Brussels Often Criticizes Bulgaria, Sometimes Without Grounds
By STANDART | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 @ 7:38PM
DR. EHRENFELD: FIGHT CORRUPTION NOW
The Bulgarians should take their Premier’s courage as an example, says Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is the director of the US Centre for the Study of Corruption and the Rule of Law. She is in Bulgaria together with two US experts at the invitation of Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Sergey Stanishev. The Americans discussed the anti-corruption measures of the Bulgarian Government and gave their recommendations as to how to raise their efficiency.
– Dr. Ehrenfeld, what did you advise our Prime Minister to cope with corruption, crime and drugs trafficking?
– We came here at the invitation of the Prime Minister. We will do our best to use our unique and extensive international expertise to help him implement his national campaign to fight corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria. We are impressed by his vision, commitment, understanding of the difficulties facing him and Bulgaria, and his determination to overcome them. We are also encouraged by his initiatives and the enthusiasm and commitment of the able team he assembled to tackle these problems. Your Prime Minister’s leadership, and that of his supportive and team are very important to successfully combating corruption. We are here to provide constructive criticism and help the Prime Minister and his team to implement their innovative reform programs, so that Bulgaria can grow and prosper better and faster.
– What will you recommend to Bulgaria in order to prevent corruption and crime?
– We came to assist the Bulgarian government to better implement the programs they have already initiated, and when necessary to suggest pragmatic methods to handle bureaucratic obstacles. Our interviews with key ministers revealed both the plans and the ongoing efforts to speed up the proper functioning of Bulgaria’s new democratic institutions. We are glad we have the opportunity to help, especially since it is clear that the Bulgarian government is determined to take the necessary measures to achieve this goal.
– You said ‘crucial times,’ what exactly do you mean?
– The European Union is very critical about Bulgarian progress or effort in fighting corruption. Our team saw little justification for this harsh criticism. I understand that Bulgaria received a lot of advice by European experts before it joined the EU. It seems that now Bulgaria is implementing programs to resolve its special needs. After all, every country in the Union is different and one solution is not good for everybody. We are really here to help the Bulgarian government find the best practices to address their special needs, to make Bulgaria the best member of the European Community.
– Is Bulgaria a partner that you can rely on?
– I am convinced that the Prime Minister is determined and hope that the Bulgarian people will follow his lead. I understand that you have very serious problems that can’t be solved overnight, but if there is a will there is a way. Our team worked with many governments and our experience is that good plans are not enough. Good leadership and national commitment are the best recipes for success. We are impressed by your leadership and trust that the Bulgarian people will join them to expand their opportunities to obtain economic development and a higher standard of living.
– You said that we have serious problems. Which are they?
– Corruption and organized crime, which are interlinked. Both have to be dealt with seriously and fast.
– What is the place of Bulgaria in the record of DEA as regards drug trafficking?
– I understand that the local drug market is growing and that drug consumption is a serious problem. Given Bulgaria’s location, it has always been a corridor for drug trafficking. Cracking down on drug trafficking and consumption are important for Bulgaria’s democracy, economic and social development, and to the political stability of the region.
– What kind of steps do we have to take to tighten the control on organized crime and corruption?
– The responsible ministers have introduced, and are continuing to introduce, the necessary steps to monitor and control both problems. I understand that in addition to the national campaign, new laws to prevent conflict of interest for public officials, more accountability and transparency, better monitoring mechanisms, better training, stricter ethical standards for professionals associated with the legal system, and increased public awareness and participation, will help Bulgaria to successfully tackle these problems.
– Do you believe that our politicians will manage to do that?
– Yes if all your politicians were like your Prime Minister. You are on the right way to improve things real fast. I hope Bulgaria’s politicians and people will join in his efforts. Bulgaria is at an important cross-road and I think that with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet’s leadership you can cross the road safely.
– Are our experts well prepared?
– It seems that they are eager to do the right thing. However, it is also clear that they are a little bit confused and may be intimidated by the different and sometimes contradicting instructions from the European Union. That said, my impression is that most are determined to take the necessary steps to improve.
– Most people in Bulgaria don’t believe in the efforts of the government and they think that nothing will change?
– My team and I encountered many presidents and prime ministers who claimed they wanted to fight corruption. However, none was as serious, committed, innovative and pro-active as your prime minister. It’s important he delivers his message to the nation. I understand the skepticism; Bulgaria’s history is not of democracy and independence. Moreover, corruption lingers. I understand it is difficult to change. But now that Bulgarians can travel freely and see how others live, I hope they understand that this way of living requires a new attitude and civic responsibility. The government will succeed if the people understand that mutual effort is a must.
– What is the difference between your experts and ours?
– Our team has extensive international experience in fighting corruption, organized crime, managing risk and problem solving in cooperation with local legislators and law enforcement agencies. We are here to help execute your government’s plan efficiently.
– Would people believe in the system and in the laws if they see at least one corrupt politician in jail?
– If there is a corrupt politician, and there is evidence against him, he should be prosecuted. The public’s help to identify improper behavior by elected officials is very important. The Prime Minister can’t do it alone. We are trying to help. But nobody can help Bulgaria to fight corruption except the Bulgarian people.
– There was a heated debate in Bulgaria about so-called ‘single dose.’ Should we make it legal or not?
– No drug legalization. It is the worst problem you can cause to yourselves. Enough experiments all over the world prove that illegal drugs must remain illegal. They bring only misery, corruption and crime.
– What advice will you give to the Bulgarian politicians and the Bulgarian people?
– Courage and strength. Fight corruption now! If you don’t, the corruption will absorb you. The Bulgarian people have a unique opportunity to change their future. You have the right leadership and the people should give it the best chance to succeed.