Rumyana Zheleva: Bulgaria is unable to cast its problems away

BULGARIA

In an interview with The Capital Weekly Rumyana Zheleva, Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs explained that Bulgaria entered the EU with deficits in two fields – justice and home affairs. In due time problems occurred with the appropriation of EU funds. Somehow those problems intertwined leading to its bad image in the EU.

The management of funds, she said, was a matter of regulations and technology that the administration should be very well-aware of. She gave an example with the rejected compliance assessments for operational programs, stating the only thing that needed to be done is making sure the administration would correct the flaws as recommended.

In her words, the principle of decentralization would be valid in this process, and it should be implemented in ministries, as the plans of the government envisaged. Audit had to be carried elsewhere so that a clash of competences could be avoided. Minister Zheleva does not believe that the communication between Sofia and Brussels can be defined as “good” or “bad”, but as efficient or inefficient.

In the particular case with the compliance assessments, instead of improving the system, Bulgaria lost time in disputes about how good or bad it functioned. She emphasized that when an outside organization carries out the audit, Bulgaria can do nothing but accept its conclusions.

Minister Zheleva commented on the upcoming General Affairs and External Relations Council on September 14 – 15, where Bulgaria had to show that it is capable of actively participating in the European perspective of the Balkans and provide essential details. In her words Bulgaria’s main priority was clearly outlined – the enlargement of NATO and the EU had to resume.

Minister Zheleva commented that the candidatures for Bulgaria’s European Commissioner would be discussed “when the time comes”, and that the procedure was not open yet.

She explained that as Bulgaria was a member of both the EU and NATO it had to use this in developing its relations with other countries. She was positive that Bulgaria could contribute a lot for the comprehensive agreement that is to be signed between the EU and Russia, since its relations with the Federation were extremely good, as Russian PM Vladimir Putin assured.

The political relations between the two countries would not be injured regardless of the decision taken on the disputed energy projects, she noted.
Answering a question on her standpoint regarding Turkey’s aspirations for EU membership. Minister Zheleva stated that for Bulgaria, the prosperity of its neighbors meant stability. She declared Bulgaria’s full support for the Balkan countries’ European perspective as an option for reforms.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria did realize that each country would advance at its own rate and that each one needed to meet the criteria. Minister Zheleva was categorical that at present, without the Lisbon Treaty enlargement was impossible. She explained that Bulgaria expected to be treated properly by its neighbors.

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