In view of how consistently the EU claims to be norms-based, the following private email from a friend makes sobering reading:

I was thinking of you this morning. The reason was my rumination on the state of the Balkans - and your steadfastness about morality in business. So obviously the rumination was good.

Seems to me that business here has become a lot more difficult since Bulgaria joined the EU. There was much “structural change” and much “legislative reform” but this was all a mask. There has been no real reform - no change - excepting for the negative. Corruption has become worse not better – it has become more systemic and now the Ministers are even more brazen in their requests for an interest in all deals of significance. Seems that nothing now gets done in Bulgaria without an interest to a politician. It’s pretty dismal image and I can see no end to this.

I still however stand by my principles and just can’t bring myself to participate in such practices. I feel that local business and probably much foreign business has formed the view that to do business in this environment you just have to be corrupt. XXX is much the same - could lead this country - has the drive and determination but, after having spent much effort, can’t participate in the necessary corrupt practices to get into the Parliament as XXX says she has morals - morals from the old times. She is precisely the sort of person that this country needs - I say this without hesitation. Unfortunately I see no others of merit - they are all compromised - all corrupt.

An interesting interlude was had the other day. I was doing 83 kmph in a 60 kmph zone - just did not see the sign. The police officers did not speak English. They asked for money - about USD50. Naturally I refused to pay - they said we would have to go to the court - I was actually pretty abusive - they turned up with a piece of paper with amount of money written on it. I told them to do what the law said and indicated that if they asked for money again I would go straight to the prosecutor’s office and lodge a formal complaint. Along with a few expletives they would know but would never have heard from a motorist before. After some argument I was a little too much for them and they said go go.

This is the Balkans. I can’t see a resolution - the EU has not the political will to rein in a member state in any meaningful way. The Government is managed by old commies and the police and the state secret service and they really do still pull the strings - there is a huge amount of money laundering from all sorts of illegal activity - prostitution, drugs, illegal import/export, armaments. I also suspect that Bulgaria has become a funnel for the laundering of money from Kosovo and Serbia and a channel into the EU for drugs. I have no idea how this will improve. It really is a most dismal picture here. "

My response to him was that as long as people such as he are prepared to take such matters to the court of public opinion, there is always a hope that things will in fact change for the better.

We would need to start getting worried only if people and institutions stop being vocal about such issues.

Prabhu Guptara