German Ambassador: Bulgaria Failed to Avail of EU Membership
Bulgaria has failed to take full advantage of the benefits of its membership in the European Union, outgoing German Ambassador in Bulgaria Matthias Hoepfner said.
In an interview with public broadcaster BNR, Hoepfner cited the absorption of EU funds as a case in point and described it as "unsatisfactory", reminding that EU financing allocated under a number of operational programs was already blocked.
He placed an emphasis on the need to improve public procurement procedures, but added Bulgaria was beginning "to realize how important it is to address that issue, more over, [to do it] as quickly as possible".
Hoepfner also hailed "positive achievements" in Bulgaria over the past years, pointing the wakening of the country's civil society as an example.
"Nowadays one openly speaks on subjects that until recently were a taboo, and this is a success for civil society," the ambassador argued.
He also underscored that the presence of "private economic interests that emerged during the [post-socialist] transition and led to a certain interweaving with politics" Bulgaria's main problem.
The diplomat, who has been Germany's envoy to Sofia since 2009, Matthias Hoepfner, who currently holds the position, came under the spotlight last autumn, when he voiced criticism at media ownership in Bulgaria.
On Thursday he repeated media owners should not use their outlets to pursue "their own business interests" and stressed a change in that direction would be one of the challenges for the next Bulgarian government.
Hoepfner's successor, Detlef Lingemann, is expected to arrive in Bulgaria in August.
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