Music will play, fireworks will explode and shimmer; then at the stroke of midnight on 1 January, Bulgaria, the poorest and “most corrupt” country in the European Union, will pick up the baton of the bloc’s rotating presidency. The presidency – chairing EU meetings and setting an agenda – does not have the clout it once did, but it is still a big moment for the eastern Balkan nation of 7.4 million people, which was part of the last wave of EU enlargement that reunited east and west.
Yet more than a decade after Bulgaria joined the EU, questions remain over its record in tackling corruption, while the presence of far-right minority parties in government has caused alarm. According to Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the EU. “No one [in Bulgaria] is prosecuting political corruption, there are no ex-government officials in jail,” says Ognian Shentov, chairman of the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia. “We have reached a stage of state corruption which we describe as state capture.”(theguardian)…[+]