led by EPP politicians, Klaus Iohannis as president of Romania and Boyko Borissov as prime minister of Bulgaria. Romania is represented at EU summits by its president, rather than prime minister.

All Borissov and Iohannis need to do is keep a low profile and let him run the show. While Juncker can’t secure them Schengen membership alone (a member state competence) he can at least lift CVM in time for the farewell summit in Sibiu in May 2019.

The Roundup

Everyone has to do their bit to fight climate change. In the EU, Sweden is top of the class, while Ireland is streets behind, according to a new index. Saudi Arabia props up the ranking, with Russia outperforming the US.

Carbon markets are back in vogue at COP23 ahead of China launching its own system later this year. Follow our coverage of the climate summit here.

We’ve launched a new video series: tune in to Over a Coffee where this week Brian Maguire chatted with Moscow-blacklisted MEP Petras Austrevicius, who might be considering a run in Lithuania’s next presidential election.

The EU’s Eastern Partnership is backing better EU-Georgia ties and Poland insists it has no wish to quit the bloc.

There’s somewhat of a coup going on in Zimbabwe and the EU is upping the pressure on Liberia to speed things up and elect a new president.

German politicians are meeting today to hash out a compromise on migration policy, while Angela Merkel is in Bonn to address the climate summit. Berlin has launched a campaign to name a street after David Bowie. It has our wholehearted support.

Donald Trump was sentenced to death in North Korea. No word on whether he was given a fair trial. Democrats have also introduced articles of impeachment against the condemned US president.

EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has promised to throw himself into a bin of foodwaste if the EU doesn’t hit its SDG123 target by 2030. Surely the better incentive would be for the affable Lithuanian to turn that around a promise to dumpster-dive if we DO make the grade.

Look out for…

MEPs in Strasbourg tomorrow debate and vote on a partnership agreement with New Zealand and the EU-Africa Strategy.

Views are the author’s

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