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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: 160 - (26/09/10)

An utterly crucial decision
There are European countries that can remain aloof, and very successfully so, from the European Union (EU). Norway and Switzerland both spring to mind.

But there are others where belonging to the EU is definitely needed, with full membership. Former communist countries are to the fore here. They are used to communal compliance, but without having it sensibly applied. The EU can possibly do it, not least in vital environmental matters.

This is why it was probably wise to include Bulgaria and Romania in the EU in 2007, an overture widely queried. They are after all rife with crime and corruption. But Brussels can withhold vital funds for them until these impedimenta are tackled. It is doing so.

Bulgaria in the EU
Bulgaria's PM Boyko Borisov presented on August 26th a report in the Parliament on the country's participation in the decision-making process in the EU in the first half of 2010.

The report also included Bulgaria's priorities during the Belgian EU presidency in the second half of the year.

"Bulgaria participated actively in the discussions for the Europe 2020 strategy," said Borisov, regarding the EU long-term strategy for economic growth and development.

He added that Bulgaria has successfully defended its national goals in the EU. "In accordance with the five leading European targets, which are planned for the next 10 years, the country already has a draft for the position on the national targets for this period, which will be presented in the next National Reform Program," Borisov said.

He has stated that in the next 10 years Bulgaria needs to achieve a 76% employment of men and women aged between 20 and 60 years, as well as an increase from 1,4% to 2% of the mixed investments from the public and private sector in the fields of science and development.
"Among our goals are also the decrease of the amount of greenhouse gases by 20% compared to 1990, an increase to 16% of the share of wind energy, improving of the energy efficiency by about 25% and a 50% reduction of the energy intensity of GDP by 2020.

Another important goal would be the decrease by 11-12% of the number of students who dropped out of school and the increase by 35-36% of the number of people between 30-34 years of age who have a university degree.

"Bulgaria has fulfilled its commitments in the introduction and implementation of the new EU legislation. The country also had a constructive dialogue and has cooperated with the EC and the EU member states on all matters related to the Cooperation Mechanism," Borisov said.

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Commission buys time on Roma controversy
The European Commission infuriated the left, the liberal and green groups in the European Parliament on 7 September, after it failed to provide an answer on whether France had breached EU law by organising the expulsion of hundreds of Roma to Bulgaria and Romania in recent weeks.

Background
According to the European Commission, the Roma are the EU's largest ethnic minority, and trace their origins to medieval India. There are many Roma sub-groups living in Europe. The Commission frequently cites the number of 12 million Roma across Europe.

Current census statistics state that 535,000 Roma live in Romania, 370,000 in Bulgaria, 205,000 in Hungary, 89,000 in Slovakia and 108,000 in Serbia. Some 200,000 Roma are estimated to live in the Czech Republic, while the same number is estimated to reside in Greece and an estimated 500,000 are in Turkey.

Many Roma from Eastern Europe moved to the West following the EU's enlargement, creating tensions, particularly in Italy.

An estimated 15,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria live in France. The French government is presently expelling large numbers of them in groups.

More on this topic
Fundamental Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding appeared to play for time, as in a much-awaited debate on the Roma controversy in the Strasbourg plenary, she said her services had not yet obtained or analysed information from France over the controversial expulsions.

She also pointed out that the Commission had found that not all relevant EU legislation was taken on board by the French authorities, stressing that she had sent them a letter informing them of this.

Reding spelled out a number of measures taken by the EU executive to address the needs of the Roma minority, including establishing a task force to beef up the efficient allocation of targeted funds, a Jumbo Council gathering member states and several commissioners with relevant portfolios, a call on future presidencies to do more for Roma inclusion, and measures to counter human trafficking, which is a particular risk for this minority.

"We cannot simply declare war on a member state," Reding said.

The explanations by Reding infuriated S&D (Socialists & Democrats) vice-chair Hannes Swoboda (Austria), who said that that even European Commission President José Manuel Barroso had been more outspoken than her over the issue during his speech in the morning.

"Is France in breach of EU law or not?" Swoboda fumed, accusing Reding of believing anything that French State Secretary for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche had told her at a recent meeting to clarify the situation.

"This in no way corresponds to your job as commissioner," Swoboda went on, insisting that such a lax attitude from the EU executive would act as an encouragement for other countries, such as Italy or Hungary, to expel or crack down on their Roma.

On behalf of the liberal ALDE group, Renate Weber (Romania) said France was showing treachery by bribing Roma with 300 euros to make them leave the country.
She argued that the Roma who signed the receipts were not aware of the consequences, and that the model was likely to be copied by Italy. Italian MEPs immediately cried foul and booed the speaker.

During the debate, another 30 MEPs expressed their disappointment, with those from the left, the liberal and green groups pointing to what they saw as failure by France to abide by EU legislation.

In particular, it was stressed that recent EU legislation required an advanced notification of one month before an EU national can be expelled, which they said was not respected. Also, they spoke out against what they saw as a failure by France to proceed on a case-by-case basis, as well as against the stigmatisation of Roma as criminals.
More radically, the leftist GUE/NGL group called the mass expulsions "deportations".

Political games
For their part, the centre-right EPP (European People's Party) group and the conservative ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists) pointed to the fact that their political opponents had been politicising the controversy and had little interest in addressing the real issues of the Roma minority.

Timothy Kirkhope, deputy chair of the ECR group, advised MEPs to hold their fire until the Commission had produced a formal ruling, rather than hastily condemning a member country.

Simon Busuttil of the EPP group (Malta) argued that the Roma were in fact trapped by political manipulation, and he denounced the "Shameful political game" being played by the left side of the hemicycle.

Accusations triggered counter-accusations, with French member Sylvie Guillaume of the S&D group pointing out that political manipulation as she saw it had in fact started in France, where a more and more unpopular president had politicised the Roma issue to please part of the electorate.

Baroness Sarah Ludford (ALDE; UK) saw weaknesses in the French defence strategy, pointing to statements according to which the country never took into account each citizen's ethnic background, and others according to which every fourth crime was committed by a Roma.

Strangely enough, there were few speakers from the French centre-right. Neither were there many statements by MEPs from Romania and Bulgaria, the countries of origin of the Roma expelled. 


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