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…
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.
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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