||The formal accession
on 1 January 2007 of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU is envisaged in the Treaty, signed in
2005. In September the Commission confirmed that Bulgaria and Romania may become members
of the Union as of 1 January 2007. The Commission however continues to monitor the
work of the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that the required standards are going to be
met on entry. Should Bulgaria fall short in any area safeguard clauses may be imposed as
part of the eventual accession arrangements.
||Bulgaria has achieved
much in its preparation over the eleven years since its application to join the Union. The
country now has functioning democratic institutions, a market economy, a modern social
welfare system that includes legislation for childcare, the disabled and minorities, and
as in Ireland an agreement between the government and its social partners for co-operation
in policy making. The economy has grown over the last few years at 5 to 6% per year;
foreign investment for the first half of the year has reached 1.7bn, and
unemployment - recently at 8.4% - is the lowest since 1991. Forecasts for 2007 are for
economic growth at 5.8%. In 2007 there will be pay rises of 10% for civil servants and a
general pension increase of 8.5%. Tourism should continue to expand there were 4.5m
visitors to Bulgaria (total population around 8 million) in the first nine months of 2006.
The EC requires further improvements in the following areas:
reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime; adequate measures to administer
effectively EU Funds. In the context of legislative reform the countrys Constitution
will be amended.
The challenges are:
incorporation into Bulgarian law of more than 140,000 pages of acquis communautaire.
of the countrys administrative capacities to cope with the implementation of the acquis.
the Union closer to the citizens; campaigns to publicise the benefits of adhesion to the
EU, and to explain the rights and obligations of EU citizens.
||Bulgaria would bring
the following to the wider EU:
stability on the Unions eastern border; Bulgaria is a member of NATO; a tradition of
tolerance among its varied ethnic and social groups.
increase overall in the size of the internal EU market.
diversification of energy supplies for the EU; through development of its own energy
programme as well as using the advantages of its good geographical situation.
its wider historical and cultural links, and good neighbour policies,
with countries from the region and with the former Soviet countries on its eastern border
which are now independent.
positive role in helping the Balkan states prepare for EU membership.
continued in right-hand column
|(continued from column 1)
||In reply to questions
the 1980s English has been the predominant foreign language taught; earlier German and
French were more important.
ruling coalition consists of the Bulgarian socialist party, Movement for Rights and
Liberties and the NMSS. It took some time in 2005 to establish a coalition with a
strong enough majority in the Parliament.
foreign policy Bulgaria has good relations with the US. Relations with Russia have been
improving during recent years.
The benefits of EU membership are multiple for Bulgaria and the majority of
the population is strongly pro-EU. Bulgarians see themselves as rejoining the European
family. The EU is seen a providing stability and a framework of common values, and though
the economy is not the main driver there will be economic catch up through EU Structural
Estimates are for less than 2000 Bulgarian work seekers in the UK
after accession; under earlier legal agreements there are already Bulgarians working in
the UK and other EU states. Bulgaria has a good education system - there are no
major concerns over a potential brain drain since many Bulgarians, for example those
working in the US as IT specialists, are expected to return home in due course.
Bulgarias Black Sea coastline has an agreeable climate; in recent
years, with 95% of the tourist industry in private hands, there has been a certain amount
of disfiguring coastal development. Since 2005 tighter planning regulations are providing
more effective controls.
Bulgaria supports the entry of Turkey into the EU. Bulgaria would
support its neighbours in their accession to the EU. Its traditional cultural and
economic ties with Moldova and Ukraine, as well as new states even further east, should
help to implement the new ''neighbourhood'' policy of the Union.
| We regret that the earlier report of Dr Velev's
speech included two errors.
We said that "The present head of government is King Simeon with a mandate for 4
years; he governs with a coalition including the Socialists and the Turkish minority
party. This is not correct. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is a former Prime
Minister and is the leader of the Simeon II National Movement. The present Prime Minister
is Sergei Stanishev. We also said that there were 400,000 pages of acquis communautaire
when in fact Dr Velev said there were 140,000 pages of acquis communautaire.