To begin with – years ago, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was against the admission of Bulgaria to Schengen, because the monitoring of our progress in the fight against corruption and the rule of law was still ongoing under the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification /MSP, and reports were being written about our country with recommendations.
Today, Mark Rütte is against the admission of Bulgaria to Schengen, because there is no longer monitoring of our country and no reports are written.
So – with our non-admission to Schengen, Bulgaria was officially listed as a second-hand country within the EU.
This happened despite the support of 25 countries of the Union and to the joy of some of our “patriots”. And while EU commissioners, ministers and diplomats from outside convinced us that we have long since fulfilled, even over-fulfilled the criteria, in our country mainly among urban liberals and informers in Brussels, they rubbed their hands contentedly that one or two countries are stopping us.
Many things can be written just from today, especially about the regrets expressed by everyone after the vote, but I will dwell on just a few.
Austria stops us together with Romania because of the migrant pressure, I emphasize the migrant pressure, not because of a lack of rule of law and corruption. Furthermore, Austria’s thesis is: “Schengen doesn’t work, why expand it”. But European Commissioner for Home Affairs Johansson clearly stated that it is the enlargement that would lead to better border protection. Minister Demerdzhiev pointed out that the problems posed by Austria are clear and concrete and compromises can be sought on them. In other words, Austria knows what it wants.
The problem with the Netherlands is completely different.
The Netherlands believes that we have not made enough progress on the issue of high corruption and the rule of law.
What Rutte actually says: “At this stage, it’s not ‘no’ for Bulgaria, it’s ‘not yet’. More time will be needed for two reasons: a new assessment of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, and the Schengen Verification Mechanism. ” /at the meeting in Tirana./
A few things need to be made clear here.
1/ The evaluation under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism was given in the last report on Bulgaria in October 2019 with the conclusion that we have fulfilled the requirements for the fight against crime and the rule of law. After that date, Bulgaria is not monitored for SMEs and no reports are prepared for it.
2/ The Commission itself monitored the processes in Bulgaria, came out with 6-monthly reports, defined specific requirements and merged for their implementation, including with regular missions in Bulgaria. She is supposed to be the most competent on the matter.
3/ Reports and surveillance on Romania continue for 3 more years. The last report for our northern neighbor, with which it is assumed that she has fulfilled the criteria, was only in November 2022.
4/ However, Mark Rutte accepts that it is Romania that has fulfilled the conditions under the SME, because there is a “fresh” report for it, but not Bulgaria, which has not been monitored for three years.
5/ All other member states and the European Commission claim that Bulgaria has met and even exceeded the technical criteria for our acceptance into Schengen. But Mark Rutte wants a new Schengen verification mechanism. And that after two special inspections by the EU in recent months specifically because of the vote. That is, he does not believe them, for him these criteria are insufficient.
6/ The European Parliament adopted a resolution with a huge majority in favor of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.
In this sense, Mark Rutte insulted not only Bulgaria, but also the European Parliament, the commission and the entire EU
This is why Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev claims that our negotiations with the Netherlands will be problematic. In fact, we do not know exactly what Rutte wants and how it will be fulfilled. He wants a new inspection, but there is no commission to carry it out and write a report. What’s more, both we and Romania are already under common supervision for compliance with the rule of law, on par with other countries, including the Netherlands.
And more – to continue fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law sounds more than general and streamlined. What criteria should we reach and who will evaluate them, who will judge? It is obvious that the EC will not do it, they have already ruled there. Then? It turns out that the Netherlands, in the person of its prime minister, defines itself as the sole judge and truth of last resort.
I am sorely tempted here to remind you that democracy consists of rules and laws to be obeyed. In this sense, we have the right to be in Schengen even after signing the accession agreement. But there are clearly written criteria that we must fulfill. Namely, clearly spelled out, so that there are no floating controversial positions that everyone interprets according to their (mostly domestic political/ interest). And no one, not even Rutte, disputes the fulfillment of the technical criteria.
But they also appear political, related to the rule of law, our unreformed judicial system, and widespread corruption. That’s why they put us under monitoring. Also with clearly written rules. They watched us for over 10 years. They decided that we met the criteria, and that there should be no more obstacles to our acceptance in Schengen.
And now it comes out that we will already be under the surveillance of…the Netherlands, until it decides according to its own criteria when to let us into Schengen.
The Netherlands is a member of the EU. And as a democratic country, it must also respect the laws and rules of the Community. And when its specialized bodies and committees objectively decide that the set criteria are met, this must be accepted by Rutte as well as by his other colleagues in the European Council. The rest undermines the confidence of the Union, destroys its unity and solidarity and ultimately works against its interests. The position is not mine, but that of two European Commissioners.
Instead of a conclusion: I do not claim that we have done our job by fulfilling these criteria on both lines. Some time ago a famous jurist and chief justice told me that the improvement of the law is a continuous process. It’s like silverware that you constantly have to polish to keep it looking new. And so it is in all countries, but we suffer from a lack of justice.
But there is one more thing we can do ourselves. And that is to stop cursing our country, criticizing and blaming it, nihilistically slandering how bad we are and how we don’t deserve the good grades of Brussels. To stop writing denunciations against our own governments, to invite MEPs here to check us and to complain to foreign ambassadors. And for God’s sake, let’s finally have a regular government and an authoritative prime minister.
You know the story about the Bulgarian cauldron in hell. I think that even if they put us in heaven, some native will get a cauldron from somewhere.