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BULGARIA


  
  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 19,859 15,608 13,600 69
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,130 1,790 1,650 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 131 - (28/04/08)

The plight of the Bulgars 
Bulgaria is in the EU since January, 2007 and its inhabitants can't quite understand why. They are right to be puzzled. Croatia, which is not, has a far better case for belonging to the community. But the Croats were deeply involved in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, of which the EU countries sternly disapproved, although they did nothing to stop them. 

Bulgaria actually only got in on the coat-tails of the Romanians, who only got in because of their ardent Francophila and fluent Francophonia. France wanted a counterweight to the Anglophile and Anglophone additions to the EU of late, the Baltic states, etc.

Bulgaria is mired in corruption and every other post-communist vice. It is a contradiction in terms that it should be deemed EU-worthy, just yet. But there it is.

Bulgaria reshuffles government amid corruption scandal
As if to prove the point, Bulgaria’s ruling coalition on April 22 agreed to a reshuffle of key ministerial posts, the government said, following a corruption scandal that prompted sharp criticism by the EU. 

"The government coalition unilaterally approved structural and personal changes in the government aiming to guarantee the successful completion of the government's programme by the end of its term," it said in a statement.The coalition nominated new ministers of the interior, defense, farming and healthcare and proposed to appoint a new deputy prime minister without portfolio to oversee the management of funds from the European Union, it said.

The reshuffle follows the resignation of Interior Minister Rumen Petkov in mid-April in a corruption scandal that revealed links between top crime-busters and criminals under investigation, and after two high-profile killings in Sofia that prompted the European Union to call for "urgent action." Petkov will be replaced by Socialist parliamentary group chairman Mihail Mikov, the statement by the government information service said.

Bulgaria's ambassador to Germany, Meglena Plugchieva, will be appointed to the new deputy prime minister post to oversee the use of funds from the EU, which Bulgaria joined last year, it added.

Plugchieva's appointment comes after vehement criticism by Brussels of Bulgaria’s poor management of EU money and the recent freezing of at least 450 million euros (717 million dollars) in pre-accession subsidy payments still due to the EU newcomer.

Farming Minister Nihat Kabil, who came under fire for failing to prevent the misuse of European money, will be replaced by expert Valeri Tsvetanov.

Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov, blamed for a failure to push forward the reform and modernization of the army, will be replaced by defense ministry executive Nikolay Tsonev.

Lagging reforms in the healthcare sector also prompted the replacement of Health Minister Radoslav Gaydarski whose ministerial seat will be taken by Evgeniy Zhelev, currently head of the government Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, the statement added.

The changes were negotiated on April 22 by the leaders of the three coalition parties – Stanishev’s Socialists, the centrist National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP) and the Turkish minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms party (MRF). They kept the current distribution of ministerial seats among their parties: eight for the Socialists, five for the NMSP, and three for the MRF. The changes were voted in on April 24 in the 240-seat parliament, where the ruling coalition has a 150-strong majority.

It was the second reshuffle of Stanishev’s cabinet, just 14 months before the end of its term in office. The corruption allegations sent the coaliton’s public approval ratings plummeting.

A recent poll by the MBMD institute showed that 80 percent of Bulgarians were convinced of links between top government officials and the underworld. Another poll by the Gallup institute revealed a sharp fall in public support for the Socialists, with 71 percent of people saying they no longer trusted the party.

Addressing his party on April 22, Socialist Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev admitted that the scandal in the interior ministry "has shaken public trust" in the government and coalition. "We have to guarantee security for the people and combat organized crime and corruption. The cat’s task is to catch mice," Stanishev said.

Bulgaria is still under pressure from Brussels to improve the functioning of its judiciary, curb high-level corruption and organized crime, and put an end to a score of mafia-style killings. Failure to do so could trigger a further freezing of EU funding. 

"Bulgaria has discredited itself in Europe with the recent series of scandals... Restoring its reputation will take time," Bulgaria's European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva recently told Trud daily newspaper.

Breakthrough in Brussels
Bulgaria is certainly going to make the best of it all the same, thereby perhaps vindicating its inclusion, which in the long run is of course justified. Close cooperation with Romania is the essential approach.

Bulgarian and Romanian agriculture ministers have agreed to work together closer in the implementation of the common European agriculture policy in the two European Union member states, Focus news agency reported on April 21. Bulgaria's Agriculture and Food Supply Minister Nihat Kabil met with Romanian minister of agriculture and rural development Dacian Ciolos in Sofia. Kabil said after the meeting that the two countries should protect their interest in finding solutions to local problems.

Both countries also share common visions on the European fisheries policy, with the two ministers agreeing that the sprat fishing quotas for both countries in common Black Sea waters should be abolished, as it cannot be reached. At the same time, the flounder fishing quotas should be doubled, as it is currently only 100 tons a year (50 tons for each country).

A group of representatives from Romania and Bulgaria will be working together to sharpen priorities of the two countries in the field common EU agriculture policy, the ministers agreed.

Ciolos said Romania also had problems in adopting the European agriculture funds and some breaches of EU rules were discovered in 2004/2005, when Romania had to give back tens millions euro to the EU.

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