“He who does not wish to speak of capitalism should remain forever silent about Nazism” –I quoted West Germany’s Max Horkheimer just few months ago discussing the disastrous, cynical and absolutely unnecessary attempts towards the equation of communism with Nazism, of fascism and anti-fascism.
Right than – in that text – I also borrowed from yet another Frankfurter, Herbert Marcuse on the self-entrapment of Western society. Back in 1960s, it was him labelling as “repressive tolerance” if someone in future ever considers a dangerous and a historical equitation between Nazism and anything else, least with Communism. Regrettably enough, that future of de-evolution started pouring in by 1990s – culminating with the current Covid-19 iron fist.
Umberto Eco – in his ur-fascism of 1995 – of course, didn’t see the entire world arrested on one pathogen, one narrative about it, one solution mandated for all, along with suppression of any debate about it. Back then in mid-1990’s, Eco didn’t visualise it but he well sensed where it might but should never go: Trivialisation of our important contents will brutally hit us back. (Immunisation of herd – as tirelessly agitated via media, inevitable ends up in herd loyalty: From pandemia to plundermia. 1930s are powerful reminder: From Reichstags Fire to Kristallnacht and on, and on, and on.)
Here we are today; 75 years after the glorious Victory Day, fighting (again) invisible enemy within. Therefore, the antifascist fundaments of modern Europe are today relevant more than ever. This is not our (political) choice, it is the only way to survive. Surely, any equitation attempt is a beginning of infection. And immuno-fascism, be it of 1930’s or of 2020’s always starts with silence, which is both an acceptance and accomplice. In vain a self-comforting excuse; Wir wussten nicht (it was others, not us).
To prevent it, revisiting the most relevant chapters of our near history is worth of doing:
No llores porque ya se terminó, sonríe porque sucedió
In fact, the 1930s were full of public admirations of and frequent official visits to an Austrian-born Hitler. It was not only reserved for the British royal family (e.g. Edward VIII), but for many more prominent from both sides of the Atlantic (e.g. Henry Ford). By 1938 in Munich, this ‘spirit of Locarno’ has been confirmed in practice when French President Daladier and British PM Chamberlain (Atlantic Europe) jointly paid a visit to Germany and gave concessions – practically a free hand – to Hitler and Mussolini (Central Europe) on gains in Eastern Europe (Istria, Czechoslovakia and beyond). Neither Atlantic Europe objected to the pre-Munich solidification of Central Europe: Hitler–Mussolini pact and absorption of Austria, following a massive domestic Austrian support to Nazism of its well-educated and well-informed 719,000 members of the Nazi party (nearly a third of a that-time total Austrian electorate), as well as a huge ring of sympathizers. In a referendum organised by the Austro-Nazis a month after the Anschluss, 99.7% of Austrians voted ‘Yes’ to annexation.
By brokering the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression deal between Berlin and Moscow, but only a year after the Munich-shame – in 1939 (incl. the stipulations on Finland, Baltic states and Poland), Stalin desperately tried to preempt the imminent. That was a horror of an uncontrolled expansion of Central onto Eastern Europe and closer to Russia – something already largely blessed and encouraged by Atlantic Europe.
This chapter would be definitely one of the possible spots for a thorough examination, if we only wish to diligently elaborate why Atlantic and Scandinavian Europe scored so much of Nazi-collaboration while Eastern and Russophone Europe opposed and fiercely resisted.
For some 300 years, Russia and the Ottomans – like no other European belligerents – have fought series of bitter wars over the control of the Black Sea plateau and Caucasus – sectors, which both sides (especially the Ottomans) have considered as geopolitically pivotal for their posture. Still, neither party has ever progressed at the battlefield as to seriously jeopardize the existence of the other. However, Russia has experienced such moves several times from within Europe. Three of them were critical for the very survival of Russia, and the forth was rather instructive: the Napoleonic wars, Hitler’s Drangnach Osten, the so-called ‘contra-revolutionary’ intervention, and finally the brief but deeply humiliating war with Poland (1919-21).
In absence of acceptance, quest for the strategic depth
Small wonder, that in 1945, when Russians– suffering over 20 millions of mostly civilian casualties (practically, an extermination of the entire population in many parts of the western Soviet Union), and by far the heaviest continental burden of the war against Nazism – arrived on wings of their tanks and ideology to Central Europe, they decided to stay. Extending their strategic depth westwards–southwestwards, and fortifying their presence in the heart of Europe, was morally an occupation. Still, it was geopolitically the single option left, which Stalin as a ruthless person but an excellent geo-strategist perfectly understood.
Just a quick look at the geographic map of Europe would show that the low-laying areas of western Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe are practically non-fortifiable and indefensible. Their topography exposes the metropolitan area and city of Moscow to an extreme vulnerability. So, the geostrategic dictatum is that in absence of any deep canyon, serious ridge or mountain chain, the only protection is either a huge standing army (expensive and badly needed in other corners of this vast country) and/or an extension of the strategic depth.
Indeed, if we truly want to elaborate on why Atlantic and Scandinavian Europe bred so much obedience and Nazi-collaboration (with Central Europe) and largely passively stood by, while Eastern and Russophone Europe (solely) fiercely resisted and fought, we should advisably examine the financial, moral, demographic and politico-military cost-benefit ratio of the WWII, too. The subsequent, sudden and lasting Cold War era has prevented any comprehensive scientific consensus. The unbiased, de-ideologized and objective view on the WWII was systematically discouraged. Soviets consistently equated Nazism and imperialism while the US, for its part, equated fascism and communism. Until this very day, we do not have a full accord on causes and consequences of events in years before, during and after the WWII. Therefore the paradox – the holocaust denial is a criminal offense, but all other important things surrounding Nazism and its principal European victims; Slavs and their states, are tentative and negotiable, elastic and eligible for a periodic political re-engineering.
The same applies to the comparative analysis of the economic performance of East and West. E.g. was the much-celebrated Truman’s Marshall aid to the post-WWII western Europe, originally meant to be the US reimbursement to the Soviets for the enormous burden they took throughout the WWII – the financial assistance that was repeatedly promised by Roosevelt to Stalin, but never delivered past his death in spring 1945? Saturated by the Nazi Germany beyond comprehension, the Soviet Union was rebuilding alone itself and Eastern Europe, while the moderately damaged Western Europe got – including Germany – a massive, ideologically conditioned, financial help.
In a nutshell; if we disaggregate Europe into its compounding historical components, it is safe to say the following: The very epilogue of both WWs in Europe was a defeat of the Central (status quo challenger) against Atlantic Europe (status quo defender). All this with the relatively absent, neutral Scandinavian Europe, of Eastern Europe being more an object than a subject of these mega-confrontations, and finally with a variable success of Russophone Europe.
Finally, back to Franco-German post-WWII re-rapprochement.
Obviously, that was far more than just a story about the two countries signing d’accord. It truly marked a final decisive reconciliation of two Europes, the Atlantic and Central one. The status quo Europe has won on the continent but has soon lost its overseas colonies. Once realizing it, the road for ‘unification’ of the equally weakened protagonists in a close proximity was wide open. This is the full meaning of the 1961Elysée.
 Much quoted line of Gabriel García Márquez; from Spanish: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’.
 In his luminary piece, Rolf Soderlind states: “…unlike other countries occupied by the Nazis in the ensuing WWII, Austria embraced the March 12, 1938 invasion with an enthusiasm that surprised the Germans and which still affects the country. The role as victim-turned-accomplice in Hitler’s crimes against humanity was a taboo for decades after the war in Austria… After all, Hitler was born in Austria, which historians say was the cradle of Nazism at the start of the century. Hitler merely took the ideas with him to Munich and, later, Berlin.” No wonder that a disproportionately high number of Austrians, including war criminals such as (Adolf) Eichmann and (Ernst) Kaltenbrunner, took active part in the systematic exterminations of Slavic peoples, Jews, Romas and other racially or politically ‘impure’ segments, manly from the Europe’s East. “Austrian Nazis, quickly proving to be even more brutal than their ruthless German masters, hit the streets after the invasion to intimidate, beat up and rob mainly Jews but also to settle the account with Social Democrats and Communists — their political opponents.” – describes Soderlind. “This was not on Hitler’s orders. It was a spontaneous pogrom. It was popular among Austrians to go after the Jews,” says Gerhard Botz, professor of contemporary history at the University of Vienna. On the account, American journalist Shirer reported: “For the first few weeks the behaviour of the Vienna Nazis was worse than anything I had seen in Germany,” and concludes: “there was an orgy of sadism.” A day after, already by March 13, 1938, Jews and other racial or political ‘inappropriates’ were forced to scrub the pavements and clean the gutters of the Austrian capital, the elegant cafe society that was world-wide admired as a stage for classical music, wise humanity and a shining example of Baroque architecture. “As they worked on their hands and knees with jeering storm troopers standing over them, crowds gathered to taunt them,” Shirer wrote. While the Nazi Party was banned in post-war Austria, most veteran Nazis were highly educated people who found a new career in politics and government. Professor Wolfgang Neugebauer says: “They could not remove the entire leadership, because then the state would no longer be able to function. Even in the first government of Social Democratic Chancellor Bruno Kreisky in 1970s, four ministers were former Nazis… Chancellor Franz Vranitzky in a speech to parliament in 1991 became the first Austrian leader to admit that his country was a servant of Nazism.” Interestingly, German and Austrian leaders apologized to Israel (or generally to Jews) repeatedly, but not really to the peoples of Eastern Europe who were by far the largest Nazi victim. Illuminating the origins of wealth of Central Europe, Neugebauer admits: ”It was not until 1995 (time when all three Slavic multinational states have undergone the dissolution, and disappeared from the map, rem. aut.) that Austria started paying compensation to surviving victims of Austrian Nazi aggression.” In the same fashion, Germany – considered as the Europe’s economic miracle – in essence an overbearing Mitteleuropear that dragged world into the two devastating world wars, is a serial defaulter which received debt relief four times in the 20th century (1924, 1929, 1932 and 1953). E.g. by the letter of London Agreement on German External Debts (Londoner Schuldenabkommen) over 60% of German reparations for the colossal atrocities committed in both WW were forgiven (or generously reprogramed) by their former European victims.
 It should be kept in mind that for the very objective of lebensraum policy (character and size of space needed for Germanophones to unhindered, live and prosper), the Jews, Roma and behavioristic minorities were the non-territorial obstacle. However, Slavs and their respective Slavic states in Eastern Europe were the prime territorial target of Hitler-led Central Europe’s ‘final solution’. Therefore, no wonder why so much fifth column crop among Slavs. For the speeding and smoothening of the lebensraum objective, Quisling was needed as PM in Norway, but Slavic quisling-elites were cattled in each and every of that time major Slavic states – useful idiots in Poland, in Ukraine, in Czechoslovakia, in Yugoslavia, in Bulgaria, etc.).
 One of the possible reasons was a fact that the Atlanstist nobility, wealth-clans and dynasties were mingled and intermarried with those same from Central and Scandinavian Europe. That was only sporadic in case of Eastern Europe, and totally absent in case of Russophone Europe.
 The 6-year-long insurgencies was largely financed and inspired by Western Europe as an overt ‘regime change’ intervention. It came at the time of the young Bolshevik Russia, and it subsequently saturated the country, bringing the unbearable levels of starvation and hunger up to cases of cannibalism. It took away 5 million mostly civilian lives, and eventually set the stage for a ‘red terror’.
 The same applies to the Atlantic (Anglo-French and American) lasting occupation of Central Europe, which along with the Soviet one was the only guaranty for the full and decisive de-Nazification of the core sectors of continental Europe.
 With the politico-military settlement of the Teheran and Yalta Conference (1943), and finally by the accord of the Potsdam Conference (1945), the US, UK and the SU unanimously agreed to reduce the size of Germany by 25% (comparable to its size of 1937), to recreate Austria, and to divide both of them on four occupation zones. The European sections of the Soviet borders were extended westwards (as far as to Kaliningrad), and Poland was compensated by territorial gains in former Eastern Prussia/Germany. The Americans and Britons in Potsdam unanimously confirmed the pre-WWII inclusion of the three Baltic republics into the Soviet Union, too. Practically, Russians managed to eliminate Germany from Eastern Europe (and of its access to central and eastern portions of Baltic, too), and to place it closer to the Atlantic Europe’s proper.
 Sadly enough, most of the popular Atlantist literature or movies elaborating on topics of the WWII are biased and misleading on the role of the Red Army,and are generally disrespectful towards the enormous suffering of the Soviet and Yugoslav peoples at that time.
 Comparing and contrasting the economic performance of East and West, many western scholars in 1950s and 1960s argued that the Soviet socio-economic model is superior to that of its western archrival. The superpower’s space-race was usually the most quoted argument for this claim. Indeed, some dozens of Soviet space-race victories were so magnificent that it was impossible to hide them, as the ideological dictum would suggested. E.g. the first orbiting satellite (Sputnik 1, 1957); the first animal, the first man, and the first women in orbit (Laika 1957, Gagarin 1961, Tereshkova 1963); the first over-24 hours stay in space (Titov, 1961); first images of the dark side of moon (1959); the first man-made device to enter the atmosphere of another planet, and to achieve the soft landing on Venus and images sent from there (Venera 4, 1967; Venera 7, 1970); the first space-walk (Leonov,1965); the first space station (Salyut, 1971); the first probe to ever land on Mars (Mars 3, 1971); the first permanently manned space station including the longest stays in space (Mir, 1989-99), etc.
What to Do with Extraterritorial Sanctions? EU Responses
One of the important decisions of the new US administration was its revision of the sanctions policy inherited from President Donald Trump. The “toxic” assets of the departed team include deterioriated relations with the European Union. The divisions between Washington and Brussels have existed since long before Trump’s arrival in the White House. The EU categorically does not accept US extraterritorial sanctions. Back in 1996, the EU Council approved the so-called “Blocking Statute”, designed to protect European businesses from restrictive US measures targeting Cuba, Iran and Libya. For a long time, Washington avoided aggravating relations with the EU, although European companies were subject to hefty fines for violating US sanctions regimes.
The situation deteriorated significantly during the Trump presidency. At least three events served as a cold shower for the EU with respect to the bloc’s relationship with the US. The first was the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA—the “Iranian nuclear deal”. Trump renewed American restrictions on Iran in full, and then significantly expanded them. His demarche forced dozens of large companies from the EU to leave Iran; they were threated by the American authorities with fines and other coercive measures. Brussels was powerless to convince Washington to return to the JCPOA. The EU authorities were also unable to offer their businesses guarantees of reliable protection against punitive measures being taken by the US Treasury and other departments. The second event was Washington’s powerful attack on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Trump has openly opposed the pipeline, although the Obama administration was also against the pipeline. Congress has passed two sanctions laws targeting Russian pipeline projects. The US Congress and the State Department directly warned European business about the threat of sanctions for participating in the project. In addition to Iran and Russia, concern in the EU was also caused by the aggravation of US-Chinese tensions. Brussels distanced itself from Trump’s cavalry attack on China. So far, US restrictions against “Chinese communist military companies”, telecoms and officials have minimally affected the EU. However, Washington aggressively pushed its allies to oust Chinese technology companies. It cannot be ruled out that in the future, US foreign policy towards China will become a problem for Brussels.
For the EU, all these events have become a reason to think about protection from extraterritorial US sanctions. The work on them was carried out by both European expert centres and the European Commission. Currently, we can talk about the formation of a number of strategic goals, the achievement of which should allow the European Union to increase its stability in relation to extraterritorial sanctions of the United States and other countries.
Such goals include the following:
Strengthening the role of the euro in international settlements. Already today, the euro ranks second after the dollar in international payments and reserves. However, unlike the United States, the EU does not use this advantage for political purposes. Many transactions between European businesses and their foreign partners are carried out in US dollars, which makes them more vulnerable to subsequent coercive measures. Calculations in euros could reduce the risk of transactions with those partners against whom the sanctions of the United States or other countries are in effect, but the sanctions of the UN Security Council or the EU itself do not apply. Here the EU authorities have laid serious groundwork and have a good chance of achieving their goal.
1.Creation of payment mechanisms, which cannot be stopped from the outside. INSTEX, a payment channel for humanitarian deals with Iran, is often cited as an example of such mechanisms. In 2020, the first transactions were made. However, success in this area raises questions. INSTEX has been widely advertised by EU politicians, but initial expectations were too high. The mechanism has not yet justified itself, even for humanitarian purposes. The Treasury Department can impose blocking sanctions against INSTEX at any time if it considers that the mechanism is being used to deliberately circumvent US restrictions against Iran. Switzerland’s SHTA mechanism, which is used for humanitarian deals with Iran, looks much better. It was created jointly with the Americans and it should not have any problems with functionality. However, regarding payment mechanisms in the EU, there are not only humanitarian transactions. There’s also the matter of plans to create secure transaction mechanisms in the trade of energy or raw materials; the question of what prospects these have for implementation remains.
2.Ensuring the possibility of unhindered settlements and access to other services for individuals and legal entities in the EU that have come under extraterritorial sanctions. In other words, we are talking about the fact that a citizen or a company from the EU, which fell, for example, under the blocking sanctions of the US Treasury, could make payments within the EU. Now European banks will simply refuse such transactions, and the courts are likely to side with them. In fact, the European Union wants to create infrastructure that has already been created, for example, in Russia. Moscow was considering the establishment of a national payment system even before the large-scale sanctions of 2014. Despite the limited weight of Russia in the global financial system, the country has its own sovereign payment system, which allows its own citizens to carry out transactions on its own territory.
3.Updating the 1996 Blocking Statute. In particular, we are talking about the development of an instrument of compensation for companies that have suffered from extraterritorial sanctions.
4.Creation of information databases in the interests of European companies under the risks of extraterritorial sanctions, as well as the provision of systematic legal assistance to companies that have come under foreign restrictions. In particular, we are talking about assisting European companies and citizens of the EU countries in defending their interests in US courts, as well as using other legal mechanisms, for example, within the WTO.
If necessary—balancing the extraterritorial measures of the United States or other countries with restrictive counter-measures.
However, the EU sanctions agenda is far from limited to the threat of extraterritorial sanctions. Ultimately, the United States is an ally and partner of the EU, which means that the opportunities for smoothing out crisis situations remain broad. Collaboration at the agency level is also highlighted as a recommendation. Moreover, after Trump’s departure, the United States may be more attentive to the concerns of the European Union.
The main priority remains the development of the EU’s own sanctions policy. Here many problems and tasks arise. The main ones include the low speed of decision-making and poor coordination in the implementation of sanctions. The centralisation of sanctions mechanisms in the hands of Brussels is becoming an important task for the European Commission.
The article is published as part of the Valdai Club’s Think Tank project, continuing the collaboration between Valdai and Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi).
From our partner RIAC
Trinity for Scrutiny: Council of Europe, Human Rights instruments and Citizens
Building on the tasteful piece written recently by Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic, this article will endeavour to explore further why the Tromsø Convention(Norwegian International Convention on Access to Official Documents), although adopted more than a decade ago, is in fact deserving of much more credit and fuss than it appears to have mustered so far.
To briefly catch everyone up, the Council of Europe (CoE) adopted in 2009 a Convention on Access to Official Documents foreseeing a general and minimal right for all to access public authorities’ official documents. Having entered into force last December, this convention pioneers a uniformed standardised right to obtain official documents and thereby information from official sources. Evidently, the treaty draws on the pillar values of any and all healthy democracies that are transparency, pluralism and self-development of the individuals making up our civil societies.
Freedom of information, within which the right to access official documents is encompassed, is indeed crucial for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is essential from a somewhat ‘hostile perspective’ in order to oversee public bodies’ conducts and uncover behaviours who clash with Human Rights and might otherwise be sanitized precisely when these call for remediation, sanction and reparation. Secondly, in a ‘friendlier’ outlook, it is indispensable for the purpose of feeding the public debate and thus, allowing for militant democracies, but also to strengthen legitimacy, foster public trust and endorsement of their elected government.
Lastly but perhaps most importantly, it should be pointed out that in a similar manner as the right to life, the freedom of information is in fact a key that opens, if not all, many doors embodied by other ECHR rights such as the freedom of expression and that of thought, procedural guarantees or even the freedom of assembly and association. In effect, without being adequately informed, how could one be aware of their rights and exercise them diligently? Without receiving quality information, how could one forge their convictions and gather with others to share affiliations and work towards a common goal? And without access to verified information, could one really form an educated opinion meant to be expressed freely subsequently?
In addition to being a prerequisite to the proper exercise and enjoyment of other fundamental rights, it also echoes directly with the first article of the ECHR providing for the Contracting Parties’ duty to respect Human Rights – and in reality, render them available to all persons under their jurisdiction. In that sense, the CETS 205 can and should be looked at as a practical example of States fulfilling Human Rights and hence as falling squarely within the same scheme.
Another link certainly worthy of some emphasis is the one that can be made between the advent of such a Treaty and the recent recognition and growing establishment of the right to truth. The right to truth, as devised by Special Rapporteur Louis Joinet in 1996, is made up of several dimensions amongst which there is the right to know. The latter, in turn, involves a right to access archives and historical official documents in order to shed light on past events – and ultimately heal a society. Thus, just like we – the civil society – have a right to know our past so as to reconcile and repair wrongdoings, we also have a right to get acquainted with our present and perhaps prevent wrongdoings at all. Both instruments’ emergence form part of a single reactive movement: the reinforcement and extension of human dignity and a renewed appreciation of individuals through greater access and involvement.
Whilst keeping these elements in mind, let us say a few words about the Convention’s content and characteristics. The project is said to have been guided by the concern of identifying and generalising a core of basic compulsory provisions in a way that will “encourage the Parties to equip themselves with, maintain and reinforce domestic provisions that allow a more extensive right of access, provided that the minimum core is nonetheless implemented.” Hence, this instrument does not purport to be a binding ‘best practice’ guide, but is rather the fruits of a (well-known) compromise resulting in the establishment of a minimum threshold likely to be accepted by the largest majority.
Say we embrace the path taken by the consultative committees and concede that realistic (aka lower) standards will amass more signatures and spread wider its application, what then of an equally realistic rapid examination of the outcome? Indeed, since its adoption in 2009, only ten countries have ratified the Convention whilst the instrument is said to merely reassert what already exists in most internal frameworks of the CoE countries.
The puzzlement does not end there: when looking closer at the contracting parties, one cannot help but notice that the ‘star students’ are MIA. European countries that ranked in 2018 in the top 10 of the world-wide Human Freedom Index such as Switzerland (2nd), Germany (9th), Denmark (4th), or Ireland (7th) are nowhere to be found on the ratification addendum of the Convention. It is hard to imagine why such States that are already doing so well in that area would not want to lead the example and reaffirm principles that match their internal policies.
Commissioner Dunja, for her part, had highlighted that although the majority of CoE’s members have already adopted freedom of information laws on the domestic level, some definite issues remain with regard to their practical enforcement. This referred to disparities in degrees of transparency depending on the public body as well as failures to meet requirements set for proactive disclosure. We may then wonder, provided those trends are correct, if – ironically – there could exist a lack of transparency on those regulations. In other words, if national laws on freedom of information already exist almost everywhere in Europe but they do not satisfy the thresholds put forward by the Convention in practice, civil society should know about it to remedy the situation.
Still, you may wonder: why is it so important that we enquire about, and ensure that, a smooth implementation is possible on the domestic or – if need be – regional level? Because although this article has managed to avoid bringing up COVID-19 so far, the current pandemic only enhances the stakes surrounding an effective freedom of information. As we all know by now, in times of emergency, rapid and impactful decisions have to be taken. These decisions are then in that sense less prone to gather strong consensus and yet more likely to concern the public given the serious nature of the decisions’ object.
The year 2020 has shown that misinformation and somewhat tendentious media coverage of the pandemic’s evolution was damaging enough in terms of civil discontentment and eroding our trust in the Government. But adding to that the withholding of some facts and a lack of transparency on the part of public officials is simply a recipe for disaster.
This can perhaps be better grasped when looking at the cases of France versus Sweden. Civil unrest and vocal dissents have been taking place last year against the French government, said to be lacking transparency on several issues such as shortages of equipment, rationale for measures chosen, allocation of vaccines or even the number of vaccinations. In the fall of last year, a local survey recorded that two-third of the French citizens did not trust their leaders to fight COVID efficiently. The handling of the crisis tainted with obscurity and ambiguities resulted in an unfortunate loss of popularity for President Macron and civil disobedience.
In contrast, the Sweden government remained consistent with its strong stand on, and reputation for, transparency towards its population taking roots notably in a national law favouring public scrutiny adopted in 1766. Their tradition of ‘ultra-transparency’ as is sometimes called is closely related to the country’s culture of shared responsibility and mutual respect between State and citizens. With the national Agency for Public Health taking the lead on the crisis management by remaining very open on the data available and reasons for pursuing collective immunity survey showed in Spring 2020 that nearly 80% of the population entrusted both their health system and the national Agency. Moreover, this ought to be placed against a backdrop where even the King of Sweden did publicly air his reservations regarding the confinement-sceptic management.
Now whatever anyone thinks of the Swedish strategy a posteriori, it must be acknowledged that not only did their information and transparency handling maintain its citizens, numbers show it even did as much as increase the legitimacy of their prime minister. To top it off, Sweden is one of the first to have ratified the CETS 205.
To put it plainly: some countries’ tendencies to filter information, strive to maintain composure and showcase confidence in uncertain times simply proves to be more detrimental than an approach where full transparency and efficient dissemination of available information is endorsed at the risk of revealing some inconsistencies or displaying dubiety in the process.
It is hoped that this can serve as a support for reflection around the understatement of international agreements we may take for granted such as the one 2009 Convention on Access to Official Information and the realisation that in our case, having ratified such a document could be a real game-changer in the second phase of our pandemic and rehabilitate good governance where it has been shattered.
hereinafter referred to in the text as ‘CETS 205’.
Which, for the record, encompasses personal, civil and economic freedoms, and is based on indicators in various areas such as the rule of law, the freedom of expression and information, that of association and assembly as well as civil society.
Laura, for EU-funds crimes please don’t call Bulgaria. We are busy right now
EU chief prosecutor, Laura Kovesi, rejected almost all of the Bulgarian candidates nominated by Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev to serve in the new EU prosecutor office. Most of the proposed candidates have no experience as prosecutors, no experience in pleading, no experience in criminal investigations, and no experience in investigating EU funds. Laura Kovesi is reportedly irritated, and here in Bulgaria we certainly share her frustration with Ivan Geshev, as I have also previously argued for EurActiv, Euronews and LSE.
The new EU chief prosecutor office is tasked with the very narrow mandate of going after EU funds theft or mismanagement. It has to stick to EU funds related cases only; it does not cover all legal issues as an overarching EU prosecutor service which could potentially correct mistakes at the national level — much to the dissatisfaction of local groups. We’d really much rather have the option to turn to an EU prosecutor for many other cases but the EU system is a la cart, not a free choice menu. That’s why, in her very narrowly defined legal mandate, particular EU-funds experience is key to the new posts that Kovesi is trying to fill.
This is Kovesi’s first blow against the Bulgarian chief prosecutor who was convinced that the Bulgarian institutions are sending their best and brightest to the new high profile EU office. Unfortunately, most of the candidates turned out to be highly inadequate for the very specialized job at hand. Reportedly, no other country had its candidates rejected.
The question — as with any international nominations — persists: couldn’t they really find candidates who will be able to hit the ground running, ready to aggressively suck their teeth in EU funds crimes, which let’s face it, Bulgaria has a lot of? Surely, there must be Bulgarian prosecutors who have criminal, funds-related cases under their belt. Aren’t there any Bulgarian prosecutors who have successfully closed with convictions EU-funds theft, embezzlement, fraud, waste, and mismanagement cases in the Bulgarian system? Surely, these seem like the top candidates and most obvious choices for the Bulgarian chief prosecutor. People like that are the ones that know the nuts and bolts, and the legal tricks in the Bulgarian system. They would be Kovesi’s fiercest hounds in Bulgaria and that would be a good thing, right? Seasoned, fierce hounds ready to turn everything upside down: these are the kinds of people that Ivan Geshev wants as European prosecutors, right?
But something tells me that these candidates were the first to be struck down by Geshev. Bulgaria is demonstrating from the outset, before the work has even began, that addressing EU funds crimes is the last thing on this Administration’s mind. And the upcoming elections in April will not change that because the Bulgarian chief prosecutor has a mandate of 7 years, and he is the one that decides who gets an EU prosecutor nomination.
As we await the second batch of candidates after this political blow, the message has been sent. Laura, for EU-funds crimes please don’t call Bulgaria. We are busy right now but please be assured that your call is very important to us. We will return your call as soon as we can.
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