Foreign Minister Solomon Passy Attends IGC Session in Brussels
18.05. 2004

Bulgaria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs attended the Inter-governmental Conference held on May 17 and 18, 2004, in Brussels. The conference was dedicated to the future EU constitution. This was the first joint session of the EU and candidate-states foreign ministers after the European leaders failed to reach a consensus on the future European Constitution at the December 2003 summit.

The ministers exchanged opinions during the two days of the session on the number of commissioners in, and the structure of the European Commission. They discussed the procedures for the functioning of the future EU chairmanship, the principle of qualified majority or consensus for approving multi-annual and annual EU budgets, as well as the scope of decisions that must be approved by a qualified majority.

The Irish Chairmanship of the EU will consolidate the expressed opinions after the IGC session and will make a proposal on a compromise decision. European leaders have already expressed clearly their will to spare no efforts in order to reach an accord on the texts before the EU summit scheduled in June.

Minister Passy met during his visit in Brussels with the Chairman of the European Commission. Romano Prodi, and with his Irish counterpart, Brian Cowen, and used the opportunity to present the latest developments related to the trial against the Bulgarian medics in Libya. “We are working together with Bulgaria for finding a humanitarian solution to this tragic problem”, Romano Prodi said, stressing that the case is related not only to Bulgaria as it represents a European issue. Prodi added that he has had three conversations with Libyan leader Muammar Quadaffi and has emphasized the gravity of the problem.

Minister Kuneva Adamant that Bulgaria Will Close the “Regional Policy” and “Budget and Finance Issues” Chapters in Early June

Bulgaria’s Minister on European Affairs, Meglena Kuneva, expressed her confidence that Bulgaria will close by early June the negotiations on the “Regional Policy” and “Budget and Finance Issues” chapters of the EU accession talks. She added that she had received assurances that the regular report of the European Commission on Bulgaria next October will be final, that it will cover the period since the start of the negotiations and that it will indicate that Bulgaria is ready to finalize the accession talks.

Bulgaria expects over the next two months 27 follow-up reviews on its compliance with the negotiation chapters. Thirteen of the follow-up review will deal with the “Agriculture” chapter, three – with the “Transport Policy” chapter, and one – with the “Environment” chapter. A follow-up review on the “Justice and Internal Order” is scheduled for June 5 and 6.

According to the provisions of the “Regional Policy” chapter, Bulgaria is entitled to receive about EUR 2.3 billion during the first three years: the annual amounts will be equal to 2.4 per cent of the GDP for the first year, to 3.2 per cent in the second year, and to 4 per cent in the third year, Minister Kuneva said. The negotiations focus on upgrading the social mechanisms, improving the dialog with the trade unions and local authorities and aim at overcoming isolation by training enhancing environmental efforts.

Negotiations continue on the other two chapters, “Agriculture” and “Competition”. Closing the “Competition” chapter is linked to the Corporate Income Tax Act, which is expected to adjust Bulgarian legislation to the legislation of the EU, Meglena Kuneva said. The current EU assessment is that the procedures for allocating state subsidies by fiscal schemes is not sufficiently transparent, shed added.

The progress on the “Agriculture” chapter is linked to the approval of the Veterinary Medicine Act by the Council of Ministers, Minister Kuneva said.

The European Union expressed solidarity with the Bulgarian medics in Libya

The issue of the sentences against the Bulgarian medics was discussed at a meeting within the 114th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, its Bureau and the Parliamentary Assembly leadership.

In the name of the European Union, the representative of the Irish presidency expressed solidarity with the Bulgarian medics in Libya. He emphasized the need to respect the generally accepted European values: abolishment of death penalty and justice in judicial proceedings.

The representative of the Irish presidency underlined the already expressed before Libyan authorities concern of the European Union regarding the death sentences of the Bulgarian medics, meted out in spite of evidence of their innocence given by experts respected worldwide. Concern was also expressed about the manner in which the trial was conducted and the attitude to the respondents during their detention.

Concern over the fate of the Bulgarian medics in Libya was also voiced during bilateral talks of Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Draganov in Strasbourg. Ways to assist in getting a favourable outcome of the trial were discussed at meetings Draganov had with the Netherlands' Foreign Minister and former Chairman of CE Bernard Bot, British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, Croatian Foreign Minister Miomir Zuzul, Maltese Foreign Minister John Dalli, Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Antonione, Spanish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Bernardino Leon and Portuguese State Secretary for European Affairs Carlos Costa Neves.

Two days earlier within the Consultative Meeting of EU Health Ministers held in Cork, Ireland on 11 – 12 May Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Petko Salchev asked for help the European Ministers of Health on the case of the Bulgarian medics in Libya. The Irish Minister of Health and Children Michael Martin expressed concern about the situation of the five Bulgarian nurses sentenced in Libya and said that the European Union Members States were particularly sensitive in cases of violation of the human rights. He committed himself to acquaint the Ministers of Health of EU Members States with the position of the Bulgarian side. Minister Martin will also inform the EU structures therefor, so that the necessary political actions are taken for a just outcome of the trial.

The dialogue between Bulgaria and Ireland will continue to develop even more intensively

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Solomon Passy received a delegation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Irish Parliament, led by its Chairman Mr. Michael Woods. The delegation is on a visit to Bulgaria on the invitation of Professor Venko Alexandrov, Chairman of the Foreign Policy, Defence and Security Committee of the National Assembly.

The support of the Irish presidency of EU for the completion of Bulgaria's negotiations process before the deadlines fixed by the country were discussed at the meeting. The two interlocutors agreed that the momentum gathered in the bilateral political dialogue is a good basis for its further intensification in the future, especially in the context of the forthcoming European Union membership of Bulgaria, in connection with which the wish of the Bulgarian side was reiterated Ireland to preserve its diplomatic mission to Bulgaria, raising its rank to the level of embassy.

The possibilities for assistance on the part of the Irish presidency for a positive outcome of the case with the Bulgarian medics in Libya after the court in Benghazi pronounced the sentences against them on 6 May 2004 were also discussed during the meeting. Mr. Woods emphasised that the Irish presidency of EU will continue to be closely involved with the fate of the Bulgarian medics.

Training programme, designed to acquaint local authorities with the implementation of investment projects under EU Pre-accession Funds, will be launched

A training programme on the rules and procedures for implementation of investment projects under European Union Pre-accession Funds, designed for local authorities will be launched by the end of June, declared Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Lydia Shouleva during her meeting with business representatives from the Region of Stara Zagora.

"A modern and relevant regional policy is indispensable for the accelerated economic growth of the country", declared Minister Shouleva and added that the individual problems of regions should be solved according to their specificities. "It is necessary to draw up practically efficient programmes, related to the economic development and EU membership preparation of the regions. This could happen as a result of the joint efforts of local and central authorities, as well as the local business", said Minister Shouleva.

Deputy Prime Minister Lydia Shouleva outlined before the business people the policy for promotion of entrepreneurship, emphasizing the Amendments to the Law on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and clarifying the measures in support of the establishment of new companies and improvement of their competitiveness. Mrs. Shouleva acquainted the businessmen with the new credit line of EUR 41 million, extended by EBRD in support of small and medium-sized enterprises.

EU insists before Libya to reconsider the sentences, following a demarche by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Immediately after the sentences against the Bulgarian medics in Libya were pronounced on 6 May, the Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ivan Petkov, who was in Dublin for the EUROMED ministerial meeting, deposited a statement on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Irish foreign minister Brian Cowen, who is currently chairing the EU Council of Ministers, to Mr. Xavier Solana, Secretary General and EU High Commissioner on Foreign Relations, to Mr. Chris Patten, EU Commissioner in charge of External Relations and to Mr. Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States.

Deputy-Minister Petkov appealed to EU and to the entire international community to condemn the decision of the Libyan court and appealed for the immediate release of the six Bulgarian medics.

As a result of the Bulgarian demarche, the EU presidency and the EU Troika immediately met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya, Mr. Abdel-Rahman Mohammed Shalgam, who also participated in the forum in Dublin. During that meeting, EU expressed its profound disappointment with the pronounced sentences and insisted before Libya to discuss carefully the need of immediate reconsidering of the sentences.

EU declared again that the satisfactory outcome of that case was one of the criteria for the further improvement of Libya`s relations with the Union.

At the same time the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Yuriy Shterk, informed the governing bodies of the organization about the decision of the Criminal Court in Benghazi. A statement made on behalf of the Council of Europe by its Secretary General Mr. Walter Schwimmer insists that the authorities in Libya should reconsider the court`s decision and stresses that the Council of Europe firmly supports the position that the death sentence is not permissible under any circumstances.

Gerhard Schoeder: Germany will do everything possible to help Bulgaria in solving the problem with the medics in Libya
06.05. 2004

Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg was on a one-day working visit to Germany on the invitation of Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who expressed support for the Bulgarian position with regard to sentences of our medics in Libya. Germany will do everything possible to help for the solving of this humanitarian case in the interests of the convicted, he emphasized.

The Chancellor highly appreciated the progress of Bulgaria towards EU membership and expressed his belief that our country would complete the negotiations within the Irish presidency. He emphasized that Bulgaria should not be delayed in the course of that process because of other countries. During the talks it was stated that bilateral relations were developing forward, being particularly dynamic in the trade and economic community. Schroeder emphasized the need to improve the cooperation in the energy sector.

During his visit in Germany Mr. Simeon Saxe-Coburg met with senior officers of DEUTSCHE BANK, RUHRGAS, E.ON ENERGIE, ALSTOM POWER, KAUFLAND, SIEMENS. According to the common German opinion an increased interest in Bulgaria as an economic partner is being observed. In support of this the results of an opinion poll among German companies working in and with Bulgaria were quoted, namely – 70% of those had categorically confirmed the substantial improvement of the business climate in Bulgaria. The poll was carried out by the newly established Bulgarian-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

An inspection of the meat processing enterprises for incompliance with EU standards began across the country
4.05. 2004

By 15 days to prepare lists of all registered meat producing enterprises on the territory of the whole country in order to make inspections and to close the ones operating illegally – that was promised by Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Boyko Boev at a meeting with the Association of Meat Processors in Bulgaria (AMP).

After the inspection of the State Veterinary and Sanitary Control regional inspectorates 108 fourth class enterprises in total were closed, enterprises that did not have any potential for restructuring, announced Dr. Iliyan Kostov, Director of State Veterinary and Sanitary Control at the National Veterinary Service. According to him chance was given to 5 fourth class enterprises that had projects approved under SAPARD and expected crediting. He also announced that the total number of the operating at the moment meat processing enterprises was 607.

In the last two years - by 19 March 2004 the total number of the closed enterprises in the branch is 397.

To respond to EU requirements the sector needs huge investments, said at a press conference the newly elected Chairman of AMP Kostadin Chorbadjiiski. This will naturally lead to raising the prices of meat products, people from the Association pointed out.

Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg: Our country’s incorporation in the EU regional policy is among the most important factors that will change the life of the Bulgarians
03.05. 2004

The successful completion of the EU accession negotiations, of Chapter “Regional Policy” inclusive, is an important condition 2004 to become “the year of Bulgaria”, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg said at the meeting of the European Integration Council, held in Vratza.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the completion of the negotiations was not the only indicator for our country’s successes in the regional policy. Continuous strengthening of the administrative capacity to absorb European Union funds, development of good and successful projects and placing of regional policy priorities at the service of the Bulgarian citizens is required. The incorporation of Bulgaria in the European Union regional policy is one of the most important factors that will change the life of the Bulgarians. That particularly applies to the regions, which need accelerated economic development, serious investment in the infrastructure and also to the border regions.

Mr. Simeon Saxe-Coburg mentioned the serious and successful steps already made in the process of our country’s incorporation in the European Union common regional policy. The basic legal framework for the implementation of the regional policy has also been created. The implementation of projects in the field of regional development and social and economic life is related also to the improvement of the business environment for the companies and the standard of life of the Bulgarian citizens. According to him the success of these processes lies with the central, regional and local administrations, the initiative of the business, the non-governmental sector and the citizens, and with the interaction between them all.

Verheugen: The big European project will not be completed until Bulgaria and Romania accede the European Union
1.05. 2004

Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen stated that “the big European project” would not be completed until Bulgaria and Romania accede the European Union, the Mediafax correspondent announced from Brussels.

Our plan (the enlargement) has made an important step, but two important parts of the puzzle are missing: Bulgaria and Romania which are an integral part of this project, emphasized Verheugen in an address on the occasion of the official accession of ten new countries to EU.

The continuation of the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania will be among the priorities of the Dutch presidency of EU

European Union enlargement and the continuation of the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania will be among the priorities of the Dutch presidency starting from 1 June this year, said the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Sofia HE Baroness Henriette van Lynden.

The European Commission, as well as the Netherlands judge each country according to its own progress. Neither Bulgaria nor Romania would have interest to decouple them in the negotiations with EU, because they would lose an important regional partner, HE Henriette van Lynden said.

As priorities of the Dutch presidency Baroness van Lynden mentioned the consideration of a date for starting negotiations with Turkey, as well as the Intergovernmental Conference on the new European Constitution. According to her Bulgaria is negotiating efficiently with EU and the Parliament is working efficiently. HE Henriette van Lynden expressed her hope that chapters “Agriculture”, “Regional Policy” and “Finance and Budgetary Provisions” would be closed by the end of the Irish presidency. With regard to Chapter “Competition” she emphasized that EC was monitoring the work of the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition. According to her after closing all negotiation chapters our country should focus on the enforcement of the legislation. According to her words it is necessary to see how in actual fact the reform of the judiciary is working, is food safety guaranteed and whether there are equal conditions for doing business in Bulgaria.

©SG 2003