Bulgaria, the EU’s newest member state, is fast becoming one of Brussels' main headaches.
Back in January, corruption accusations grew so rampant around the country’s road construction projects that the EU froze all related funding until further investigation.
Then, less than a week after EU officials visited Sofia to warn against corruption and organized crime, a prominent businessman was shot twice in the head in the stairwell of his apartment building. Less than 24 hours later, a former mafioso turned novelist was also shot and killed while leaving a downtown café. Their deaths only add to the 150 or so mafia-style killings in Bulgaria since the fall of communism –- none of which have seen convictions.
Now, Bulgaria’s parliament has reported that its country’s problems extend far beyond the new EU border. Bulgaria’s National Security Agency has found that Bulgarian drug traffickers, who do a sizable business sitting on the fault line between Europe and Southwest Asia, have close links to Arab drug traders who, in turn, fund Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
I’m all for the EU accession of Western Balkan states –- if nothing else because there is presently no other viable alternative for an economically and politically stable future in the region. But it's because of the lack of an alternative that accession standards have slipped as far as they have. And if the EU can’t hold Bulgaria on its commitment to anti-corruption standards, how will it ever manage the likes of Bosnia and Serbia?