Could the COVID-19 crisis serve as an excuse to solidify autocracy? In countries in which the rule of law is undermined such as Bulgaria, this seems very likely. Earlier this month I contributed to an online Symposium hosted by the Verfassungsblog dedicated to states of emergency and democracy. You can read my contribution here.
In January 2020, Transparency International reconfirmed Bulgaria as the most corrupt EU member in its authoritative Corruption Perceptions Index. This is a good, but sad occasion to inform you about my latest media articles:
- In December 2019, I warned that Bulgaria was sabotaging the work of the future European Public Prosecutor in an article for Euronews. As you can imagine, the government was quite unhappy and responded with a libelous article published in their favorite tabloid (24 Chasa). If you cannot attack the argument, attack the author.
- In February 2020, I raised concern about the water crisis in Pernik, which I deem to be an illustration of what the lack of rule of law leads to, in an article for New Eastern Europe. The health and safety of more than 100,000 European Union citizens is at peril as a result of incompetence and negligence, but international media and EU policy-makers ignore this disaster.
- In February 2020, I showcased Bulgaria’s 10-year cat-and-mouse game with the Council of Europe in an article for the Verfassungsblog. Bulgaria has been refusing to comply with a decision by the European Court of Human Rights for a decade because it requires a reform of an institution which experts consider one of the biggest threats to the rule of law – Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office.
All of these events provide further evidence that Bulgaria is a rule of law crisis in all but name – an argument I have made for the EUobserver in 2018. Sadly, this is possible because of the complicity of EU institutions.
For the latest updates on Bulgaria’s rule of law, follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass!
How do you find writing inspiration? I often get inspired when I debate topics with others. Recently, a new opinionated follower on Twitter lectured me on how people in Bulgaria live better than before because they spend more and travel more. When I asked her which people she had in mind, she sent me some articles from Bulgarian media whose quality is questionable to say the least.
I am certain that there are many people who fall for this play with data, which is borderline propaganda, so here is an article about Bulgaria’s economic model, which is anchored in promoting poverty. Some myths propagated by Boyko Borissov’s government should be shattered once and for all.Read More
Were you shocked by the racist abuse at the Bulgaria-England Euro qualifier? I never thought I would combine my interest in football with my concern for Bulgaria’s rule of law, but I felt compelled to take a stand. I have a huge admiration for people in professional sports because sports illustrate many of the qualities we aspire to – commitment, discipline, and hard work. Most of all, sports inspire us, ordinary people. The name of the game for true fans will always be football, but in Bulgaria, corruption is the bigger game. My commentary for Euronews entitled “Racism at the heart of Bulgarian football is becoming a litmus test for the rule of law” can be found here.
Here are the two latest articles I wrote for the Verfassungsblog:
- Earlier this week the European Commission published the latest CVM report on Bulgaria in which it identified significant progress which could justify the termination of the mechanism for this country. Does this report reflect reality and, more importantly, how can we explain the lack of objective assessment in the report? You can read my article “So Why Don’t We Just Call the Whole Rule of Law Thing Off, Then? On Tomatoes, Tomahtoes, and Bulgaria’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” here.
- Bulgaria took legislative hooliganism to a new orbit last year when it used a Directive on the access to a lawyer as an excuse to revive a totalitarian practice: secret arrests. While those following the decline of Bulgaria’s rule of law like me were not surprised, it is disturbing that the European Commission has turned a blind eye to this development and to Bulgaria’s deliberate violations of the Directive for 6 years. My reflection upon Bulgaria’s and the European Commission’s failings in my article “How an EU Directive on Access to a Lawyer Became a Weapon for Secret Arrests” here.
If you are interested in daily updates on the rule of law in Bulgaria and the EU, follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass.
More reactions to Bulgaria’s CVM:
In this video post, I explain how and why the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) failed in Bulgaria. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union (EU) in 2007, they did not entirely fulfill the criteria on the rule of law. That is why, they were placed under this mechanism, so that they could catch up with other Member States. Twelve years later, little progress (if any) has been achieved.Read More
Here are the two latest pieces I wrote for mainstream media which expose the continuing crackdown on human rights in Bulgaria:
“Bulgaria: Why did von der Leyen endorse bad politics?” for the EUobserver. I dissect von der Leyen’s unjustified praise for Bulgaria’s government which leaves many questions left unanswered both in Brussels and in Sofia;
You can follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass!
On 11 and 21 August 2019 I published two posts on my personal blog in which, through legal reasoning, I showcased how Bulgaria’s government purposefully misinforms the general public about the outcome in a case against Bulgaria before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) (SGRF v Bulgaria, Case No. ARB/15/43). Some of the few independent media which are left covered the second post in Bulgarian, which attracted public attention. On Friday night, 23 August 2019, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Finance published an unprecedented press release on its website in which it attacked me and my blog (Figure 1). Instead of providing a substantive answer to my legal opinion, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Finance said that my claims were “speculations” crafted by me and my father.
I have never heard of a state institution issuing a special press release about somebody’s academic blog post on a Friday night. As a scholar, I was not impressed by their ad hominem comments whose underlying purpose, it appears, is to attempt to discredit me before society as a whole. My father has not participated in the drafting of my articles: he has his own website where he publishes his criticism against the regime.
I do believe, however, that this press release constitutes harassment and that it is aimed at intimidating me. This serves as further evidence of the lack of rule of law in Bulgaria. In this post I summarize:
- the government’s lies which attracted my attention
- the research I have carried out
- why the government is afraid of the truth
- how harassing critics is a national policy
In my previous article entitled “An Arbitration Mystery and Bulgaria’s Rule of Law: How Arnold & Porter Gave Away the Existence of a Secret Deal”, which I published on 11 August 2019, I explained how Arnold & Porter unwittingly disclosed that Bulgaria and the State General Reserve Fund Oman (SGRF) secretly settled their dispute before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) over Corporate Commercial Bank (Case No. ARB/15/43). I also underlined that there would be more clarity about what happened behind the curtain after we learned on what grounds ICSID declared the case “concluded”. On 13 August 2019, the arbitral tribunal rendered its Award and the case was indeed marked as concluded.
Shortly after, Bulgaria’s corrupt government engaged in yet another mass disinformation campaign in which it claimed it won the case. However, the full procedural details of the case as published on ICSID’s website, coupled with Arnold & Porter’s statement about the case, prove that the parties settled and just asked the arbitral tribunal to record their settlement as an Award and rule on costs.
The Bulgarian government relies on the fact that an average person does not have a background in international arbitration, and Investor-State arbitration in particular. Luckily, not only ICSID itself has made a move towards better transparency by making the procedural history of each case public, but also many scholars have delved into ICSID’s case law and practice and have shed light on the application of ICSID’s procedural rules. This article may get technical, but if you are curious about this case, bear with me.Read More
Here are three articles on three different subjects which evidence the lack of rule of law in Bulgaria:
- Can you undermine the recommendations of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) by pretending to comply with them? My article “CVM Here, CVM There: The European Commission in Bulgaria’s Legal Wonderland” for the Verfassungsblog;
- What can we infer about Bulgaria’s rule of law from a live streamed meeting between Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the Commissioner for the Rule of Law Frans Timmermans? My opinion piece entitled “On the Price of Horses and the Rule of Law in the EU” for New Eastern Europe;
- Can you serve as a judge in Bulgaria in violation of the requirements to become a magistrate? My article “A Judge Born in the USSR: How a Judge’s Citizenship Became Relevant for Bulgaria’s Rule of Law and Judicial Self-Governance” for the Verfassungsblog.
If you are interested in daily updates on Bulgaria’s declining rule of law, you can follow me on Twitter @radosveta_vass
While Manfred Weber vows to save the European Union from nationalists and populists together with Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Borissov, he forgets that GERB is in a coalition with three far-right parties. Xenophobic rhetoric and policies have become common in Bulgaria and the ghost of corruption lurks behind. My latest piece for New Eastern Europe can be found here.
If interested in the rise of the far-right on an EU level, you can read my comments on the Orban-Salvini meeting for Expresso (Portugal) here.
While the President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court Lozan Panov laments the disintegration of the country’s rule of law, the European Commission praises the country’s progress in the same area. What is the price of complicity?
On 17 April 2019, the President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov was the keynote speaker at a yearly event dedicated to court independence. Since his appointment as the highest-ranking judge in Bulgaria, Panov has been outspoken about the abuses to which he has been subjected because he refuses to comply with political orders. The speech he gave at this conference, however, stands out due to its pessimism.
You can read my article dedicated to Judge Panov’s speech for the Verfassungsblog here.
In my article “All You Need to Know about Bulgaria’s Rule of Law in 10 Charts,” I showcased how corruption and the crackdown on human rights and freedoms have detrimental and far-reaching consequences for Bulgaria and for the EU. Since the article attracted much interest, here are 8 more charts, which may be helpful in understanding what went wrong in Bulgaria and which add new nuances to the rather grim picture of the current state of the country’s rule of law.Read More
Since a Twitter thread I started to draw attention to this dreadful topic attracted interest, I think it is time for a more detailed guide to understanding the mechanisms of harassing inconvenient opponents, which Bulgaria’s government traditionally employs.
Bulgaria has a long, sad history of framing people who are inconvenient for some reason – prosecutors, judges, businessmen who do not support the government, journalists who do not portray the government in the light it wants, civil servants who refuse to follow ludicrous political orders, etc. Unsurprisingly, it has lost hundreds of cases before the European Court of Human Rights because of violations of the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. The practice, however, seems to have intensified in the past five years under the nose of the EU Commission, which is supposed to monitor Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.
Here is a prototypical scenario:Read more
On 23 August 2017, I launched radosvetavassileva.blog to shed light on the lack of rule of law, the systemic and deliberate human rights abuses, and the rampant corruption in Bulgaria (most corrupt EU member according to Transparency International!). For one year, my approach towards analyzing these pressing issues has been predominantly legal: I have commented current events from the perspective of the legal framework, including Bulgaria’s international obligations, I have explained inconsistencies in case law, and I have raised concern about dangerous law reforms aimed at transforming Bulgaria into an autocratic State.
If you live in a democracy, however, it is surely difficult to imagine the full range of consequences and long-term effects of abuses in countries like Bulgaria. In turn, if you live in Bulgaria, maybe it is hard to visualize how the abuses other people experience affect YOU personally.
This time I will demonstrate what the lack of rule of law and corruption ‘look like’ with 10 simple graphs/tables. I will start with the more visible and direct consequences and move towards the more indirect effects, which are equally disturbing.
Criminal corporate raiding and legal nihilism are concepts coined to reflect Russian reality. Yet, the illegal takeover of private businesses and selective prosecution are common in some EU member states like Bulgaria, too. Of course, Bulgaria, which is currently presiding the Council of the EU, isn’t the average newcomer. In contrast to other former-communist countries in Eastern Europe which made their way to the EU, Bulgaria didn’t face a revolution. The Bulgarian communist regime fell under the pressure of its own weight – one wing of the omnipotent Communist Party trumped another. And this made all the difference.
Hello! My name is Radosveta Vassileva and I am a legal scholar based in the UK. I happen to be a Bulgarian national. Recently, in August 2017, I visited my parents in Serbia for my father’s birthday. My parents are refugees there—they have been politically persecuted by Bulgaria as my father exposed corruption at the highest levels of government. When I went to register with the Serbian police as any foreigner who intends to stay in Serbia for more than one day is obliged to have a registration, the officer told me politely that they had to arrest me because Bulgaria had put me on Interpol’s Red Notice list. Needless to say, I was stunned and horrified. How did a young legal scholar and doctor of law end up on this “special” list, but most of all—how is it possible for a European Union Member State to abuse European legal instruments and Interpol’s Red Notice list to target political and economic opponents? If you are curious, keep reading! This is a story of violent abuse of law and human rights by corrupt Bulgarian officials. This is a frightening tale of how Bulgaria’s corrupt authorities can put you on Interpol’s Red Notice list even before they bring nonsensical charges against you and before they summon you in violation of both Bulgarian and European law! Yes, they are that arrogant, ruthless, and vengeful. Read More
Дупки и чували? Нали това асоциирате с КТБ? Дълго време се чудех как зрели хора могат да вярват в измислици, но явно това е резултатът, когато институциите разпространяват нелепици и когато масови медии им пригласят безкритично понеже не харесват човек Х.
Да започнем с “дупката”! Това не е нито правен, нито финансов термин. Коректният термин е “капиталов недостиг”. Такъв може да бъде доказан с одит. Само че КТБ до ден днешен няма одитиран годишен отчет за 2014 г. Няма и одитиран отчет за първото шестмесечие на 2014 г. Лицензът й е отнет на 6 ноември 2014 г. на база на доклад на Deloitte, Ernst & Young и Афа, който до ден днешен не е публичен. Освен това, ВАС не позволи на акционерите, мениджмънта и вложителите да обжалват решението за отнемане на лиценза на КТБ в разрез с практиката на Съда в Страсбург (Капитал банк срещу България), за да не става тази бутафория публична. Пак заради тази бутафория, България сключи споразумение със Суверенния фонд на Оман – тези, които ме следват редовно, знаят как точно това се случи и беше скрито от правителството.
Лъжите не свършват тук. През 2014 г., на българското общество БНБ и правителството съобщават, че в КТБ е правен одит, който установил “дупка”, а на Европейската комисия казват, че е направена оценка на активи (Asset Quality Review). Тези твърдения са взаимоизключващи се. Да не говорим, че за да се прави оценка на активи, фирмите трябва да имат лиценз за независим оценител – нито една от фирмите, ангажирани за фамозния доклад, няма такъв. Самите фирми, които до една са в конфликт на интереси, включват този дисклеймър в доклада си:Read More
Ако търсите бомби, както сега е модерно да се наричат шокиращи новини, в Част II на “Митове и легенди за КТБ: Радосвета Василева пита Цветан Василев” има няколко. Основните теми са:
- Имал ли е тайни срещи Росен Плевнелиев преди 13-ти юни 2014 г. относно КТБ (например, със Сотир Цацаров и Иван Искров)?
- Защо БНР участва в разпалването на паниката сред вложителите на КТБ?
- Защо намираме риториката на Пеевски в Икономедия през лято 2014?
- Имал ли е Бисер Лазов връзки с Икономедия преди юни 2014 г.?
- Прелъстени и изоставени ли са Протестна мрежа?
Имам много въпроси към Цветан Василев, тъй като виждам серия неясноти от зловещото лято на 2014 г. и предхождащи го събития – откога датира конфликтът му с Иво Прокопиев, има ли роля Росен Плевнелиев в погрома над КТБ, има ли сделка между Иво Прокопиев и Делян Пеевски от пролет-лято ’14, прелъстяването на Протестна мрежа и др.
Някои зависимости изскачат ненадейно по-късно, а други се проследяват по-лесно от дистанцията на времето. Същевременно роднинските връзки не означават, че познавам дейността на Цветан Василев в детайли – имаме различни професии и кариери и не сме живели заедно дълги години. Той беше винаги зает и работеше до късно, така че най-често съм се виждала и съм прекарвала време с майка си. Тя, между другото, е водещ професор по икономика с впечатляващ бекграунд – беше и декан на един от най-престижните факултети (ако не и най-престижният) в УНСС. Казвам го неслучайно – в БГ Гугъл може да прочетете само нелепици, грижливо разпространени по неин адрес. Но за това – друг път. Основното за момента е, че имам твърде много въпроси, а след разговора с баща си, установих, че има още сюжетни линии, които могат и трябва да бъдат изследвани.Read More
Никой не е признат за пророк в собствената си страна. Затова се изненадах, когато българска медия ме покани да напиша коментар на тема по мой избор, защото редакторът харесал материалите на блога ми. Предложението дойде в седмицата, когато бе публикуван нелепият доклад по CVM за България, който съм критикувала многократно, та се замислих – вярват ли още сънародниците в Спасители, оракули и др.? „Месията от Брюксел, който няма да се появи“ – първата статия, която специално написах за българската медия Тема:
Месията от Брюксел, който няма да се появиRead More
Когато известният професор по конституционно право Wojciech Sadurski публикува книгата си Poland’s Constitutional Breakdown (Конституционният разпад на Полша), полското правителство го обвини в клевета. В научните среди се коментираше, че реакцията на полското правителство показва безсилие и служи като поредното доказателство, че демокрацията в Полша боледува. Малко по-късно полското правителство нападна докторанти от Университета в Краков, които се бяха осмелили да напишат критичен коментар относно проекта за нов наказателен кодекс на Полша. Порица ги, че разпространявали невярна информация. По принцип, характерно за авторитарните режими е да заклеймяват експертното мнение, което не пасва на партийната линия.
В този план, бих искала да коментирам прессъобщение на Министерство на финансите, публикувано в петък вечерта (23.08.2019 г.), което е посветено на моя личен блог. Самият факт, че се отделя такова внимание на личен блог в петък вечер от държавна институция, говори за паника и немощ. Съдържанието на съобщението заслужава анализ, тъй като ясно показва, че съответната институция съвместява две функции – Министерство на финансите и Министерство на истината. Истината, която им харесва и която им е удобна.
Almost two years ago I started radosvetavassileva.blog to expose Bulgaria’s deteriorating rule of law. Sadly, the situation has exacerbated, so there are even more topics to write about. Inasmuch as I dislike this development, the only way forward is to keep denouncing the abuses and the rampant corruption. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, everyone who follows my blog and all wonderful people who have gotten in touch to provide feedback and give me ideas.
To celebrate my blog-versary, I decided to shed light on an ICSID arbitration case which is more interesting from a rule of law perspective than from an arbitration perspective. The moral of the story is that spreading false information or half-truths eventually catches up on you no matter whether you are a famous law firm like Arnold & Porter, Bulgaria’s central bank (the Bulgarian National Bank) or Bulgaria’s Ministry of Finance. One definition of half-truth is “a statement that is only partly true, especially one that is intended to keep something secret.” This seems to be Arnold & Porter’s case in this scenario.Read More
How did European elections 2019 go in Bulgaria? I was honored to be interviewed by New Eastern Europe for their podcast “Talk Eastern Europe.” You can listen to episode 13 dedicated to #Euroelections2019 in Poland, Lithuania, and Bulgaria, which features my contribution, here. If you believe you know everything about Bulgaria, I encourage you to listen anyway because there are valuable comments on Poland and Lithuania.
In retrospect, as I was interviewed shortly after the elections, we did not discuss election manipulations in much detail. If this is a topic which is of interest, you can take a look at my article “8 Worrisome Charts on the Grim State of Bulgaria’s Rule of Law.” The methods and the lies continue to be the same.
European elections 2019 are on the horizon. In February this year, Prof. Demetriades and I had the chance to comment on why they are hugely important for the rule of law debate in the European Union. Unless there is better leadership at the European Commission, the EU will drown in the sea of populism and far-right nationalism. You can read our opinion piece for Euronews here.