Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | August 19, 2002, Monday // 00:00

H.E Edmond De Wilde has been Belgium's ambassador to Bulgaria since September 1999. He has substantial diplomatic experience. Before his arrival in Bulgaria in 1999, for four years he was ambassador to Helsinki, he was also Belgium's ambassador to Kuala Lumpur (1988 - 1992).

H.E. Edmond De Wilde answered questions of Martina Iovcheva

Q: You have said that a too early EU membership might harm the new member in the same way as someone would hurt himself if he wanted to sprint before he could run. What do you think is a most realistic date for Bulgaria's EU accession?

A : Becoming a Memberstate of the EU is as much a "process" as it is a "decision" : One "decides" to embark on a "process", and then the process has to follow its course, otherwise it may run foul to the detriment of all involved.

This "process" is like a coin with two sides : first there is the process of negotiations on the adoption of the Acquis Commuinautaire, and secondly - and simultaniously ! - there is the process of implementation of this Acquis into the daily live. One side can not live without the other. The date of becoming a full member is automatically the date on which the two parts of this process are completed.

The EU-side is - and only can - be instrumental in supporting the process of the negotiations and the process of the implementations. Bulgaria on its side side is in the driver's seat for the effective progress of all this inside Bulgaria.

One can formulate a "guess" on the time that all this will take, but the "final date" can not be decided as such in beforehand, because the process and the progress are not just matters of political decision making but as much, if not more, matters of profound adaptation of the whole society.

This latter process can only be successful if it takes into account the absorption capacity of that society, because overspeeding may cause congestion.

Q: EU opened this year with the rollout of the euro. If all goes according to plan, EU will close with another major milestone: the end of negotiations to enlarge the EU membership from 15 to as many as 25. What are the factors, in your opinion that could delay EU enlargement by the end of Denmark's presidency?

A : The EU-enlargement policy under its Danish Presidency is the continuity of the one under all the previous Presidencies, and has come to the point where we have arrived in the last straight line to the finish.

All EU-memberstates and all Candidate-memberstates are eager to achieve the best and largest enlargement possible.

Between now and the end of the Danish Presidency there are still a number of issues to be settled, but if nothing extraordinnary happens it would seem that there will be no delay.

Q: Euro-integration Minister Meglena Kuneva said that Bulgaria would negotiate the future of Bulgaria's nuclear units with each of the fifteen EU members. What is Belgium's stand on the N-plant issue?

A : As far as the nuclear issue is concerned, it is my opinion that it should be handled without too emotional involvement of issues which are not directly related to it.

In addition, I would think that this subject should also be considered in the long term perspective, in particular the perspective of Bulgaria's membership of the EU, in which the energy market is on its way to liberalisation.

This means that Bulgaria already might consider itself as an open market to-be, and the important decisions on energy production might be taken in view of the policies of the other participants in that open market.

As far as the Belgian possition is concerned regarding the announced bilateral talks, we will first look at Bulgaria's submissions before formulating our opinion.

Q: Belgium has the intention to phase out nuclear power between 2015 and 2025? What will be the main problems that your country will face in efforts to concentrate on energy saving and alternative energy sources?

A : The energy policy in my country is not unidirectional focused on nuclear energy. When important decisions are taken, all alternatives and replacements have been considered. Already now we have several different sources of energy, including reusable ones. We do not forsee problems with our energy procurements.

Q: Belgium supports the US war on terrorism. Do you have concerns over other aspects of the US policy, notably its plans to take military action against Iraq?

A : Terrorism is indeed the enemy N° 1 of these days, and it needs an international cooperation and coalition to tackle it. My country is member of this alliance and will take up its responsibilities in those fields where it can be of best help.

Q: Belgium is one of only seven countries in the European Union where non-EU immigrants still do not have voting rights. Do you think this could change in the near future? What is the attitude in Belgium towards the Bulgarian immigrants?

A:Belgium is by tradition a hospitable country, but it does not appreciate to be abused on it. Immigrants have always been welcome as far as they respect the rules of hospitality, and Bulgarian immigrants are not considered differently than others.

The question of giving voting rights to immigrants is a totally political question, that can only be answered by the Belgian citizens themselves. The debate on that issue is still going on, so for the time being there is no scope yet for statements.

Q: What are the factors that could influence Bulgaria's chances to get an invitation for NATO membership at the Prague summit this year?

A : As for Bulgaria's Membership of Nato, just like with the EU, there are criteria and conditions to be met.

Bulgaria's Diplomacy has embarked on intensive consultations with all Nato-members, and Bulgaria's Defence Authorities have embarked on the full implementation of some necessary programs. Therefore I cannot think of major reasons against Bulgaria becoming a Nato-Member.

Q: In what fields cooperation between Belgium and Bulgaria should be enhanced and how do you think this could be achieved?

A : Our political relations with Bulgaria are very good, and on most international issues we act as partners. The bilateral cooperation between our two countries can still grow in the field of the economic and commercial relations.

Our business community in Bulgaria may be small in numbers, but certainly is very important through its contribution to Bulgaria's economy. Its presence and success are stimulating factors for other compatriots who are looking for partners in the candidate-countries.

Bulgaria however must be sufficiently aware of the fact that it is in competition with the other candidate-countries, and therefore it must focus every effort on opening and improving its business environment for foreign investors.

Q: Could you describe Bulgaria in three words?

A : It is not possible to describe Bulgaria in three words. To obey this rule I can only say : Bulgaria is lovable.

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