Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

BULGARIA SHOULD DO ITS HOMEWORK

H.E. Prokopios Mandzuranis, Ambassador of Greece in Sofia, to the BANKER weeklyYour Excellency, only one chapter of the pre-accession negotiations between the European Union (EU) and Bulgaria was closed while Greece was holding the EU Presidency. What is your explanation of that stringency on the part of Greece?- This is not stringency. Let's go back six months earlier. The statements of the Greek Presidency about the pre-accession processes facing Bulgaria and Romania were quite clear and based on the Copenhagen decisions for these countries' admittance to the EU in 2007. Negotiations with them are held by the European Commission (EC) which also prepares the technical files. During two of the months of the Greek Presidency the EC was occupied with the war in Iraq. And throughout its mandate the Presidency's vocation is to solve the big global problems as a priority. I believe that these six months (including the war in Iraq) were decisive for pushing forward the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania. We closed the chapter on transport and we are preparing everything, connected with the EU's position on the competition policy chapter. I hope that chapter would be closed soon, too. What mandatory conditions should Bulgaria fulfill (from the point of view of Greece) in order to be accepted to the EU?- Greece itself does not have a different attitude or different requirements from those of the EU. The EC's analysis showed that Bulgaria and Romania should do their homework. And this means one thing - reforms. These reforms should be carried out by both the Bulgarian and the Romanian government. Bulgaria has an excellent team for conducting the negotiations with the EU, headed by Meglena Kuneva, which is very efficient. Bulgaria has so far closed 24 chapters. Three economic and three technical chapters remain to be closed. The economic ones will be a subject of negotiations when the EU makes the respective decision regarding the financial prospects for the 2007-2013 period. Negotiations are going on well and I do not have any reason to think there are serious problems.Has Greece lost any of its sovereignty after joining the EU? Do the Greeks feel nostalgia for the drachma? In 1981 when your country was admitted to the EU, Europe did not have a common monetary policy. - We all feel nostalgia for the drachma, but this is the emotional side of the matter. The drachma appeared some 2,700 years ago and is nevertheless a history already. In that sense, we could indeed speak about surrender of the national sovereignty. It is true that back in 1981 Europe did not have a common monetary policy. But since the very establishment of the EU all its members have realized that the concessions at the expense of the national will be more and more... In 1987 when the common economic market was being prepared with its four great freedoms - the free movement of people, capital, goods, and services - Jacques Delore said that a common monetary unit would be necessary, and this was approved by most European countries. This is the purport of the common European market. Today the euro is strong and will remain strong. It cannot disappear, no matter what some people might think. In 1981 Greece exported agricultural output worth USD10BN, but just a few years later it had to import farm products worth USD20BN, and reduce by 20% its steel production... And Bulgaria is demanded to decommission units 3 and 4 of its Nuclear Power Plant of Kozlodoui. Greece supports that requirement. How far do you think compromises made by the EU candidate countries should reach?- The EU is a world of negotiations, Europe is a child of rationalism. This means that when we present out stances with sound arguments nobody would be able to reject them. The Greek economy was gradually restructured in such a way that profits in some branches compensated the losses in others. Concerning the decommissioning of Kozlodoui N-plant's units 3 and 4, Bulgaria has undertaken that commitment within the framework of its negotiations with the EC, and I suppose the country knows very well why it has done that. Bulgaria could always ask for compensations when this is in compliance with the logics of negotiations. If you expect to suffer losses in the generation of electricity, then ask for something in compensation from the EC. I would like to repeat that the EU is a world of negotiations. As far as Greece is concerned, it has never supported neither of the requirements - i.e. for decommissioning the reactors or not. Indeed, there is an anti-nuclear culture in Greece, directed against the generation of electricity by N-plants. There are other countries that share the same culture - Austria for example. But we never intervene in the negotiations with the EC. Therefore, I would like to clear up that misunderstanding because I heard from many Bulgarians, and even from officials, that Greece did not want a technical inspection of Kozlodoui to be conducted. I'd like to explain that Greece did not want that to be done during its Presidency. Thus, it proved its good will not to bind itself with that issue. I believe my country acted properly.

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