Spain's Euro-Affairs Secretary: I Believe in Bulgaria's EU Entry in 2007

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | March 15, 2006, Wednesday // 00:00
Spain's Euro-Affairs Secretary: I Believe in Bulgaria's EU Entry in 2007 Photo by Kameliya Atanasova (Sofia News Agency)

Mr Alberto Navarro Gonzalez is Spain's Secretary of State for European Affairs. His career began as Head of the Central America Desk at the Directorate General for Ibero-America at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From July 1980 to 1982 Gonzalez was Embassy Secretary at the Spanish Embassy in Honduras and between August 1982 and July 1985 he worked as Deputy Head of Mission at the Spanish Embassy to Czechoslovakia. Between October 1999 and August 2003 he was appointed Director of the Office of the High Representative/ Secretary- General for the CFSP of the Council of the European Union. He was Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Brazil from September 2003 till April 2004.

Mr Navarro spoke with Sofia News Agency Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova

Q: You last visited Bulgaria more than a year ago. How do your impressions from the country are different now, months before its scheduled EU accession?

A: I get more optimistic! Bulgaria's economic situation continues to improve and the EU accession enjoys the political consensus of all the major political parties.

I am absolutely confident that once Bulgaria is inside the European family in January 2007, you will experience a very positive evolution. In order for that to happen, the government, the parliament and the whole society needs to press ahead with the process of reforms with the same commitment.

Q: Spain has always been a staunch supporter of Bulgaria's EU accession in January 2007. Don't you get discouraged by the clear message of the European Commission that nothing can be foreseen as "the jury is still out"?

A: No. The European Commission has to be very prudent. It has to do its work and then the twenty-five member states will have a political judgment. Spain firmly supports Bulgaria's accession in 2007 due to political, economic and moral reasons. I am confident that once Bulgaria is inside the European Union Bulgaria will be able to fight corruption and organized crime.

Q: What do you expect to be the recommendations of EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in May?

A: The European Commission is an autonomous body and we respect this. I am confident that the report will give the most objective picture of the country.

Q: Spain sets a model in the absorption of EU funds. Which is the lesson that Bulgaria can learn from Spain in this respect?

A: The issue was on top of the agenda during my high-level meetings in Sofia. Spain has been backed by large-scale funding from the European Union and remains the biggest recipient of EU funds - structural assistance, cohesion funds and funds for agriculture. While Spain focused on investing the money in infrastructure, environment and agriculture, the other exemplary country Ireland focused on education. These are two separate, but successful, models.

Spain received EU assistance totaling 1% of its GDP, while those funds for Bulgaria will be about 4 % of its GDP. Don't forget however that the funds are nothing more than assistance. What is important is that Bulgaria presses ahead with reforms and maintains economic growth of over 5% and fiscal surpluses.

Q: When is the better timing for EU leaders to give their verdict on Bulgaria and Romania in November, as suggested by Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot or in June, as demanded by Olli Rehn?

A: I think it has to be done earlier, that is in June.

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