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Concern or fear of the EU funds

Published on , , Sofia

There is a strange coincidence between the visit of the Bulgarian prime minister Mr. Boyko Borisov in Brussels with the main aim of securing the EU funds for Bulgaria, and the announcement of the president Mr. Georgi Parvanov that he is convening the Consultative Council for National Security on Monday, 14th of September on the same topic. This happens only a day after the president criticized the government for its uncertain energy policy.

And this is strange because for more than a year Bulgaria has some very serious issues with the absorption of EU funds and not with the absorption itself but with the numerous doubts and claims for corruption. Besides, it is not quite clear why the president is calling the Council exactly in the day when the prime minister, leading a large government delegation with almost all ministers, is in Brussels? He could have convened the Council 2-3 days before the visit. Furthermore, since he is a president (now he is in his second 5-year term), he has convened the Council 15 times of which non directly or indirectly related to the EU funds. The only session of the Council that has a vague relation to the issue was on the 16th of April 2002 with main topic the organised crime and the measures for counteraction, a check up at the Presidency website shows.

Again in 2002 the president chaired a Consultative Council in the National Security (CCNS) about: "Stage estimation of the implementation of the engagements of Bulgaria on the Euro-Atlantic integration". The rest of the sessions of the Council were either related to NATO, or the new Defense legislation, the participation of the Bulgarian Army in foreign missions, demographic problems. But there was not even one session of the CCNS, called with regard to the hundreds of scandals that accompanied the previous government the governed the country for 4 years, all of which during the term of the current president.

And if Mr. Georgi Parvanov had a point in scolding the government for the lack of consistent energy policy and for the contradictory signals regarding the large energy projects, in this case the behaviour of the president is confusing. From the short announcement, published on the Presidency's website we see that the president, according to the Constitution has the right to convene the CCNS. On its session the following topic will be discussed: "measures for the implementation of the indicators in the Mechanism for cooperation and verification and for improvement of the EU funds absorption".

It is expected reports to present the two deputy prime ministers Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is also a minister of the internal and Mr. Simeon Dyankov, who is also a minister of finance. Beside them the minister of justice Mrs. Margarita Popova will also present a report. And all this will happen just days after Brussels gave new quite large credit of confidence for the new government because this time there is will the government to fight not only the corruption but also to remove all the weaknesses of the judiciary on which the Commission has written 121 recommendations in its annual report of this July.

On top of all this, without willing to assume the vocabulary of the prime minister, I'd say that still the first 100 days for the new government have not passed. And the new cabinet has a sufficient majority in Parliament as well as the support of some smaller parties which will secure that all measures, written in the Action plan of the government and presented at the Commission, can be implemented. Without the necessity of holding secret meetings between partner in a coalition, or without prolonged debates in Parliament and without threats towards the officials in Brussels for singling out our country as a black sheep.

Of course we deeply hope that the president really has sufficient arguments to call the CCNS on the EU funds and that he can demonstrate inter institutional dialogue for the sake of the common national interest. In fact, this combination of words that is one of the favourite of the president. Because if there are no arguments, the behaviour of Mr. Parvanov would be quite embarrassing as it might prove that he really has some personal issues. For example, one of the sponsors of his campaign the businessman Lyudmil Stoykov and his partner Mario Nikolov were included in an unprecedented report of OLAF with regard to a fraud with money on the SAPARD pre-accession programme. This report was published in June 2008 and it took quite a lot of time for the president to distinguish himself from his benefactors. The trial against the "Stoykov_Nikolov" group as OLAF put it in the document, is still going on and the Commission is watching it closely.

So, it would be very interesting how the session of the CCNS will go ahead on Monday. The Council consists of all leaders of parliamentary groups and is chaired by the president. Th session will take place days after the visit of the prime minister in Brussels will be over. During this visit Mr. Boyko Borisov will have a meeting withe president of the Commission Jose Manuel Barroso which is expected to further clarify what credit of confidence the new government will get and at what price.

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