Daniel Smilov https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/9886/all cached version 05/07/2018 05:00:26 en The argument against compassion: Europe and the refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/daniel-smilov/argument-against-compassion-europe-and-refugees <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>These justifications seem to be logically weak: the problem, however, is that they capture the imagination of large masses of people in Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3073806(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3073806(1).jpg" alt="Syrian refugee in Voenna Rampa complex, Bulgaria, 2013. " title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Syrian refugee in Voenna Rampa complex, Bulgaria, 2013. Demotix/Katya Yordanova.All rights reserved./</span></span></span>Europe faces choices of which future generations will be either proud or deeply ashamed. In 1943, Bulgarians – politicians, members of the clergy, intellectuals and other citizens – effectively stopped the deportation of the 50,000-strong Jewish community from the country. This is now a reason for justified national pride or, more appropriately, for a feeling of fulfilled moral duty. </p> <p>At the same time, however, Bulgarians did not do anything (or not enough) to prevent the deportation of 11,000 Jews from territories in Greece and Macedonia occupied by the Bulgarian army (albeit under German overall command). The second episode – for which there is no moral justification – is a reason for shame and embarrassment. This is the moral tally of only one European nation from the 1940s, and nothing can be done now to erase it from history or national consciousness.</p> <p>Similarly, when the dust from the current refugee crisis settles, the most pressing question will be - who were the nations that failed to live up to basic standards of humanity; who refused to offer help to people in extreme distress caused by raging war and violence. On top of that, there will be another issue: did Europe, as a political entity, manage to find a humane and efficient answer to a difficult situation? Indeed, the scale of the crisis is now so dramatic, that left on their own some of the smaller countries – such as Greece, Hungary or Bulgaria – could hardly cope with it. </p> <p>Against this background, it is surprising that many such smaller nations from eastern Europe and elsewhere – such as the Visegrad Four, for instance – are positioning themselves against the European Commission’s proposed common response to the refugee situation, and especially to the ‘quota’ system of allocation of migrants. They seem to argue for a policy of ‘closure’ of borders through a system of walls, as measures stopping or redirecting the flow of refugees. In short, this position is a refusal of compassion, an attempt to shift the responsibility onto somebody else.</p> <p>Below I review the most popular arguments used to ‘justify’ such a position. On closer inspection they all seem to be logically weak: the problem, however, is that they capture the imagination of large masses of people in Europe.</p> <p><em>“Europe is becoming Muslim”</em></p> <p>It is unclear how the intake of several million refugees from the war-torn areas of the Middle East (all amount to around ten million people at present) will noticeably alter the sociological outlook of over 500 million Europeans. This argument fails solely on the basis of simple mathematics. As <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/09/opinion/eastern-europes-compassion-deficit-refugees-migrants.html?_r=0">Ivan Krastev has argued</a>, the negative demographic trends in most of the European countries have contributed to a collective feeling of an impending “exit from history”, which is only exacerbated by the influx of foreigners. </p> <p>But the twilight and decline of Europe has been around for more than a century, and the EU is still the most economically powerful political entity in the world. In this sense, Europeans are affluent enough to afford other forms of collective psychotherapy, which will tackle their fears of extinction. Most of which are anyhow imaginary, given the vast resources at the disposal of the people living in Europe. </p> <p><em>“There will be huge Muslim enclaves in specific countries” </em></p> <p>Yes, there will be such enclaves but only if there is no mandatory “quota” system of allocation of refugees among the different states. In its absence, people will be concentrated in the countries of entry – such as Greece and Italy. The quota system will actually allow for rational accommodation of refugees, taking into account the resources and capacities of each of the member states. The question is not whether the current proposal of the EC is perfect: details may be further adjusted. But <em>some</em> quota system is rational and justified as policy.</p> <p><em>“Europe has no resources for the accommodation of refugees”</em></p> <p>This is actually a rather shameful argument. If it carries the day, it would turn out that Europeans prefer a little bit more of pocket money to the respect for the basic moral duty to help people in serious trouble. Simply, Europe – in comparative terms – is very rich, and has more than sufficient resources to deal with this refugee crisis. The question is one of an effort in solidarity: that all nations do proportionately what is necessary. Chancellor Merkel, yet again, has shown leadership at the crucial moment and declared that Germany – the most powerful member state – will carry the biggest financial and logistical burden of accommodation. This much accomplished, the rest of the countries simply need to follow the good example (actually as some have already done).</p> <p><em>“Europe is losing its (presumably Christian) identity” </em></p> <p>This is the argument through which public discourse leaves the rather mundane calculations of costs and attains an almost metaphysical level of debt and abstraction. Leaving aside most of the nonsense often churned out in discussions of ‘identity’, it needs to be said that Europe will definitely not lose its Kantian and Enlightenment identity, if it fulfils its moral duty. Neither is it going to act in a non-Christian manner, if it helps people in dire circumstances and shows compassion. Other ‘identities’ – such as a putative totalitarian one based on Nazi and communist legacies – may be negatively affected, if Europe refrains from building camps under guard and barbed-wire walls. But this is not a cause for concern: actually, rather the opposite. </p> <p><em>“The refugee crisis spells the end of liberal Europe”</em></p> <p>This is a rather hypocritical argument used mostly by non-liberals ‘concerned’ for the fate of liberalism. It implies that the European project of free movement of people, goods, capital and services is untenable and doomed to failure. Moreover, sometimes this very model of the four freedoms is blamed for the current problems with the influx of refugees. The argument goes well with apocalyptic visions of the future of a united Europe. But it is very paradoxical in nature, since part of the success of the European project – the fact that it is attractive for people from other regions of the world – is used as an omen for the impending end of Europe. It would have been more logical to prophesy the doom of liberal Europe if its own people were fleeing the region. </p> <p>Indeed, for management purposes some temporary restrictions on freedom of movement may be inevitable due to the refugee crisis. But this does not mean that such exceptions to the rules would undermine them beyond repair. Exceptions normally just confirm the basic rules.</p> <p><em>“Europe needs a wall for its salvation”</em></p> <p>Walls per se have never saved Europe historically. In 1453 Constantinople – the centre of the civilized world for a thousand years, the pride of Christianity – was conquered by its enemies, when it started to resort mostly to its walls for its defence. What could actually ‘save’ Europe, if it is in need of saving, is a dynamic economy and efficient coordination among the EU member states. Other factors are good education, research and innovation, the capacity to solve collective action problems. Compared to these, walls, as a strategy, are a little bit better than hiding one’s head in the sand. </p> <p>This does not mean that certain walls cannot be useful, as a means of controlling and directing the flow of migrants and refugees. But walls are definitely not a substitute for a sound policy of acceptance and accommodation of refugees.</p> <p><em>“The refugees are actually economic migrants searching for a better life”</em></p> <p>The distinction between the two categories – refugees and migrants - is important: the moral and legal duty to help the former is much stronger and explicit. Therefore, the most pressing problem is to deal with the refugees coming from areas of violent conflict. Economic migration is a different type of challenge –albeit a very important one. But it could be dealt with by a different set of policies, which are more restrictive and more discriminative vis-à-vis respective applicants. </p> <p>Some have argued that Syrians cease being refugees the moment they leave Turkey or Jordan for Europe: they become economic migrants, since their lives have already been saved by the first country of entry. Leaving aside the legal side of the issue, such a manipulation of labels has little moral or political merit. The truth is that countries in the Middle East cannot handle the refugee influx, even if they are helped financially by Europe and others. People cannot be kept in tent camps indefinitely, neither can the economies of Middle East countries absorb the newcomers meaningfully. In this sense, shifting the burden to Turkey or Jordan does not absolve Europe of its moral responsibility. True, Gulf states could themselves do much more to help the refugees. But their failure to live up to basic moral standards cannot be an excuse for Europe to do the same. </p> <p><em>“Europe must close its doors to terrorists which have surely infiltrated the refugees”</em></p> <p>The security challenge caused by large masses of people coming from the Middle East is definitely enormous. The security services of the EU member states must act very professionally and efficiently. Probably, incidents and security failures are inevitable. To reduce this probability even certain temporary restrictions of liberties, closer scrutiny of newcomers and other measures could be discussed. But none of this is a reason for rejecting all refugees on security grounds. </p> <p><em>“Instead of accepting refugees, send troops to Syria to solve the problem”</em></p> <p>This is a popular argument, especially among people whose states have nothing of substance to send to the Middle East in military terms. Generally, this is an appeal for action to the US and some of the EU member states – like the UK and France, which have military capabilities. In general, an armed response to the so-called Islamic State is necessary by whatever means. This response is not, however, a substitute for a common European policy for the acceptance of refugees. Indeed, if the US and Europe share the burden of the efforts – the US taking the military part, while the EU deal more with the refugee part of the problem – the overall result is bound to be more successful. What is important is to realize that a swift military solution to the refugee situation does not exist. After all, the US had a significant military presence in Iraq, and invested heavily in the creation of Iraqi armed forces, which disintegrated the moment American troops left. This example shows that a long term plan of intervention must be designed in which the local people take real ownership. Ready-made recipes in this direction do not seem to exist, however, and success is by no means guaranteed. Therefore, in the meantime the refugee situation must be alleviated in a humane manner, and Europe cannot neglect its moral and political responsibility for that.</p> <p><em>“It is not our responsibility! The Americans have to deal with the refugees!”</em></p> <p>The question of moral responsibility for the refugee crisis has become a rallying point for pro-Russian and anti-American feelings, especially in eastern Europe. American foreign policy in the Middle East is commonly blamed for all evils: it allegedly opened a Pandora box with the intervention in Iraq after 2001. This argument starts from a salient point: the deposition of Saddam’s regime by the US (and the “coalition of the willing” in which many European states took part) was ultimately an unsuccessful operation, because it failed to create stable and sustainable government in post-war Iraq. But the other premise of the argument - that had the regimes of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad stayed in power intact, the Middle East would have been a better, safer and more peaceful place – is highly questionable. After all, dictatorial regimes proved vulnerable to ‘Arab springs’ for which the US and its allies cannot be seriously blamed. All in all, this argument exaggerates the power of the US to influence developments in the Middle East, forgets about the European input in the alleged foreign policy failures, and neglects the power of other countries – such as Russia, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia – to frame politics in the region. </p> <p>No matter what one thinks of US responsibilities and capacities, it is clear that Europe’s duty to help the refugees cannot be waived because of alleged failures of US foreign policy. When people are coming to Europe, they cannot be redirected across the Atlantic. What is more, Europe should not forget that in the eyes of much of the world there is hardly any difference between it and the US. And indeed, Europe has for more than half of century relied on the US for its own defence; it has benefited enormously from political stability and soundness of external boundaries due to the Americans. In such a situation, it is normal to share with them the responsibility for foreign policy failures. </p> <p><em>“Accepting refugees will fuel nationalistic populism”</em></p> <p><a href="//localhost/,%20http/::www.nytimes.com:2015:09:09:opinion:eastern-europes-compassion-deficit-refugees-migrants.html%3F_r=0">Slavoj Zizek has argued</a> plausibly that a policy of open doors for refugees will lead to a populist revolt in Europe, or at least in some of the European states.&nbsp; But if Europe closes itself up it would be taken over by the populist even without a revolt: after all, their agenda would have become mainstream politics. It is true that a common European refugee policy needs a strong defence by non-populist parties, accepting the basic tenets of liberal democracy. Probably in some countries these parties are going to lose ground to populists due to such policies. But it is really a paradoxical strategy to try to avert such a loss by accepting the main arguments advanced by politicians such as Viktor Orban or Robert Fico. Mainstreaming populism in order to defeat it does not sound really promising.</p> <p>Moreover, if there are no sound <em>other</em> arguments in favour of the closure of European borders, why should the EU do it just to prevent certain developments in inter-party competition? The rise of populism is a process which has been with us for more than a decade now. To argue that this process will be stopped or reversed by a specific policy regarding several million refugees from the Middle East is not really persuasive. </p> <p>***</p> <p>These are the most popular <em>general</em> arguments of those who argue that Europe should refuse its help to refugees from the Middle East. There are interesting local variations of these themes. In the poorer countries of eastern Europe, it is also common to hear that the local population is in a similar position as the refugees and deserves the same amount of solidarity and help. This is simply not true, however. </p> <p>Furthermore, some argue that countries like Bulgaria and Romania have not managed to integrate their own Roma people, which means that they cannot integrate refugees either. This is also a confused argument, since many Roma people have been actually integrated. For those remaining, the refugee crisis could actually be an opportunity: successful policies carried out with the help of the EU regarding refugees could be equally applied to some of the Roma people as well. </p> <p>Finally, some have paradoxically argued that Germany and other rich countries are going to take the ‘cream’ of the refugees – the most educated and qualified – leaving the others for the poor states. This curious argument tries to portray even acts of solidarity and compassion as essentially egoistic. The problem, however, does not lie in the actions of the German government, which does not discriminate among refugees, but in the capacities of eastern European economies to attract and retain talent: the moment they become more competitive, their comparative disadvantage will disappear. But all this has little to do with the current refugee situation.</p> <p>All in all, similarly to the Eurozone crisis, the EU is in a situation in which it has ample and by any stretch of the imagination sufficient resources to tackle a significant challenge - the influx of refugees. What is currently missing for a successful response is coordination, streamlined political action, and leadership. </p><p> The hope is that the EU and politicians, such as Merkel, are going to prevail over centrifugal and populist forces. Populism is becoming EU’s central problem, and it does present a serious hurdle to decisions from which all countries are going to benefit in the medium term. Whether the EU, despite raging nationalistic populism, will manage to establish itself as a successful political project is a very important question indeed. But it is an even more pressing question whether the union, and its member states, will fulfil their basic moral duty – to help people who desperately need such help. This duty should have absolute priority compared to other prudential, financial, identity or partisan arguments.</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bulgaria </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Bulgaria International politics Border crisis Borderland crisis Daniel Smilov Mon, 14 Sep 2015 07:26:12 +0000 Daniel Smilov 95941 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bulgaria's terror attack: a democratic test https://www.opendemocracy.net/daniel-smilov/bulgarias-terror-attack-democratic-test <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The response by Bulgaria's authorities to the mid-summer killing of Israeli tourists reflects the country's lack of experience of international terrorism, as well as specific internal democratic deficits. In such a context there is now a danger of overreaction, says Daniel Smilov.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A suicide-bomb explosion in Burgas airport on 18 July 2012 killed six people, five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus-driver, as well as the perpetrator himself. The attack occurred while a group of Israeli tourists that had just arrived in the Black Sea resort was boarding a bus intended to transport the visitors to a local resort. </p> <p>The Israeli authorities immediately linked the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18897772">assault</a> to Hizbollah and Iran. They supported the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/world/europe/explosion-on-bulgaria-tour-bus-kills-at-least-five-israelis.html?pagewanted=all">charge</a> by noting that it took place on the anniversary of a terror <a href="http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Terrorism/argentina.html">attack</a> on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, and by claiming there had been numerous phone-calls between Burgas and Lebanon in the days before the incident. Moreover, Hizbollah's Al-Manar TV station was broadcasting details of the bombing, with excited commentary, almost as soon as it happened. </p> <p>Bulgaria's authorities and society were taken <a href="http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2012/07/20/feature-01">aback</a> by this, the first act of international terrorism on Bulgarian <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/bulgaria.htm">soil</a>. The only significant precedents were domestic. In 1925, the <a href="http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/wrjp394.html">bombing</a> of Sofia's main cathedral by the country's Communist Party - intended to kill the Tsar and the entire government - took the lives of around 150 people. The Tsar escaped death (miraculously, it seemed to many) because he happened to be late in arriving, though many members of the military and political elite died. In 1985, a bomb planted on a train <a href="http://www.railfaneurope.net/pix/bg/station/misc_B/pix.html">exploded</a> in a carriage where mothers and their children were travelling, and seven people perished. The pretext was the Communist authorities' policy to force Bulgarian Turks to change their Turkish names to Burgarian ones. </p> <p>In the two transition decades after 1989, despite social tensions and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">bouts</a> of mafia-style violence, terrorism as an issue had no place on Bulgaria's domestic political agenda. It is no surprise, then, that the government, security services and people alike were unprepared for the attack in Burgas. The moment of panic after the explosion was brief, however, as the authorities focused on providing medical care to the survivors and (with help from United States, Israeli and other security agencies) investigating the cause. </p> <p><strong>The inquest</strong></p> <p>Yet awkward <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/john-obrennan/bulgaria-end-of-innocence">questions</a> about the operation of Bulgaria's security services were inevitable. Three issues came to the fore in the days following the attack. First, a particular embarrassment arose from media reports in early 2012 that Israeli intelligence had information about the planning of a terrorist act against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. It seemed that the Bulgarian authorities had not taken these warnings seriously enough, for the Burgas event exposed the absence of any additional security measures <em>vis-à-vis</em> Israeli groups.</p> <p>Second, Bulgaria's wiretapping efforts had apparently not picked up any terrorist threat, even though its courts give more than 10,000 permissions per year for surveillance of telephone communication: a number which itself is problematic. It was Israeli services, not Bulgarian, who spotted the intense telephone traffic between Burgas and Lebanon on the eve of the attack. </p> <p>Third, the lack of swift progress in the inquiry into the terrorist act became a source of criticism. It was revealed that the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18935976">suspected</a> suicide-bomber had a false identity, but attempts to identify him or to establish whether he had local accomplices thus far have failed. More generally, there is no conclusive evidence on which group, state or organisation is responsible for the terrorist act.</p> <p>In such a situation Bulgaria is understandably very cautious about <a href="http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n292000">placing</a> the blame on Iran and/or Hizbollah. Even though they are indeed the most likely perpetrators of the act, this needs to be proven beyond any reasonable doubt before the charge is made. The Bulgarian authorities appear to be far from such a level of certainty at the moment.</p> <p>Thus, the terrorist act in Burgas has exposed flaws both in terrorist-prevention (domestic and international) in Bulgaria, and in the investigation of successful terror attempts. The <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521616379&amp;ss=fro">history</a> of the country, the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/dimitar-bechev/bulgaria-terror-and-aftershock">absence</a> of such threats in recent times, means that criticism should be restrained. Yet the ease with which the attack was perpetrated has created an atmosphere where the security services' new vulnerability now makes them prone to post-factum overreaction intended to convince the public of their newfound vigilance.</p> <p><strong>The test-case</strong></p> <p>The tendency of overreaction became apparent in a much publicised <a href="http://sofiaglobe.com/2012/10/29/heightened-security-as-radical-islam-trial-resumes-in-bulgarias-pazardzhik/">trial </a>against "radical Islam", which started shortly after the terrorist act (although the indictment had been brought to court before it). The state-prosecutors' office, on evidence provided by the security services, had started proceedings against thirteen Muslim clerics. The charges relate mostly to the propaganda of anti-democratic ideas, as it is argued that the clerics are Salafists. The court case has <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/oct/26/imams-trial-tests-bulgarias-religious-tolerance/?page=all">attracted</a> huge media and public attention. There have been <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20121029-bulgarian-radical-islam-trial-hears-witnesses-amid-nationalist-demo">demonstrations</a> by both Muslim and nationalist groups in the town of Pazardzhik, where the case is heard. It has provoked an angry reaction from parts of the sizeable Muslim community in the country (around 10% of the population), and has become a tool of <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/29/us-bulgaria-islam-trial-idUSBRE89S0OB20121029">mobilisation</a> for the nationalists in view of the parliamentary <a href="http://electionguide.org/country.php?ID=34">elections</a> due in 2013. </p> <p>Among the many democratic deficits revealed by this experience, two are worth highlighting. First, from the point of view of <a href="http://www.parliament.bg/en/const">constitutional</a> and legal standards, the evidence invoked by the prosecutors fails to distinguish clearly between advocacy of ideas, and the existence of plausible and immediate <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/daniel-smilov/bulgaria%E2%80%99s-tense-week-spark-fire-and-solvent">danger</a> for the democratic order in the country (say, related to the use of violence). Criminal sanctions are in general disproportionate where the mere propagation of anti-democratic ideas is concerned, and in this particular <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/13-bulgaria-muslims-stand-trial-on-radical-charges.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=30404&amp;NewsCatID=351">case</a> there seem to be no proofs that the clerics have taken any steps towards action of a subversive sort. It is too early to analyse the case in depth; but its timing, and the massive involvement in it of the secret services, create the impression that it has become a vehicle for the authorities to demonstrate their capacity to tackle the issue of radicalism and terrorism. </p> <p>Second, the media coverage of the event is also problematic, since it tends to fan public fear of "radical Islam" without trying to critically examine the facts. The case has become a huge media opportunity for the nationalists and (to a lesser degree) the representatives of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (<a href="http://www.dps.bg/en/History.aspx">DPS</a>, the party of the Turkish minority) who use it for purposes of voter mobilisation. </p> <p>If this analysis is correct, it shows the tendency of contemporary <a href="http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=33&amp;Itemid=101">democracy</a> to overreact to terrorism and to make it a pretext for questionable domestic policies. In the Bulgarian context, it is quite clear that the Burgas terror attack and the activities of the thirteen clerics have absolutely nothing in common. But in a situation of public fear created by an act of terrorism, hard-pressed state-security agencies are tempted to undertake and report actions that might be unrelated to the real source of a threat, or to go well beyond the necessary response. Nationalists and the media also <a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=144810">pick up</a> easily on the topic, since it understandably captures the public attention.</p> <p>The guarantees against such overreactions offered by a contemporary liberal democracy are both familiar and fundamental: an independent and efficient judiciary, a pluralistic and non-populist political process, and independent and responsible media. Bulgaria's judiciary has been the focus of harsh criticism from domestic and international observers, as well as the media in the country. </p> <p>In terms of political process, the Bulgarian landscape does feature nationalistic and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_constitution/new_europe_3376.jsp">populist </a>players (such as the Ataka party), which thrive on fears of people of different religious beliefs and identities. Thus, the wider aftermath of the Burgas attack, such as the case against the Islamic clerics, has become a test of the maturity of Bulgarian democracy. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/"><span><span>Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/our-staff/Daniel%20Smilov-31.html"><span><span>Daniel Smilov</span></span></a></p> <div> <p><a href="http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/index.php"><span><span>Bulgarian embassy, London</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.novinite.com/index.php"><em><span><span>Novinite</span></span></em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.sofiaecho.com/"><em><span><span>Sofia Echo</span></span></em></a></p> <p>Venelin I Ganev, <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100757290"><em><span><span>Preying on the State: The Transformation of Bulgaria after 1989</span></span></em></a> (Cornell University Press, 2007)</p></div> <p>Daniel Smilov &amp; Martin Tisne,&nbsp;<a href="http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002065/"><em>From the Ground Up: Assessing the Record of Anticorruption Assistance in Southeast Europe</em></a> (Central European University Press, 2004)</p> <p>Daniel Smilov &amp; Jurij Toplak, <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&amp;calctitle=1&amp;pageSubject=3194&amp;pagecount=4&amp;title_id=7300&amp;edition_id=10361"><em>Political Finance and Corruption in Eastern Europe</em></a> (Ashgate, 2007)</p> <p>Richard J Crampton, <em><a href="http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521616379&amp;ss=fro">A Concise History of Bulgaria</a></em> (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2006)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Daniel Smilov is a comparative constitutional lawyer and <a href="http://www.cas.bg/en/cas-former-fellows/daniel-smilov-152.html">political scientist</a>. He is <a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/our-staff/Daniel%20Smilov-31.html">programme director</a> at the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia; visiting <a href="http://www.ceu.hu/node/15841">professor</a> of comparative constitutional law at the <a href="http://www.ceu.hu/about">Central European University</a>, Budapest; and assistant professor of political theory at the University of Sofia. His work includes (with Martin Tisne) <a href="http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002065/"><em>From the Ground Up: Assessing the Record of Anticorruption Assistance in Southeast Europe</em></a> (Central European University Press, 2004); (co-edited with Denis Galligan) <a href="http://www.ceupress.com/books/html/AdministrativeLawInCentralAndEasternEurope.html"><em>Administrative Law in Central and Eastern Europe</em></a> (CEU Press, 1999); (co-edited with Jurij Toplak) <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&amp;calctitle=1&amp;pageSubject=3194&amp;pagecount=4&amp;title_id=7300&amp;edition_id=10361"><em>Political Finance and Corruption in Eastern Europe</em></a> (Ashgate, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/daniel-smilov/bulgaria%E2%80%99s-tense-week-spark-fire-and-solvent">Bulgaria’s tense week: spark, fire, and solvent </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dimitar-bechev/bulgaria-terror-and-aftershock">Bulgaria, terror and aftershock</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/new_europe_3376.jsp">The new Europe: respectable populism, clockwork liberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">Bulgaria: the mafia&#039;s dance to Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/john-obrennan/bulgaria-end-of-innocence">Bulgaria, the end of innocence </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/entropa-art-of-politics-heart-of-a-nation">Entropa: art of politics, heart of a nation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/europe_blackhole_3796.jsp">Between elite and people: Europe&#039;s black hole</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Democracy and government International politics future of europe democracy & power europe Daniel Smilov Tue, 13 Nov 2012 03:40:19 +0000 Daniel Smilov 69316 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Daniel Smilov https://www.opendemocracy.net/author-profile/daniel-smilov <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Daniel Smilov </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Daniel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Smilov </div> </div> </div> <p>Daniel Smilov is a comparative constitutional lawyer and <a href="http://www.cas.bg/en/cas-former-fellows/daniel-smilov-152.html">political scientist</a>. He is <a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/our-staff/Daniel%20Smilov-31.html">programme director</a> at the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia; associate&nbsp;professor of political theory at the University of Sofia and visiting <a href="http://www.ceu.hu/node/15841">professor</a> of comparative constitutional law at the <a href="http://www.ceu.hu/about">Central European University</a>, Budapest. His work includes (with Martin Tisne) <a href="http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002065/"><em>From the Ground Up: Assessing the Record of Anticorruption Assistance in Southeast Europe</em></a> (Central European University Press, 2004); (co-edited with Denis Galligan) <a href="http://www.ceupress.com/books/html/AdministrativeLawInCentralAndEasternEurope.html"><em>Administrative Law in Central and Eastern Europe</em></a> (CEU Press, 1999); (co-edited with Jurij Toplak) <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&amp;calctitle=1&amp;pageSubject=3194&amp;pagecount=4&amp;title_id=7300&amp;edition_id=10361"><em>Political Finance and Corruption in Eastern Europe</em></a> (Ashgate, 2007)</p> Daniel Smilov Tue, 04 Oct 2011 11:00:34 +0000 Daniel Smilov 61800 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bulgaria’s tense week: spark, fire, and solvent https://www.opendemocracy.net/daniel-smilov/bulgaria%E2%80%99s-tense-week-spark-fire-and-solvent <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A local incident turned national conflict mixing anti-Roma sentiment and nationalist mobilisation reveals flaws in Bulgaria’s political order that demand a coherent response, says Daniel Smilov. </div> </div> </div> <p>Katunitsa is a village in southern Bulgaria in which Roma and Bulgarians - all of them Bulgarian citizens - lived peacefully for ages. It is known by outsiders primarily as the residence of a notorious figure referred to as“tsar” Kiro.</p><p>This rich Roma businessman - whose real name is Kiril Rashkov - accumulated vast wealth from the production of unlicensed alcohol in the years after the fall of communism in 1989. His influence was such that people viewed him as an embodiment of the fusion of wealth and political power that was a feature of that period: hence the colloquial title “tsar” - an expression that mixed irony, dismay and fear.</p><p>An incident on 23 September 2011 <a href="http://www.sofiaecho.com/2011/09/30/1165961_katounitsa-controversy">exposed</a> some of the dark undercurrents that have flowed through Kiro’s life and the Bulgarian society that has incubated him. In the context of a simmering conflict between relatives of tsar Kiro and some other local people, a 19-year-old boy died after having been viciously run over by a van whose driver (it was alleged) was acting on instructions from tsar Kiro or his relatives.</p><p>This <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/antiroma-riots-engulf-bulgaria-after-teenage-tragedy-2361944.html">incident</a> provoked a series of protests which began that same night when two of the houses of tsar Kiro were stormed and set on fire by a mob comprising mostly football fans from the nearby city of Plovdiv. The protests’ ostensible <a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=132583">target</a> was “Roma criminality”, a shorthand to describe the petty crimes perpetrated by Roma that reportedly are widespread in certain parts of the country; but they also acquired strong nationalistic and racial overtones, and as they spread across the country in ensuing days there was at least one racially motivated <a href="http://www.sofiaecho.com/2011/09/29/1165268_katounitsa-aftermath-two-roma-assaulted-in-bulgarias-blagoevgrad">beating</a>, of two Roma boys in the town of Blagoevgrad.</p><p>The political parties most adept at exploiting anti-Roma sentiments - mostly the nationalistic Ataka and VMRO - attempted to draw immediate dividends from the events in their campaign for the presidential and municipal <a href="http://www.electionguide.org/country.php?ID=34">elections</a> due on 23 October 2011. Volen Siderov, the leader of Ataka, toured the TV <a href="http://www.sofiaecho.com/2011/09/29/1165428_siderov-in-shouting-matches-on-bulgarian-breakfast-television-shows">studios</a> to expound on the dangers of “Roma criminality” and defend the protesting crowds as conscientious citizens. There were <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15140291">processions</a> of nationalists whose political slogans verged on incitement of racial hatred, and in the case of some participants their racism was explicit.</p><p><strong>The problems revealed</strong></p><p>The Katunitsa incident and its <a href="http://sofiaecho.com/2011/10/03/1167873_situation-in-katounitsa-calm-after-bulgarias-weekend-of-anti-roma-protests">aftermath</a> are hardly remarkable in comparative perspective, though in four ways they mark a precedent in Bulgarian politics.</p><p>First, the nature and scale of the turbulence - in terms of the number of incidents, the mix of spontaneity and (as it developed) organisation, the degree of violence (albeit only in some places), the prevalence of racist sentiments and <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,788868,00.html">anti-Roma</a> activities throughout the country (including the capital Sofia) - has been striking and worrying.</p><p>Second, in previous sporadic cases of tension (for example, when an Ataka <a href="http://www.bakutoday.net/multiculturalism-in-bulgaria-ataka-muslims-attacked-a-mosque-in-front-of-sofia.html">demonstration</a> in front of Sofia’s historic mosque in May 2011 led to violent <a href="http://sofiaecho.com/2011/05/20/1093040_injuries-arrests-as-ataka-muslims-clash-outside-sofia-mosque">clashes</a> with the police) there had been a relatively strong and fast public outcry. After Katunitsa, the public - although disproving of violence in general - was more ambiguous in its feelings, and many probably approved the torching of tsar Kiro’s houses.</p><p>Third, the way the police let the mob set the two houses on fire showed its bad mishandling of the situation in Katunitsa.</p><p>Fourth, there was a tangible <a href="http://www.sofiaecho.com/2011/09/30/1165963_the-politics-of-katounitsa">political</a> vacuum during and after the events. An immediate, unified and categorical political reaction was notable by its absence - whether from prime minister <a href="http://www.government.bg/cgi-bin/e-cms/vis/vis.pl?s=001&amp;p=0232&amp;n=1&amp;g=">Boyko Borissov</a> and the governing GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) or the other establishment parties. This may well explain the hesitation of the police in taking effective action on the night of the killing.</p><p>It is true that the authorities were caught by surprise, but a more decisive governmental response at the start could have defused much of the public tension. The failure of the political mainstream surrendered the interpretation of what was happening to the media and the nationalists. As a result, the Katunitsa incident allowed racist language to enter the pre-election campaigns at unprecedented levels.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>These aspects of the Katunitsa incident suggest that it should not be treated in isolation but rather be <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/09/protests-bulgaria">seen</a> as a crystallisation of structural conditions, political pressures and social frustrations that had been accumulating in Bulgaria over several years.</p><p><strong>The deeper factors</strong></p><p>In this perspective, Katunitsa can be seen as the culmination of four such elements.</p><p>The first is <em>a crisis of the party system</em>. The mainstreaming of nationalism and extreme populism started in 2005 with the emergence of Ataka, which built on the inroads made earlier by <a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=114184">VMRO</a> and other small parties. Of more lasting significance, however, is the disintegration of the “programmatic” established parties, which continues to this day.</p><p>The centre-right, which was dominant in the 1990s, now commands less than 5% of the electorate; the ex-communist <a href="http://www.bsp.bg/">Bulgarian Socialist Party</a> stands at around 15%-17%; while the rest of the public tends to give its votes to parties led by charismatic leaders (such as Borissov’s GERB, the nationalist Ataka [which wins less than 10%], and the ethnic-Turkish <a href="http://www.dps.bg/en/History.aspx">Movement for Rights and Freedoms </a>[DPS, which also accounts for around 10% of the vote]).</p><p>The occasional success of minor populists - such as <a href="http://www.rzs.bg/">Order, Lawfulness and Justice</a> (RZS, now represented in parliament) - completes the fragmentation of the party system. This, reinforced by the associated high voter volatility and low levels of professionalisation and institutionalisation, presents serious political risks for the future.</p><p>Moreover, the political and party system is almost wholly detached from the Roma <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,CHRON,BGR,,469f386f14,0.html">minority</a>, engaging with it only during elections in order to buy Roma votes (vote-buying in Roma ghettos is said to be rampant and to present a significant source of income for local Roma leaders).</p><p>The second element is <em>very low trust in democratic authorities</em>. A survey published by <a href="http://alpharesearch.bg/">Alpha Research</a> just before the Katunitsa incident showed that just 5% of people had trust in parliament. Many people feel unrepresented by the political establishment, and as a result some seek extra-parliamentary forms of participation - whose manifestations include rallies and violent outbursts.</p><p>The third is <em>Roma exclusion, which has been rendered intractable by current policies</em>. This exclusion&nbsp;is grounded in the Roma people’s poverty and poor (or in many cases zero) education. Any conceivable <a href="http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/eu-commissioner-roma-exclusion-getting-worse">solution</a> to this problem will involve a massive, publicly funded (and inevitably paternalistic) effort to educate Roma kids&nbsp;and to increase employment in the Roma <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,MRGI,,BGR,,49749d463c,0.html">community</a>. This effort must be sustained over a generation at least.</p><p>No political party or significant group, however, is prepared to embark on such a <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2011/0819_roma_haskins.aspx">policy</a>. The nationalists would strongly oppose any preferential treatment or benefits for the Roma, and the currently dominant economic&nbsp;fashion (for fiscal discipline, free markets,&nbsp;and rollback&nbsp;of the state) generally excludes the kind of large-scale public investments that a serious strategy would require. So, the Roma problem will barely improve, and <a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/ECAEXT/EXTROMA/0,,contentMDK:22526807%7EpagePK:64168445%7EpiPK:64168309%7EtheSitePK:615987,00.html">exclusion</a> will most probably only accelerate.</p><p>The fourth element is <em>persistent failures of the rule of law</em>. The enforcement of the law against the rich and powerful, and a neglect of the interests of ordinary people, has always been a <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100757290">problem</a> in Bulgaria. Furthermore, the arrogance of rich people who live above the law has become particularly visible and obnoxious in cases such as that of tsar Kiro of Katunitsa (albeit he is <a href="http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=132639">now</a> in custody)</p><p>In fact, the unrest there started as a revolt against a local feudal lord whose self-importance had become boundless. This agenda was quickly overtaken by nationalists and racists, but the initial anti-oligarchical enthusiasm continued to be present in most of the subsequent protests, which lent them the sympathies of sections of society which would normally be indifferent to or even despise political nationalism.</p><p><strong>The challenge</strong></p><p>Katunitsa is thus revealing of the tests which Bulgarian <a href="http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=33&amp;Itemid=101">democracy</a> will have to face in the future, even more so if urgent and systematic measures are not taken soon. The incident may have started as a criminal case, but an exclusive focus on law-enforcement will be insufficient to address its repercussions. The social condition of the Roma minority, among other problems, must be <a href="http://sofiaecho.com/2011/07/12/1121781_un-expert-urges-bulgaria-to-turn-roma-policies-into-concrete-action">tackled</a> in a meaningful way.</p><p>The incident should also not be met by paranoid measures and reactions against nationalists. After all, their actions (the aforementioned incidents excepted) have remained within the limits of legality. The generally peaceful character of the demonstrations suggests that Bulgarian society has the resources to accommodate ethnically flavoured controversies and conflict. But a reliance on these resources must be accompanied by the application of common-sense rationality rather than emotionalism by the political class. Since this class is today increasingly populist, sensationalist, and unprofessional, it will be a tough challenge. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/">Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia</a></p><p><a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/our-staff/Daniel%20Smilov-31.html">Daniel Smilov</a></p><p>Daniel Smilov &amp; Jurij Toplak, <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&amp;calctitle=1&amp;pageSubject=3194&amp;pagecount=4&amp;title_id=7300&amp;edition_id=10361"><em>Political Finance and Corruption in Eastern Europe</em></a> (Ashgate, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/index.php">Bulgarian embassy, London</a></p><p><a href="http://www.novinite.com/index.php"><em>Novinite</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.sofiaecho.com/"><em>Sofia Echo</em></a></p><p>Venelin I Ganev, <a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100757290"><em>Preying on the State: The Transformation of Bulgaria after 1989</em></a> (Cornell University Press, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Daniel Smilov is a comparative constitutional lawyer and <a href="http://www.cas.bg/en/cas-former-fellows/daniel-smilov-152.html">political scientist</a>. He is <a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/our-staff/Daniel%20Smilov-31.html">programme director</a> at the <a href="http://www.cls-sofia.org/en/">Centre for Liberal Strategies</a>, Sofia; visiting <a href="http://www.ceu.hu/node/15841">professor</a> of comparative constitutional law at the <a href="http://www.ceu.hu/about">Central European University</a>, Budapest; and assistant professor of political theory at the University of Sofia. His work includes (with Martin Tisne) <a href="http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002065/"><em>From the Ground Up: Assessing the Record of Anticorruption Assistance in Southeast Europe</em></a> (Central European University Press, 2004); (co-edited with Denis Galligan) <a href="http://www.ceupress.com/books/html/AdministrativeLawInCentralAndEasternEurope.html"><em>Administrative Law in Central and Eastern Europe</em></a> (CEU Press, 1999); (co-edited with Jurij Toplak) <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&amp;calctitle=1&amp;pageSubject=3194&amp;pagecount=4&amp;title_id=7300&amp;edition_id=10361"><em>Political Finance and Corruption in Eastern Europe</em></a> (Ashgate, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/bulgaria_3825.jsp">Bulgaria: the mafia&#039;s dance to Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/cas-mudde/intolerance-of-tolerant">The intolerance of the tolerant </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/new_europe_3376.jsp">The new Europe: respectable populism, clockwork liberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/thomas-hylland-eriksen/norway%E2%80%99s-tragedy-contexts-and-consequences">Norway’s tragedy: contexts and consequences </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anton-pelinka/hungarys-election-and-viktor-orbans-choice">Hungary’s election, and Viktor Orbán’s choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/sleepless_in_sczeczin_what_s_the_matter_with_poland">Sleepless in Szczecin: what’s the matter with Poland? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/bulgaria-and-russia-a-cold-marriage">Bulgaria and Russia: a cold marriage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/entropa-art-of-politics-heart-of-a-nation">Entropa: art of politics, heart of a nation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/austria_election_3973.jsp">Austria&#039;s sour victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/thomas-hylland-eriksen/net-of-hatred-after-ut%C3%B8ya">The net of hatred: after Utøya</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/austria-s-democratic-wound">Austria’s democratic wound</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/europe_blackhole_3796.jsp">Between elite and people: Europe&#039;s black hole</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bulgaria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Bulgaria Democracy and government International politics politics of protest future of europe democracy & power europe Daniel Smilov Tue, 04 Oct 2011 08:50:29 +0000 Daniel Smilov 61797 at https://www.opendemocracy.net