Bulgarians were more downbeat about the progress made by the country in reforming its judiciary and fighting corruption and organised crime, a Eurobarometer survey published on January 27 2015 showed.
Released on the eve of the European Commission’s Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) reports on Bulgaria and Romania’s, due on January 28, the survey was meant to gauge public perception in the two countries about the success of the reforms process, compared to May 2012.
In Bulgaria, the vast majority of respondents still believed that corruption (97 per cent in October 2014 versus 96 per cent in May 2012), organised crime (unchanged at 96 per cent) and shortcomings in the judiciary system (96 per cent versus 92 per cent) remained important problems in the country.
Compared to the previous survey, fewer Bulgarians believed that efforts to improve the situation were successful. Asked whether the fight against corruption had improved compared with five years ago, only 10 per cent said that they believed so (versus 27 per cent in May 2012), while 48 per cent said that the situation became worse (versus 31 per cent in the earlier survey).
Only 13 per cent of respondents said that the judiciary got better (versus 33 per cent in 2012) and 44 per cent said it deteriorated (compared to 27 per cent in 2012). On the topic of the fight against organised crime 24 per cent said the situation improved (38 per cent in 2012) and 35 per cent said that it got worse (28 per cent in 2012).
This was in stark contrast to Romania, where perceptions showed a marked improvement in eliminating the shortcomings in the judiciary (34 per cent versus 20 per cent in the earlier survey) and the fight against corruption (22 per cent versus 13 per cent).
Asked about their expectations for the next five years, Bulgarians were more optimistic than not, with 42 per cent saying that they expected the judiciary to improve (versus 19 per cent who were pessimistic). On organised crime, 39 per cent expected things to get better (versus 22 per cent who expected matters would be worse in five years’ time) and 31 per cent said that they expected improvement in the fight against corruption (versus 23 per cent who said things would get worse).
Regarding the CVM reports, Bulgarians were remained largely in favour, with 79 per cent of respondents saying that the EU should have a role in tackling the shortcomings in the judiciary and fighting organised crime and corruption, compared to 76 per cent in May 2012, but fewer people were aware that the CVM reports were the tool used by the EU to assess Bulgaria’s progress on those issues – 44 per cent versus 61 per cent in the previous survey.
Overall, Bulgarians still felt that the CVM had a positive impact, but fewer respondents felt that way than at the time of the previous survey in 2012 – 61 per cent said that the reports improved the shortcomings in the judiciary (versus 75 per cent in the earlier survey), 54 per cent felt the reports improved the fight against organised crime (versus 65 per cent in 2012) and 53 per cent felt the reports improved the fight against corruption (versus 67 per cent in 2012).
Concerning the future of the CVM process, the number of Bulgarians who felt that it should continue until the country reached “a standard comparable to other EU member states” was unchanged at 78 per cent, with only 10 per cent saying that EU action should be phased out the coming years (versus 12 per cent in May 2012).
The Eurobarometer survey was carried out by the TNS Political & Social network between 13 and 15 October 2014, interviewing 2010 respondents by phone in Bulgaria and Romania, at the request of the European Commission’s directorate-general for communication. The full report is available here.
(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)