Bulgaria Marks 10 Years of EU Membership
Bulgaria celebrates on Sunday ten years since it joined the European Union.
The southeastern European nation became part of the bloc on January 01, 2007, alongside Romania.
The two states' accession was accompanied by doubt over whether they were ready to join. While they were offered full membership, Sofia and Bucharest were also subjected to a monitoring mechanism exploring progress in the judiciary, the fight against corruption, and (specifically for Bulgaria) combating organized crime.
Ten years on, Romania is considered the more successful one in its EU integration.
However - and despite remaining the EU's two poorest countries - both have marked substantial progress in economic and other terms since joining the bloc.
Bulgaria's per-capita GDP has risen from 41% of EU average in 2007 to 47% in 2015. For Romania, the figures are 43% and 57%, respectively.
"There is also a smaller proportion of people in both countries at risk of poverty or social exclusion," Euronews notes in a report.
Economic hardship, with growth not finding its impact on "people's pockets," and the demographic and social dimensions of an ongoing brain drain have also been mentioned.
The two countries, on the other hand, have benefited from remittances sent home by expats, but more importantly, by a flow of EU funding that has helped improve infrastructure, even though part of its was misused.
Euronews quotes Romanian political scientist Radu Magdin as saying up until now both states have acted "like candidates for EU membership rather than actual members when they have been on Brussels stage."
In an interview with Focus News Agency, former MEP Ivaylo Kalfin - who has also served as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in previouss governments - has noted that Bulgaria is yet to tap on all the opportunities granted by membership.
Benefits, on the other hand, are present (such as free work and travel across the bloc, new business opportunities, and EU funding) are now a daily phenomenon and are therefore not perceived as an upside, Kalfin argues.
"We should think if we have done the best so that Bulgarian citizens perceive [membership as positive]. There is much more for Bulgaria to be done [in the EU]," he is quoted as saying.
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