Last week I met Ivan Simonovic, justice minister of Croatia, whose bid to join the European Union in 2011 or 2012 depends to a great extent on how well the EU authorities judge the nation’s struggle against organised crime and corruption is going. Simonovic, an energetic reformer of Croatia’s judicial system, told me that Croatia now had “a stronger system of prevention and suppression of organised crime than in many European Union countries”.
He didn’t mention any countries by name, but it may have been no coincidence that on the same day the European Commission published its latest reports on Bulgaria and Romania, easily the two most corruption-ridden EU member-states. The report on Bulgaria struck me as surprisingly mild, permitting Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev to describe it as “a clear, encouraging signal that we are on the right track”. Still, the report’s final sentence pulled no punches: “No major court decisions on high-profile cases of organised crime have been taken in recent months.” Read more