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 Olli Rehn - Bulgaria's Success is Worth Celebrating

Olli Rehn - Bulgaria's Success is Worth Celebrating

1/3/2007 1:00:46 PM

- Dear Mr Rehn, when you were in Bulgaria last September 26th you spoke about the soft power of Europe and its ablity to transform a country such as mine, provided that there is a clear perspective for membership. Together with Mr Barroso you developed the idea that Europe should do more, including the member states, to explain the success of enlargement. Can you elaborate? Did the European Commission start already to do something about it?

- The European Commission has already started a number of initiatives to explain the success of previous enlargements, as well as the accessions of Bulgaria and Romania. And we have all the reason to do so, as the enlargement of 2004 is a real success story. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania on January 1, 2007 is another historic achievement. It is worth celebrating - in Bulgaria, in Romania and in the rest of the EU. The Commission produced a study of the 2004 enlargement in May 2006, which analysed the economic effects in detail, called "Enlargement Two Years After". It is available on the DG Enlargement website, along with other analyses of the impact of previous enlargements. We have also written a document called "20 Myths and Facts about Enlargement," which addresses the most common questions on the subject.

- Thank you for wearing a ribbon in support of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya. We will probably test our new statute as an EU member while dealing with this issue. Do you expect that Bulgaria will be more successful in its new capacity? If it is not, wouldn't it be a serious disappointment for Bulgaria, and a bitter lesson for other new members?

- I want to express my deep disappointment about the renewed verdict for the five Bulgarian nurses in Libya. My heart is with them and their families who have been suffering so much already. The EU has already been given strong support in the quest to ensure the release of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya, and the Union has a clear position on the issue. We will continue working in tandem with the Bulgarian authorities to bring the matter to a successful conclusion.

- Bulgaria as well as Romania will be subject to EU monitoring after accession. In case safeguard clauses are triggered after accession, wouldn't this be an interference in the internal affairs of a member state, since any government could be destabilized by such measures?

- First of all, it will be really up to Bulgaria and Romania whether the safeguard clauses will be a major chapter or just a footnote in the history of European integration. In other words, the reforms that help to avoid the use of safeguards are in the hands of the Bulgarian government, administration, civil society, people. Secondly, as the guardian of European law the Commission can launch infringement proceedings against any EU member states that breaks the EU law. This can lead to a member state that is in breach of European law being taken to the European Court of Justice. It is not unprecedented. Moreover, safeguard clauses are often used against the possibility of transitional problems in the first years of membership. This was also the case for the countries that entered the Union in 2004, although a few of them deal with immediate problems, such as aviation safety and swine fever in the case of Bulgaria. But as I said, if Bulgaria does what she's gotta do, an extensive use of safeguards can be avoided.

- Bulgaria and Romania were treated as a natural pair by the EU institutions in the years of their preparation for accession, and especially after the Laeken summit. Do you think this was a good idea? Would you proceed in the same way, say, for Serbia and Macedonia?

- All prospective members of the Union advance towards accession on their own merits. Sometimes two or more countries reach a similar level of readiness at some point, and so proceed in tandem. But such pairings indeed must depend on each country's own preparations.

- What would you expect from Bulgaria to contribute so that your task as Enlargement Commissioner to be more successful?

- I expect that Bulgaria will be a strong supporter of our carefully managed accession process in South-Eastern Europe, because Bulgarians see the positive influence of the continuing accession process in their own neighbourhood. The country has a direct and immediate interest in ensuring peace, stability and steady progress towards European values in the Balkans and also in Turkey. I look forward to working with my Bulgarian colleagues in the Commission and other institutions to take this process forward successfully.


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