Bulgaria is not only the European Union’s poorest nation but The New York Times suggests it is also Europe’s most corrupt.
Business alliances blur the line between the nation’s politicians, its economic elite and the “mutri” — mobs of men wearing black. Guidebooks even warn tourists to stay away from restaurants frequented by businessmen, especially if those men are accompanied by more than one bodyguard, for fear of violence.
In two articles last week, The New York Times has focused on the lack of fiscal transparency seen from Bulgarian politicians. In a report this past summer, the EU accused the Bulgarian company, Nikolov-Stoykov Group of “taking development aid to buy new equipment for companies and then passing off ancient equipment from the former East Germany and pocketing the difference.” In addition, both of the group’s partners have been accused of fraud for using company money to contribute large sums to Bulgarian politicians including Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and President Georgi Parvanov.
Last week, the Times reported that Prime Minister Stanishev denies these claims saying “we could never check everything about every individual who donated.” However, he has conceded that if the contributions are found to be tainted, he will donate an equitable sum to charity.
However noble Stanishev’s vow may sound, contributing to charity will not solve the larger issue at hand. Clearly, there is a need to curb the connection between corrupt businessmen, criminal networks and politicians. In Global Integrity’s 2007 Report on Bulgaria, we found one of the biggest weaknesses in issues of budget transparency. In addition, while Bulgaria’s new anti-corruption agencies appear strong in law, they were still in infant stages.
This is anecdotal evidence that even generally good anti-corruption practices driven by the EU accession process don’t immediately equate to a change in political experience. Governance inputs do not perfectly link to outputs; these things take time.
To read more, see the Global Integrity Report: Bulgaria, and stay tuned for a new Bulgaria assessment in the 2008 round of reports.
— Norah Mallaney