BULGARIA WILL SEND OBSERVERS TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN AUTUMN
Bulgaria will send 18 observers to the European Parliament in Strasbourg this autumn, it became clear after the session of the Bulgaria - European Union Joint Parliamentary Committee. Bulgarian MPs and deputies of the European Parliament take part in its work. As the BANKER weekly has already written, the Bureau of the European Union has recently made a special invitation to the Bulgarian National Assembly to field a team of 18 MPs to represent the country in Strasbourg after the signing of the agreement for accession to the EU in Luxembourg on April 26. The Bulgarian delegates will participate in the work of the European Parliamentary commissions and in its plenary sessions, but will not have the right to vote before the year 2007 when our country is expected to become a full-fledged member of the EU. According to Daniel Vulchev, Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission of European Affairs, the Bulgarian observers will hardly assume office immediately after signing the contract with the 25 EU member countries. In his words, the European Parliament will not be pleased to welcome observers who will be mainly concerned with the forthcoming election campaign in Bulgaria before the parliamentary ballot in June 2005. On the other hand, the opposition in Parliament will not be glad if the NMSII and the MRF try to push their own representatives despite the fragile majority they have towards the end of their mandate. Thus, one of the first tasks of the future National Assembly after electing a new government in the summer of 2005 will be to appoint our 18 observers to the European Parliament. Presently, however, it is not known if they will continue to be deputies of the European Parliament after the year 2007 as well. One of the requirements is that the members of the European Parliament are appointed through direct elections in the respective EU member countries. The problem is that the mandate of the incumbent Parliament in Strasbourg expires in 2009 and the next elections in the EU will be held then, when the member countries will probably total 27. In that situation it will be hardly expedient for Bulgaria to hold direct elections for deputies whose mandate will be only two years - for the 2007-2009 period. The case should be settled by a special law for elections for the European Parliament, to be passed by the National Assembly till the end of 2005 at the latest. The session of the Bulgaria - European Union Joint Parliamentary Committee, held during the week, did not give an answer to the arguable issue regarding an eventual referendum about Bulgaria's accession to the EU. The question was not included in the final document voted by the participants with the argument that this is a matter of Bulgaria's internal sovereignty. The EU deputies encouraged Bulgaria to continue its efforts for the fulfilment of economic criteria for membership. As could be expected, the remarks of the European MPs concerned the pace of judicial reform (especially criminal law) and combating corruption.