Formal address by President of Bulgaria

Pressmeddelande   •   Feb 01, 2007 16:48 CET

A month after his country became a member of the EU, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov addressed a formal sitting of the European Parliament. Introducing Mr Parvanov, EP President Hans-Gert Poettering spoke of his "joy" at Bulgaria's accession. He congratulated it on the reforms it had made in a short space of time as a condition of EU membership and said he looked forward to Bulgaria's first elections to the EP in May.

Bulgarian membership "a triumph of historical justice"

Mr Parvanov described the European Union as "perhaps the most ambitious political, economic and cultural project in the history of mankind" and said his country's accession had been a "triumph of historical justice": Bulgaria had always been European in spirit. Bulgaria's and Romania's accession to the EU had also been "an important political signal" and would now act as an "incentive for the Western Balkan nations".

Bulgaria had made great strides to qualify for EU membership, including economic, legislative and judicial reforms, and he thanked the EP for its "constructive criticism and encouragement" in the process. More challenges lay ahead. Bulgaria especially needed to become more competitive and he pointed out that his country's "obligations to the EU have to be met now, while the benefits only arrive later!".

For example, Mr Parvanov found it difficult to understand why some countries would not open their labour markets to Bulgaria's workers. "The lifting of barriers will bring benefits to Bulgaria and the EU" and the "fears of migrant waves" after the last enlargement had proved unfounded. A key need for Bulgaria was better infrastructure - notably in communications and transport - and Mr Parvanov issued a call for more investment in this area, highlighting "well-functioning schemes for public-private partnerships".

Bulgaria's future contribution to EU policies

Turning to the future of the EU, the president said Bulgaria intended "to play an active role in the debate on the entire agenda of the EU", including the constitution, financing arrangements and foreign, security and defence policy.

On foreign policy, Bulgaria could contribute expertise in relation to the Western Balkans, the Black Sea and Caucasus. Other key issues where his country could play a role included "energy infrastructure, terrorism, illegal immigration and the environment".

Two issues in need of solutions: nuclear power and nurses in Libya

Energy was also a major topic. The President outlined the consequences from the closure of third and fourth units of the Kozloduy nuclear plant: the region faces an energy crisis, some areas have serious shortages. This coupled with the increase in the prices could result in political and economic crisis in the region, he said. The President said that he was concerned by the statement of the Energy Commissioner that the two units were stopped because of safety doubts. He underlined that Bulgaria, is more than anybody, concerned about the safety of its nuclear plant and recalled the numerous checks by experts which proved that there were no technical obstacles for the normal work of the units. Bulgaria is willing to accept a new peer review, he added and said that if there is the will to assess the complicated situation in the region, a decision can be found in the framework of the Accession Treaty under Article 36.

He then turned to the fate of the Bulgarian medical staff imprisoned in Libya, welcomed the "solidarity shown by the whole European Union" on this matter just days after his country's accession and urged that a solution be made "a high priority" for the EU.

Winding up, Mr Parvanov said "a strong Europe is possible only if there are strong leaders capable not just of imposing a vision but also of taking decisions". On issues ranging from enlargement to energy policy, Bulgaria could contribute to finding solutions, he concluded.

Ref.: 20070130IPR02599
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