Europe should work for mechanisms where supranational institutions play a dominant role
Pho­to: © European Union
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
24 September, 2011


Andrey Kov­at­chev is a Mem­ber of the Euro­pe­an Par­lia­ment, chair­man of the Bul­gar­i­an del­e­ga­tion in EPP, mem­ber of GERB. Mem­ber of the Com­mit­tee on for­eign affairs, Sub­com­mit­tee on secu­ri­ty and defence, and the EP Del­e­ga­tion for rela­tions with the US. Degree in Biol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Saar­land, Ger­ma­ny, Doc­tor of Nat­u­ral Sci­en­ces from the same uni­ver­si­ty. Area com­mer­cial man­a­ger for CIS for US com­pa­ny John Dee­re Inter­na­tion­al. Six years in Elsev­i­er B.V./Amster­dam as Region­al direct­or for Cen­tral and East­ern Europe and CIS. Flu­ent in Eng­lish, Ger­man, French, Rus­sian and Span­ish. 


Euro­pe­an pol­i­ti­cians so far could not clar­i­fy to their cit­i­zens that the advan­ta­ges of Euro­pe­an inte­gra­tion out­weigh the dis­ad­van­ta­ges. - Mr. Kov­at­chev, isn’t the present sit­u­a­tion in the Euro­zone indic­a­tive of weak­ness in the inter­gov­ern­men­tal approach to cri­sis man­age­ment? 

The price of sal­vag­ing Greece is small­er com­pared to the price of its default and let­ting it leave the euro. 

Reli­gion can­not have pri­or­i­ty over democ­ra­cy.  

- All moments of cri­sis, and par­tic­u­lar­ly of recur­ring sit­u­a­tions, also ques­tion Europe’s abil­i­ty to have an ade­quate response. I have always been of the opin­ion, espe­cial­ly as vice-pres­i­dent of the Union of Euro­pe­an fed­er­al­ists, that Europe should work for mech­a­nisms in which the Euro­pe­an supra­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions play a dom­i­nant role. We have cri­ses in many fields, not just in the finan­cial and eco­nom­ic sphere, there is a cri­sis in migra­tion pol­i­cy when migra­tion waves are expect­ed, main­ly from the South, from the rest­less North Afri­ca and the Mid­dle East, or nat­u­ral calam­i­ties, con­flicts, where Europe is also active, so I think supra­na­tion­al mech­a­nisms are more effi­cient and com­ply with the prin­ci­ple of sub­sid­i­ar­i­ty. As we know, every deci­sion of EU is weighed from the point of view of sub­sid­i­ar­i­ty, wheth­er it would be more effi­cient to be tak­en at Euro­pe­an lev­el, or at nation­al lev­el, or low­er, at region­al or local lev­el. It is more effi­cient to take deci­sions that do not allow cri­ses at supra­na­tion­al lev­el. 

- How threat­en­ed are the euro and the integ­ri­ty of the mon­e­tary union at the moment? 

- The euro and the mon­e­tary union will be threat­en­ed until we build a real eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal union, based on these supra­na­tion­al prin­ci­ples. As it is, there are two sce­nar­i­os for the euro. The pes­si­mis­tic sce­nar­io is if in the EU we do not agree on supra­na­tion­al mech­a­nisms that would come into force auto­mat­i­cal­ly when­ev­er the rules are bro­ken and the rel­e­vant sanc­tions or cor­rect­ive steps would not have to be bar­gained between the Mem­ber States. For exam­ple, what hap­pened with the Sta­bil­i­ty Pact and which was the first coun­try that infringed this prin­ci­ple – it was Ger­ma­ny. Any resist­ance on the part of nation­al gov­ern­ments to keep con­trol over the rules of oper­a­tion of the eco­nom­ic and mon­e­tary union in fact gives an oppor­tu­ni­ty for manip­u­la­tion and through dip­lo­mat­ic chan­nels to achieve some agree­ment between the Mem­ber States con­cerned, which would break the rules again. I think, as many of my col­leagues do, that if we want to have rules that are real­ly observed these rules have to be auto­mat­ic and to be beyond the con­trol of nation­al gov­ern­ments, which would always find a way to reach an agree­ment and get round a rule. Thus we’ll have an opti­mis­tic sce­nar­io for the euro, too. 

- In this con­text, what are the chan­ces for a gov­ern­ment of the Euro­zone? 

- The dev­il is always in the details. It depends to what extent nation­al gov­ern­ments are ready to hand over part of their com­pe­ten­ces to this eco­nom­ic gov­ern­ment of the Euro­zone. In a longer-term per­spec­tive, why only eco­nom­ic, I think it should be a gov­ern­ment of the Euro­pe­an Union, based always on the sub­sid­i­ar­i­ty prin­ci­ple, which would be keep­er of the rules that need to be observed, as the EC is keep­er of the EU agree­ments. 

- Do you agree that all EU Mem­ber States should dem­on­strate sol­i­dar­i­ty, includ­ing finan­cial aid, in solv­ing the prob­lems of the Euro­zone?  

- Of course. Sol­i­dar­i­ty is a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of Unit­ed Europe, but here we enter into what is a sen­si­tive top­ic at the moment. In many Mem­ber States, such as Ger­ma­ny, the Neth­er­lands, France, which are con­sid­ered donor coun­tries or net con­trib­u­tors to the EU budg­et and their cit­i­zens can­not under­stand why they need to save oth­ers who have not observed the rules. My answer is the fol­low­ing: Euro­pe­an pol­i­ti­cians, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the major par­ties, cen­tre-left and cen­tre-right, are indebt­ed to Euro­pe­an soci­e­ty. Because they could not clar­i­fy to their cit­i­zens that the advan­ta­ges of Euro­pe­an inte­gra­tion out­weigh the dis­ad­van­ta­ges. I would like to see for each Mem­ber State a very clear sub­stan­ti­a­tion of the advan­ta­ges of this Euro­pe­an inte­gra­tion, espe­cial­ly for the so-called net con­trib­u­tors. For instance, in recent years euro­scep­ti­cism among Dutch cit­i­zens has grown, but they should real­ize what huge pro­por­tion of the EU trade goes through the port of Rot­ter­dam. In this way the Neth­er­lands ben­e­fits very much from the com­mon Euro­pe­an mar­ket, so the whole pic­ture should be seen. The same is val­id for Ger­ma­ny as a large export state – the EU funds that go to the new Mem­ber States return to the old Mem­ber States in the form of con­tracts for sup­ply of goods or serv­i­ces, espe­cial­ly Ger­ma­ny as a lead­ing EU econ­o­my. The whole truth should be always said, and not let popu­list and nation­al­ist par­ties speak only of what scares cit­i­zens – immi­gra­tion, crime, the secu­ri­ty of their jobs and social ben­e­fits. 

The sal­vage plan for Greece is an expres­sion pre­cise­ly of the sol­i­dar­i­ty between the cit­i­zens of Europe and the price of sal­vag­ing Greece is small­er com­pared to the price of its default and let­ting it leave the euro and intro­duce the drach­ma, which will nat­u­ral­ly be depre­ci­at­ed. All loans which are in euro can by no means be paid back by a Greece that has the drach­ma as a means of pay­ment. 

- Weren’t the EP and the Coun­cil a bit late in reach­ing com­pro­mise on the six leg­is­la­tive acts pack­age on the eco­nom­ic gov­ern­ance of the Union? 

- We can always say they should have been fast­er, but the dem­o­crat­ic pro­ce­dures of deci­sion mak­ing are fun­da­men­tal to EU and can­not be ignored. In a dic­ta­tor­ship deci­sions are always tak­en fast­er than in a dem­o­crat­ic envi­ron­ment where pol­i­ti­cians are respon­si­ble before the cit­i­zens and must take all their con­cerns into account. I wish the reac­tion was fast­er too, but these are the facts at the moment. The Euro­pe­an Com­mis­sion will play great­er role in mon­i­tor­ing and impos­ing the sanc­tions, while the Coun­cil will still have the option of reject­ing the sanc­tions pro­pos­al by qual­i­fied major­i­ty. I hope this plan will work from no on. 

- Is the EU capa­ble of tak­ing on great­er polit­i­cal com­mit­ment in the fight against cor­rup­tion? 

- This is an ever present theme. In all Mem­ber States, and across the world for that mat­ter, the phe­nom­e­non of cor­rup­tion exists at all lev­els, how­e­ver in the advanced democ­ra­cies it is restrict­ed to min­i­mum. Once cor­rup­tion prac­ti­ces are dis­cov­ered, they inva­ri­a­bly lead to con­vic­tions. This is also the pur­pose in the EU – to have effi­cient detec­tion of such cor­rup­tion schemes or mech­a­nisms, bring­ing ben­e­fits to gov­ern­ment ser­vants, with the help of the pri­vate sec­tor which offers them, respec­tive­ly. We mustn’t close our eyes to the fact that many inter­na­tion­al com­pa­nies, doing busi­ness in var­i­ous regions of the world, are them­selves car­ri­ers of cor­rup­tions. Accord­ing to a sur­vey, cor­rup­tion costs €120bn per year to Euro­pe­an tax-pay­ers. This is to the det­ri­ment of both cit­i­zens and entre­pre­neurs. I think the EU could take on a coor­di­nat­ing role in the fight against this phe­nom­e­non, because in many cas­es cor­rup­tion is a trans-bor­der phe­nom­e­non and con­cerns more than one coun­try. Mar­kets in the Euro­pe­an Union are linked, so the fight against cor­rup­tion can be effect­ive only if it is supra­na­tion­al. Spe­cif­i­cal­ly, we are work­ing on great­er trans­par­en­cy of finan­cial trans­ac­tions and har­mo­ni­za­tion of Euro­pe­an law regard­ing the pro­tec­tion of per­sons who give warn­ings of infringe­ments and ille­gal rich­es. 

- Is the world, includ­ing Europe, more secure now, ten years aft­er the 9/11 trag­e­dy? 

- Indeed, 11 Sep­tem­ber 2001 set the begin­ning of a new era in inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and 10 years lat­er the world is quite dif­fer­ent. There are dif­fer­ent chal­len­ges relat­ed to rad­i­cal­ism, the sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East. Accord­ing to the US Pres­i­dent, 10 years aft­er the attacks the net­work of Al Qae­da is weak­en­ed, but can that be said of the source of rad­i­cal­ism, which aft­er all is the eco­nom­ic state of many coun­tries of the so-called „third world“ and the Arab coun­tries, which are much more sus­cep­ti­ble to manip­u­la­tion toward rad­i­cal­ism and blam­ing for their fate the US or the West in gen­er­al. What­ev­er goals the 11 Sep­tem­ber 2001 attack­ers had I think they fail­ed because the civ­il­ized world sid­ed with the US and any­one who wants to live in peace and respect the rights of every­body, regard­less of ori­gin, views and reli­gion. Reli­gion can­not be used as a pre­text to any supe­ri­or­i­ty. Reli­gion can­not have pri­or­i­ty over democ­ra­cy. When reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties demand tol­er­ance, they in turn should be tol­er­ant to the oth­ers. I hope very much the so-called „Arab spring“ will lead to the estab­lish­ment of sec­u­lar dem­o­crat­ic states, where every creed can enjoy free­dom. Euro­pe­an lead­ers should show clear­ly that xen­o­pho­bic move­ments and polit­i­cal talk based on hatred have no place in Unit­ed Europe. The tra­di­tion­al polit­i­cal spec­trum, cen­tre-left, cen­tre-right missed the moment, I hope they will still explain to cit­i­zens that rad­i­cal move­ments can­not bring us any good and they do not have the answers. The Dutch rad­i­cal move­ment of Geert Wil­ders’ Par­ty of Free­dom has no answer to the ques­tion, what is to be done with the immi­grants from the Islam­ic coun­tries to the Neth­er­lands. They are already there, what­ev­er some may say of the death of the mul­ti­eth­nic and mul­ti­cul­tur­al mod­el of soci­e­ty. 

- Do you think there is a chance the divi­sion of opin­ion between the Mem­ber States on the acces­sion of Bul­gar­ia and Roma­nia to Schen­gen to be over­come soon? 

- I am very sur­prised and aggrieved at the Neth­er­lands stance, which does not take into account the real­i­ties but is based on emo­tions and the so-called „fact-free policy“, pol­i­cy of absence of facts. There isn’t a sin­gle fact to sub­stan­ti­ate the Dutch deci­sion. For the past 9 months we have been part of the Schen­gen Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem with­out a sin­gle case of mis­use of SIS infor­ma­tion. On the con­tra­ry, by includ­ing Bul­gar­ia and Roma­nia we con­trib­ute to enhance secu­ri­ty in the Schen­gen sys­tem. Besides, our bor­der with Tur­key is extreme­ly well-guard­ed by all Schen­gen stand­ards, includ­ing the upgrad­ing that is under­way. In con­ver­sa­tion with me, Fron­tex direct­or said Bul­gar­ia guard­ed very well and reli­a­bly the bor­der with Tur­key. There is no rea­son what­so­ev­er, except the inter­nal polit­i­cal rea­son in the Neth­er­lands and the xen­o­pho­bic atti­tude of Wil­ders’ par­ty. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is yet anoth­er exam­ple of Europe becom­ing hos­tage to extreme popu­lists. The main polit­i­cal for­ces in the Neth­er­lands are afraid to call things by their name and say that by block­ing Bul­gar­ia and Roma­nia they would not stop the trav­els of their cit­i­zens to the Neth­er­lands. This is abso­lute­ly improp­er and is a sheer lie, because it has noth­ing to do with Schen­gen. The EPP has repeat­ed­ly reit­er­at­ed its posi­tion, sup­ports the posi­tion of EP, of the Euro­pe­an Com­mis­sion, of the Euro­pe­an Coun­cil experts for acces­sion of Bul­gar­ia and Roma­nia to Schen­gen.

One Response to “We need a government of the EU that would be keeper of the rules”

  1. Janaye казва:

    That’s way more celver than I was expecting. Thanks!


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