Bulgaria, the perpetual laggard?
Koprivshtitsa. Photo: Alan Grant

The year preceding Bulgaria’s EU accession on 1 January 2007 was disastrous for its image. In December 2005 the German daily Bild sounded the “mafia alarm” under the title “Isn’t Bulgaria too criminalized to be a member of the EU?” In the spring of 2006 the European Commission gave Bulgaria “less than five months to prove” that it was capable of joining the EU. During the summer, the talk in Brussels was of “red flags” with commentators calling for “the toughest safeguards ever” for the period after Bulgarian accession. The EU was attacked by some as being an “idle onlooker to Bulgarian sleaze.”

The first two years of Bulgaria’s membership seem to have vindicated the critics. EU funds have been frozen due to serious irregularities. Western observers as well as the Bulgarian public itself are still waiting for what should be the first of many high-level corruption trials.

All this leaves many with the feeling that Bulgaria was admitted too early and that little has changed in the country. This paper takes up this question by looking at the environment sector, one of the areas which posed the biggest challenges for the East European accession countries in the run-up to their accession. Read more…

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Evgeni Dainov and Stanimir Gabrovski on environment protection.
Clip from ESI-inspired series Return to Europe © 2008 pre tv. All rights reserved.

18 January 2009