BULGARIA WELCOMES EU REPORT, BUT NOT ITS DETAILS

Views on BG | November 15, 2001, Thursday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0

Financial Times
By Phelim McAleer

The EU's report on accession has been welcomed with relief in Bulgaria but also with annoyance that the country has been put in the same low category as Romania.

Bulgarian politicians and media had thought reforms initiated by the previous government and accelerated by the current administration were enough to separate them from their under-performing neighbour. A recent offer by Adrian Nastase, the Romanian prime minister, for the two countries to become part of a "tandem" on the path to EU accession was dismissed in Sofia.

There is now a belief in Bulgaria that their pairing with Romania as one of those who would not be included in the first wave was a political move. "They probably had to leave Romania out of the bracket but for political reasons did not want them to be alone so they added Bulgaria," said one political commentator who did not want to be named.

Bulgaria's politicians are officially withholding comment until the report is presented to parliament on Wednesday but privately they are pleased with its conclusions. The report found that Bulgaria is close to achieving a functioning market economy. According to Georgy Ganev, an economic director at the centre for Liberal Studies - an independent think-tank, the report is significantly more positive than previous years. He said the description of Bulgaria being "close" to a functioning market economy was a technical matter.

"The European Commission representative has said Bulgaria will open all negotiating chapters next year. One of the requirements of opening all the chapters is to have a functioning market economy," he said.

Mr Ganev added the finding that Bulgaria would be able to withstand the pressures of competition and market forces in the EU was very significant. "Last year's report said Bulgaria would not be able to cope," he said.
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