The Brief, powered by UNESDA – US leadership is back – EURACTIV.com
Like it or not, American leadership is back. If you ask the Bulgarians, they are delighted that the United States has dealt a heavy blow to a mafia system that the EU has tacitly tolerated.
For months, Bulgarians protested against the mafia system that was destroying their country. Many of them waved EU flags.
They were naive.
The EU has an army of officials who write reports and provide advice through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. But the Commission’s reports were of no use. The United States does not have an army of officials writing reports, but it does have an exceptional intelligence gathering.
And so, what made the difference, in the end, was the American Magnitsky law, under which Washington on June 2 sanctioned three Bulgarians, including two prominent oligarchs perceived as the embodiment of the local mafia, as well as their networks encompassing 64 entities.
The EU also has a Magnitsky law. But it lacks the proper ambition to be used inside the block. Where the EU spent 14 years writing several thousand pages of reports and got nothing, Uncle Sam scored big in one fell swoop.
And the United States said that was just the start. The Bulgarians are giving them a big boost. They know this is happening because America has a new president.
Under Donald Trump, the American Magnitsky Law disappointed many in Bulgaria because it imposed sanctions on bad targets.
Why is the United States doing this now? It is clear that it is in Washington’s interest to ensure that Bulgaria remains a stable ally, as corruption is a factor of instability, even geopolitically.
Looking at Bulgaria, let’s try to see the big picture. Joe Biden is coming to Europe next week for his first visit abroad. It is a powerful sign. Obama only visited the EU after his second term, while Trump’s first overseas trip was to Saudi Arabia.
The Biden administration will not be friendly to everyone in the region. People like Viktor Orbán from Hungary or Aleksandar Vučić in the Western Balkans, whose allegiance is completely blurred (EU? Russia? China?).
But let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. What happens if the United States is wrong? What will happen if, in the future, the United States Magnitsky Law targets the wrong people, in undue interference in the internal affairs of the EU?
Our point of view is that the EU should not outsource the task of cleaning up its own territory of corruption and mafia to the United States.
As discussions on the future of Europe have taken hold, this is a question worth discussing: how to ensure that the EU’s Magnitsky Law works against European mafiosi and autocrats. ?
The EU would be much more credible in sanctioning the junta in Myanmar or the dictator in Belarus if it were also able to uphold its values on its soil.
Particularly because, if the European Union does not change, in the long term, American leadership will eclipse the EU and render it useless.
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As always on Fridays, don’t forget to consult our weekly Agri-Food, Digital and Global briefs.
Be careful with…
- Plenary of the European Parliament from Monday 7 June to Thursday 10 June.
- EU interior ministers held talks on Tuesday, focusing on migration.
Views are those of the author
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/ Josie Le Blond]