In 1994, Bulgaria scored its best result ever in a World Cup soccer championship, defeating Germany and making it into the semi-finals. The secret of Bulgaria's dream team? Organized chaos, as the Germans called it. For the disciplined Germans, who were used to following their playbook, the Bulgarians' chaotic style was unfathomable.
Something similar is now happening with the European Commission. EU officials see that there is something fishy in Sofia. But having been used to working with counterparts who respect the basic principle of the rule of law stipulating that formal rules are there to be followed, they face problems understanding how Bulgaria actually functions. Rules and regulations are adopted to transpose EU law into Bulgarian legislation But this changes little in practice, as key decisions continue being made behind the curtain. It all seems chaotic and only a canny observer can see that there is a method behind it. It is a system that intentionally prevents reforms, accountability and responsibility.
Brussels lawyers could suggest fixing gaps in public procurement rules or the Criminal Code. But they can't prevent the rigging of tenders with the active participation of the authorities. Or halt the appointment of judges who know they owe their positions not to their abilities and achievements but to the informal ties that bind them with politicians and oligarchs.
The recent announcement of the European Commission's plans to discontinue its monitoring of Bulgaria's judicial and law enforcement systems has been lauded by those in power. The Commission officials will gladly cease their futile efforts. Because, after all, it is not their business to fix Bulgaria's problems, especially if it doesn't want it.