Ilhan Kyuchyuk: The EC monitoring is fair and thorough
The idea of the report is to serve as an early warning system, now that the old mechanisms have been proven ineffectiveTihomira Mihaylova
The EC monitors a lot of components, it has its own methodology. It is great that this time the mechanism is not focused on one area, but has a more comprehensive approach by monitoring the rule of law, democracy and human rights and liberties. In that sense, every country has something to work on, the MEP said in an interview with Monitor news agency.
Mr Kyuchyuk, what does the new rule of law report prepared for all EU Member States indicate about Bulgaria?
It indicates that certain steps are being taken to reform key sectors that are being monitored by the European Commission. On the other hand, these reforms should represent continuous effort so as to avoid straying too far from the bloc's core principles.
Do you see such a departure?
The EC monitors a lot of components, it has its own methodology. It is great that this time the mechanism is not focused on one area, but has a more comprehensive approach by monitoring the rule of law, democracy and human rights and liberties. In that sense, every country has something to work on.
Where do we need to concentrate our efforts?
The Bulgarian citizens have expressed their will for a truly democratic country many times. Being a member of the EU since 2007 is not enough.
How does our country fare compared to other Member States?
Commenting on the situation in other countries is not that easy because this report is just a preliminary assessment. The methodology is yet to be fully drawn up and approved by the European Council so that we have much clearer criteria and indicators at some point. Let us not forget that in addition to that initial assessment, over a period of two and a half years all countries will undergo a much more detailed analysis to monitor their adherence to the principles laid out in the comprehensive mechanism. In other words, on 13 November is when we will see where things stand with Bulgaria and the other four countries.
How do you rate the report and the new comprehensive mechanism?
We have always supported the introduction of such a mechanism because we believe the existence of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for only two countries was unfair. The old mechanisms proved to be ineffective, largely because they were pretty fragmented and strove to assess indicators that in many cases ran contrary to each other or overlapped. Just like there is a European Semester report tracking the economic and social development of EU countries, there should be a rule of law mechanism.
What is your take on the conclusions for Bulgaria - are they objective, positive, negative?
Given the methodology that is being applied to all EU countries, we have to accept the evaluation of the EC, which takes us to the next stage - having a dialogue that affords the opportunity for a discussion. Let us not forget that this is a process that is still getting off the ground and the end goal is to have an inter-institutional agreement - to have the EC, the EU and the Council on one page.
What does this report mean for Bulgaria? Will there be recommendations that the country must carry out, as was the case with the CVM. What are the implications for our country in general?
Reports are written to be read, of course. And when there are differences of opinion, problematic points should be addressed. It would be naive to think reports can stay on paper and largely be ignored.
The report kept getting tweaked until the last possible moment. Its presentation was even delayed once. Was there disagreement within the EC over what the report should say?
The Migration and Asylum Package was scheduled to be presented on 23 September, which essentially caused the delay because from a communications standpoint we could not have both it and an important mechanism like the one on rule of law, in the same week. So the EC opted to unveil the migration package on 23 September and the new mechanism - on 30 September.
In other words, there were no disagreements over the content of the report itself? It was more procedural.
The EC prepared this report acting within its powers. President Ursula von der Leyen clarified the week before last that the report would be released by the end of September. The mechanism and the accompanying report were on the EC calendar.
The report acknowledges that Bulgaria has launched a judicial reform and opened investigations of emblematic individuals, but it also makes remarks about the media environment and the insufficient effort in combating corruption despite having strategies in place. What is your interpretation?
There is always more to be done in every area of public life. And that is not limited to Bulgaria. The key is to have the necessary legislation and regulatory bodies and mechanisms in place. On the issue of media freedom and media market transparency, for example, my parliamentary group proposed a piece of legislation in 2018 that was eventually passed.
What EU country is most severely criticised in the report?
Two countries stand out - Poland and Hungary - because proceedings under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union have been opened against them, which is one step away from stripping a country from its vote in the Council. The idea of the report is to help prevent such extreme scenarios by serving as an early warning system so that Member States and the EC can engage in dialogue at a much earlier stage and avoid dire consequences. Otherwise, divisions will only grow deeper.
Does that mean we can be optimistic?
In and of itself, the mechanism is fair, I find it thorough as well. At the same time, all the unresolved issues with the rule of law cannot be conquered by this mechanism alone, never mind in the next couple of years. We need active dialogue both with European institutions and national authorities. Pointing out the mistakes from the outside is not enough to reform one sector or another. A consensus is needed nationwide, or at least between the established political powers in the National Assembly. Why not go even further and put forward a broad platform that would also allow Bulgarian citizens to participate directly. Unfortunately, there are deep institutional divisions.
Born on 16 September 1985 in Sevlievo, Ilhan Kyuchyuk studied political science and law at “St Cyril and St Methodius” University of Veliko Tarnovo. He has been through numerous specialisations and training courses. He served as president of the Youth Movement for Rights and Freedoms (Youth MRF). He is currently vice-president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and an MEP representing MRF/Renew Europe.