Preparatıon For Eu Menbership: A Motor In The Process Of Buıldıng Of Democratıc Instıtutıons

Speech

I have to confess that I wrote this speech once again after the Conferen-ce on Development of Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe, which was held in Brussels on 17 and 18 April. The preparation of the speech was not easy for I had to do it on the background of occurring scandals in Bulgaria that were challenging the very functioning of the democratic institutions....

I have to confess that I wrote this speech once again after the Conferen-ce on Development of Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe, which was held in Brussels on 17 and 18 April. The preparation of the speech was not easy for I had to do it on the background of occurring scandals in Bulgaria that were challenging the very functioning of the democratic institutions. And what changed it during the Conference in Brussels was the repeatedly expressed vi-ew that the present enlargement, and more precisely the preparation for mem-bership of the countries from the Western Balkans and Turkey, was fundamen-tally different than the 5th enlargement. A number of arguments could be bro-ught to support this statement, among which is the fact that soon it will be 20 years from the fall of the Iron curtain and many things in Europe and the world have changed, a lot of lessons have been learned by the EU and the European citizens. There is something in the accession process though, which invariably remains, and that is the necessary political changes for a more complete de-mocracy of the candidate countries, the strength and will for the accomplish-ment of which the political class draws in the accession process from outside - from the European institutions, and from inside - from the civil support for the membership. Missed or only imitated (imitated for the purpose of whom -the European commission or own citizens?) reforms turned out that sooner or later have to be carried out, and the later this would be, the higher their politi-cal price.

I would like to share the Bulgarian experience, and although it might now only have historic value, the lessons from it may be of use to the citizens of the countries from the Balkans: negotiating, candidates or simply with mem-bership prospects.

In November 1989 the communist rule in Bulgaria collapsed. The transi-tion towards democracy, inspired by similar developments in other former communist countries, was sudden and peaceful. The euphoria right after that was making us think, or at least those of us, the more naive part that had ne-ver dealt with politics through our whole life in order to preserve ourselves from the communist plague, that after 45 years of dictatorship there was not-hing more natural than the consensus on what type of democratic institutions were needed in order the best democracy to start functioning: The one, which gives the opportunity to a man to express the best of himself, the one that will not allow for the communism to come back. It turned out to be not that simp-le. The first sobering down lesson was at the elections which we even nowa-days call "the first free and democratic elections", when we were given an im-portant lesson from the old, experienced party machine, that "it is not impor-tant who is voting, it is important who is counting". These demoralizing les-sons were displaying on every step on the way to building a democratic state. It turned out that functioning institutions of the democratic state were not nee-ded by everyone, and more specifically a functioning judiciary system, police, political system which would not allow for corrupted politicians and clerks to drain public funds and trust and to remain for a long time unpunished.

In the EC position on the membership application of Bulgaria from 1997, in the section 'political criteria" it reads: "Bulgaria adopted a new Constituti-on, marking the transition towards a parliamentary democracy. Bulgarian ins-titutions operate smoothly; different authorities and powers conform to their competences and the necessity of cooperation. The whole atmosphere of un-certainty, created by the lasting political instability and the ambiguous attitu-de towards reforms brought to the creation of conditions for corruption flouris-

hing".

It has to be noted, that democratic institutions building was motivated by the prospect for EU membership, and this is valid to all countries in Central and Eastern Europe, of course to a different extent and at a different pace. The system of the GDR changed the most quickly, but this example, as much as at-tractive it might be, cannot be applied for any other country.

Regarding the transition, the building of functioning institutions of the democratic state and the preparation for EU membership, it could be debated which one is the reason, and which one is the consequence. Whether slowing down of democracy is the reason for slowing down in the process of EU ac-cession, or the slowing down of the accession process is the reason for the slo-wer building and strengthening of the democratic institutions and their poorer functioning. The Bulgarian example is a clear proof that in the presence of aclear and firm political will for implementing market and institutional reforms, the support for the EU accession process is in place both outside and inside the country. It is only in this way we can explain the invitation to Bulgaria to start negotiations in 1999 considering the deep political and financial crisis in which the country fell only two years before. On the other hand, the present enlargement gives a number of proofs for the other thesis as well. Because of the "enlargement fatigue" among the citizens of the European Union, the Eu-ropean Commission and the members states unduly bureaucratized and dela-yed the negotiations with the new candidate states, and moved the horizon for membership into the distant future. Of course, I do not envisage Croatia. I rat-her have in mind Turkey and Macedonia, before which new and new require-ments are being put, sometimes formulated in a way that hardly conceals the lack of a political will to continue the process. This in its turn reduced the sup-port among the citizens of these countries for the often not easy reforms, ne-cessary to meet the membership requirements. In other words, "fatigue from the membership reforms" is in place. With the decreased civil support, the po-litical will for undertaking the required steps is weakening, thus leading to slo-wing down the democratization.

I would like to share something from the experience that remains valid for the present enlargement. It is not enough to just follow the instructions for institutions building, which is necessary to fulfill the membership obligations. It is necessary to guarantee the existence and development of independent me-dia and civil sector. This proves to be even more indispensable for the govern-ments of the candidate states than for the very media and the NGOs. The full transparency of the reforms under implementation, their communication with the citizens creates in society a sense of ownership and responsibility for the reforms under way. And it is not enough to have the formal, legally only sett-lement of the "independence" of the media and civil organizations. It is neces-sary to undertake real measures to guarantee this independence, as for instan-ce public visibility and control of the funding sources. Alongside with this, funding of the political parties is another very big topic.

The case with Bulgaria may be used to also illustrate how imitating re-forms only to comply with the requirements of Brussels, even after the mem-bership brings negative results for the Bulgarian citizens. Unfortunately, it is not possible to imitate democratism and stability of the institutions and after time the necessary reforms have to be carried out at a quite higher price.

The ambiguous attitude towards the reforms, noticed by the EC when as-sessing the membership application in '97, especially towards the reforms of the special services, police and judicial system, was not overcome entirely in

Bulgaria in the following 10 years either. It led the country to entering the EU in the presence of serious concern among the member states and their citizens with the ability of Bulgaria to cope with the membership requirements; of in-troducing of special, I would say unique mechanism for cooperation and con-trol. This mechanism, introduced for Bulgaria and Romania, has to guarantee to the European citizens the continuation of the reforms in the judicial system, in the systems fighting corruption and organized crime. This mechanism gives the opportunity to the European Commission to propose the introduction of a safeguard clause for justice and home affairs if the commitments taken are not being observed. But deprived from the motivating force of the prospect for membership, the reforms as if are slowing down and the mechanism has not this mobilizing power as do the regular and monitoring reports.

This brings forward the conclusion that the Commission, which basic duty is to follow the observation of the treaties and their enforcement, has ma-de a painful but necessary step, changing the procedure and regulations for conducting negotiations. The requirement that reforms have be completed and not only promised, for otherwise it might be late.

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