Speech by EU Commissioner Rehn - Bulgaria's work programme up to accession in light of Monitoring Report
Sommaire: Speech by EU Commissioner Rehn - Bulgaria's work programme up to accession in light of Monitoring Report (28 November 2005: Brussels)
Speech by Mr Olli Rehn, Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enlargement, EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee, Brussels
Bulgaria's work programme up to accession in the light of the Monitoring Report
Mrs Chairwoman, Mr Chairman, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to address the EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee. This meeting takes place at a decisive moment, as Bulgaria is on the eve of achieving its full return to the European family.
Indeed, Bulgaria has already one foot over the threshold of the European house since the signature of the Accession Treaty in April, and since Bulgarian observers started their work in the European Parliament in September. Their presence in the European Parliament will undoubtedly contribute to familiarise the people of the Member States with Bulgaria, and to inform Bulgarian citizens on EU issues. It will also help to influence positively the reputation and the perceptions of Bulgaria within
the Member States.
An important step on the road to accession was the publication last month of the Commission's Comprehensive Monitoring Reports on Bulgaria's and Romania's progress towards accession. The report provides a fair and objective picture of the state of play of Bulgaria's preparations.
In the report, it is stressed that now - 13 months before the envisaged date of accession - the Commission acknowledges the important developments brought about in Bulgaria over the past few years. I would therefore like to congratulate Bulgaria on its efforts devoted to membership, and the Bulgarian Parliament for its legislative work.
Moreover, I welcome the active part played by this Joint Parliamentary Committee and the European Parliament, and in particular the report prepared by Mr Van Orden, which highlights the strong and the weak points relating to Bulgaria's progress to date.
Let me now present the main findings of the Comprehensive Monitoring Report on Bulgaria in more detail.
As regards the political criteria, Bulgaria continues to meet them. However, Bulgaria needs to improve the functioning and accountability of the justice system, particularly as regards the pre-trial phase and reduce backlogs in the court system. Public confidence in the justice system in Bulgaria is a very important consideration.
Significant efforts are needed to effectively combat organised crime and corruption, especially at high level. As I said during my visit in October this year, we look at the track record, not commitments. Deeds, not words, count. The failure to obtain one single significant conviction for high-level corruption in recent years despite commonly available information on its scale is a cause for serious concern. No one should be above the law.
Determined action is also needed to improve the situation of people with mental disabilities, child welfare and the integration of minorities.
As regards the economic criteria, the current pace of reforms should enable Bulgaria to cope with competitive pressure within the European Union. The widening current account deficit should be dealt with appropriately and reforms of labour market should be accelerated.
As regards the acquis criteria, Bulgaria has overall reached a reasonable level of alignment. However, Bulgaria needs to step up its efforts to complete preparations and in particular to develop a sufficient administrative and judicial capacity to implement and enforce the acquis. This is important, as the acquis is not only to be adopted, but also to be implemented on the ground.
The Commission has screened in detail the legislative and administrative preparations across some 140 separate areas within all 29 acquis chapters.
We have identified a number of issues of serious concern, covering approximately 10% of the acquis areas. These are areas where, unless Bulgaria takes immediate and decisive corrective action, it is highly likely that it will not be ready at the envisaged date of accession. We can distinguish three categories within these sectors.
The first category covers areas where a technical solution is required. For example, Bulgaria must reduce the high proportion of uninsured vehicles.
The second category relates to Bulgaria's ability to reap fully the benefits from EU funds upon accession. To manage EU funds, an overall reinforcement of the administrative structure in Bulgaria is required. This includes the setting up of the paying agencies for agricultural funds and the required structures in the field of regional policy. Concern on this issue was also highlighted in the Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control where I participated just before this meeting.
Finally, the third category is linked to the functioning of the internal market and to the security of the European Union. These include for example shortcomings identified in the veterinary sector, which could put at risk the safety of the food chain in the enlarged EU, or the control of external borders. When identifying these issues, the Commission acts as the Guardian of the Treaties and applies the precautionary principle.
On 7 November, I sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Kalfin, in which I asked Bulgaria to take immediate and decisive actions in order to address the gaps and shortcomings that I have just mentioned.
The report does not take a view on the possible use of safeguard clauses. It is premature, today, to say whether the Commission should recommend triggering the safeguard clauses. There is still scope for major improvement in the coming months. It is not the time now to speculate on the Commission's recommendation, but for Bulgaria to concentrate its efforts on the goal of accession by 1st January 2007. The race is not yet over; it is now up to Bulgaria to show that it is able to cross the
finishing line and act as a reliable partner for the benefit of its own citizens first and foremost.
The Commission will continue to support Bulgaria's efforts to prepare for accession to the European Union. Our financial contribution will focus on measures to tackle the shortcomings that have been identified. The total volume of pre-accession assistance available is substantial, as the EU budget in 2006 for Bulgaria will be around €545 million.
The Commission will also pursue its intensive monitoring of Bulgaria's preparation. In April/May 2006, we will review the situation and we won't hesitate to recommend, if needed, to postpone accession by one year.
To conclude, let me stress again the important role that the JPC plays in the accession process, by promoting political dialogue between the European Parliament and the Bulgarian Parliament. The completion of the enlargement process will open the door for Bulgaria, and further extend our shared values on the European continent.
In summary, Bulgaria must spare no effort to focus on the implementation of its accession commitments. This is a difficult challenge to fulfil in the next months leading to accession. But Bulgaria is still on track for an accession, as foreseen, in 2007, if this challenge is taken seriously and with determination.
- Ref: SP05-316EN
- Source UE: Commission Européenne
- UN forum:
- Date: 28/11/2005
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