YAROSLAW LINDENBERG : BULGARIANS ARE MUCH MORE PASSIVE THAN POLES
H.E Lindenberg met Martina Iovcheva - Editor-in-Chief of novinite.com and The News.
Q:In your opinion will Poland manage to conclude negotiations with EU by the end of the year?
A:I hope so. I am an optimist. This is a very ambitious and challenging goal but I hope that we will manage to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year. It will need of course acceleration of the process of negotiations. Unfortunately the last chapters are the most difficult. I can share an expression of a colleague of mine who told me in the early 90s, knowing that we are about to start negotiations for EU entry: "when you open the most difficult chapters, the flatteries finish and the hard struggle of interests begins." So, now we are approaching this hard struggle when each party defends its own interests. But I hope that both sides will find a compromise.
Q:What is the public opinion in Poland concerning EU entry?
A:I have the results from a poll from February 12th. 54% of the Poles support Poland's negotiations with EU; 25% are against, 21% are undecided; 70% said they would like to take part in a referendum. These results are rather optimistic. This is a question of civilizational development, progress in all spheres of life and certainly joining the great family of European nations. The future belongs to the great united Europe and if we would like to play a role we cannot stay the outsider; we would like to be part of the common European policies: not the object but the subject and to have certain influence and we can achieve that only within the European Union.
Q:What do you think about Bulgaria' s joining EU? Do you agree with the recommendation at the Laeken summit, Bulgaria and Romania not to be included in the first wave of countries to join EU?
A:In general Poland is supporting the idea of enlarged Europe; Europe should be a unified body. The question of Bulgaria and Romania is out of discussion because they should become members of the European Union. We support such enlargement, in which Bulgaria and Romania will become members. The important question here is time. EU enlargement is a different issue from the NATO enlargement. Strict criteria need to be fulfilled for EU entry. There are no special privileges for EU entry for any country. From this point of view it is up to Bulgaria and Romania to decide when you will be ready to fulfil these necessary requirements. What was decided at Laeken was not a recommendation; this is realistic evaluation of the state of your progress in adopting EU criteria. You are aware of the gap, which exists not only between Bulgaria and the EU member states but also between Bulgaria and the central European states especially Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, etc. However, with a certain progress of your society, Bulgaria will be able to join the European Union very soon. That will not happen during the time of the next generation.
Q:Talking about this gap what were the main factors that helped Poland to achieve such impressive economic progress for a comparatively short period of time?
A:I think that several equally important issues were involved. First of all we have a very elaborate and very well prepared economic reform- a package of economic reforms, called shocking therapy. We had courageous politicians who didn't hesitate. Also our society understood the necessity of taking these measures in order to achieve certain results in the next few years. There was a very popular expression at this time: "If you need to cut off a dog's tail you shouldn't do it by small pieces." I mentioned this courage of the politicians because it was a certain experiment; nobody had done that before - transforming a state dominated communist economy into a market economy. The last factor that should be mentioned is the energy and determination of our society because without such determination and efforts of the society even the best planned reforms would obviously result in failure. It was actually a cooperation between the Government - our politicians and the society.
Q:In your opinion, what were the main factors that did not allow Bulgaria to have even closer to Poland's achievements? Was it that Bulgaria decided to "cut the dog's tail by small pieces"?
A:It is not a secret that the delay in Bulgaria's reforms increased the cost for your society. As you ask me this question now in the beginning of 2002, I am optimist because you've got a very professional government, oriented towards accelerating the reforms and speeding up the process of reducing this gap that I already mentioned. You have very good expert professionals in the government - young and educated in Western Europe with excellent professional background. From the point of view of planning the reform and implementing there is a very good possibility to accelerate the process of reforms but the other question is what will be the response on behalf of the society. Because as I already said without public support, without social energy even the best reforms are doomed to fail. This is the question that remains open and is the greatest unknown: Will the Bulgarian society be energetic enough to use these opportunities created by your Government and Parliament?
Q: In your opinion will Bulgaria receive an invitation for NATO membership at the Prague summit in autumn? In which fields should Bulgaria change in order to join NATO?
A: This is rather a question for a fortuneteller. Nobody from the high-ranking member states officials have declared who would be in the group to be invited at the Prague summit. In the case of NATO it is rather a political decision. Matching the criteria is important but is not so important as in the case of EU. Of course reforms in the army are necessary: they should be very elaborate. I am optimist. I do not see special objections against Bulgaria's NATO membership considering the fact that Bulgaria has played a very positive role in the stabilization on the Balkans.
Q:The first Bulgarian-Polish business club has been recently established, does Poland wish to enhance cooperation with Bulgaria?
A:Absolutely, we have supported Bulgaria's candidature to CEFTA and this agreement creates several conditions for the development of both countries' bilateral relations. I hope that with the progress of the economic situation in Bulgaria, the trade relations with Poland will also develop. We have been observing this process during the last few years, we very much try to increase trade volume step by step; it is not very great trade volume, the trade volume probably will not exceed USD 150 M for last year, which is not bad. So I hope that the economic relations will develop. Of course the EU membership of Poland and later of Bulgaria will act in favor of the development.
Q:What do you consider the biggest achievement during your mandate as Poland's Ambassador to Bulgaria?
A:Usually ambassadors make such evaluation at the end of their mandates. Mine has not finished yet. Also, I don't think that it is my task to evaluate my mission. My personal achievement was learning Bulgarian. In 1998, when I arrived here, I did not know a single word in Bulgarian. Now I don't speak with only sophisticated people or journalists speaking English or other foreign languages, I can speak with everybody. Bulgarian politicians perfectly know foreign languages but if you use their native language, it is natural no barriers to exist and the communication is much better.
Q:Are Polish and Bulgarian people different?
A:They are very different and it is a question, I think of traditions, historical fate and religion, maybe. Polish people are very impatient, very energetic, very active. It is not a coincidence that the processes of demolition of communism started in Poland. In history we either have to fight with all our neighbors or to prepare appraisals and revolutions. Bulgarians are much more patient and much more passive. Sometimes this is stoic approach is very nice: sitting at the table with one "shopska salata" and "Rakiya" talking to a friend is something very positive.
Q:Could you describe Bulgaria in three words?
A:I would say "Bulgaria is land of surprises."
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