July 27, 2003

Bulgaria and EU integration: What About Freedom?

Ruslan Konstantinov discusses the pros and cons of Bulgaria's possible EU integration:

Believe it or not, the EU actually can bring about something good. Western European legal standards and traditions can only have a positive impact on the situation in Bulgaria. It's too bad for the people of Bulgaria that it appears they need someone else to bring order to their house, but unfortunately the lack of pro-freedom traditions in the country has a strong impact -- and after all it's better to achieve a decent result with aid from the outside than not to achieve such a result at all.

If the story ended here, it would have been more or less a happy one, despite the described problems of the otherwise talented Bulgarians. It would also be far too complimentary to the EU -- something the Union definitely doesn't deserve. So, here comes the second part: what can happen to the horrible Bulgarian bureaucracy under the leadership of Brussels? It will stay. Maybe it will be less corrupt and a bit more polite, but as inefficient as always. This will further tighten the governmental interference in the economy in "the good old" EU way and result in more irrelevant spending of taxpayers' money, which is scarce anyway.

Unfortunately, the Bulgarians as well as the other Eastern Europeans can't accept only the good part of the EU offer; it's a package deal. What they can all hope for is that the EU, pushed by the global competition, will become more adequate in the years to come. If this doesn't happen, there would be more and more people asking themselves: What about freedom?

It is a difficult dilemma. While EU membership would probably improve the institutional framework of Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, the "package deal" unfortunately includes many undesirable regulations, bureaucratic requirements and interventionist policies that will hamper its development potential in the long run. Making the EU adopt more free-market oriented policies would be the best option for everyone but it is also the hardest one to implement...