The Worldwide Governance Indicators show that Bulgaria has made significant progress in the area of “control of corruption” since 1996. This finding contrasts with the general opinion of the Bulgarian population who perceive Bulgarian institutions as corrupt, and contradicts the decision of the European Commission to continue monitoring Bulgaria’s progress in fighting corruption and organised crime. Hence, there is a need for careful consideration and analysis to understand how much progress Bulgaria has really made in the fight against corruption. Can Bulgaria be considered an anti-corruption success story?
In this paper, the authors seek to answer the above questions by providing a background analysis on Bulgaria’s governance regime. According to research, Bulgaria has made some progress in its transition from patrimonialism to open access order but the main features of its governance regime remain these of competitive particularism. In legal terms Bulgaria displays some open access order features but they do not translate into practical implementation.
Following the country’s EU accession in 2007 progress has been uneven, and has mostly been driven by civil society demands for change, which culminated in mass street protests in 2013. Progress in the political corruption domain has been limited. Power distribution in Bulgaria has opened up to competition but is still concentrated in few political party leaders and powerful business conglomerates, interlinked in a complex web of dependencies with former secret service and communist party elites, which still have privileged access to state resources. Convictions, in particular of high-ranking politicians and administrators are non-existent or rare, a sign that the rule of law and accountability have not yet taken hold in the country.