The three-day summit, where the accession of Balkan countries to the EU is a key item, ends on June 22

And now let’s go south a little, to Thessalonika where the EU is having a big meeting to decide on it’s constitution, and Bulgaria is looking for an accession timetable, but things don’t seem to be too promising. Incidentally, note the growing Spanish connection at the end, as I am trying to suggest, this may be more than mere coincidence. Solomon Passi is Bulgaria’s foreign minister.

Bulgaria and Romania were not invited to join the EU in along with 10 other eastern and southern European nations because of their slow economic progress, but hope to join in 2007.

Passi said that it would not be easy for the EU to recognise 2004 as the year to end negotiations, but this would create a positive precedent if it happened, Bulgarian National Radio said. « The other countries which joined the EU did not have any dates fixed in advance. I cannot promise at this time that we would be able to achieve this goal, but if we are not successful now, we will have to try again at the summit meeting in Rome at the end of the year », he told BNR in an interview.

Passi was speaking just a day after he returned from Brussels where he paid a working visit to EU headquarters. Statements by senior officials there were not very encouraging. The EU’s Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, told Passi that it was doubtful that Bulgaria would be given a fixed accession date in Thessaloniki. EU enlargement commissioner Guenther Verheugen was even more straightforward: « Bulgaria cannot expect to receive a set date for finalisation of the accession talks at thesummit in Thessaloniki, » he said after meeting Passi in Brussels.

It is important to point out that the labour bureaus only serve recognised refugees

The regular report of the European Commission, which will make an objective assessment of Bulgaria’s progress in negotiations and in meeting the criteria, is traditionally announced in October, Verheu-gen said. However, Verheugen assessed Bulgaria’s political programme for finalising the talks in 2004 as realistic and attainable. Talks were proceeding smoothly, he said. Passi also met EU Foreign Policy and Common Security Commissioner Javier Solana, who noted Bulgaria’s hard work towards joining the European institutions.

« The EU wants to maintain with Bulgaria the most intensive possible political dialogue, » Solana told reporters on June 12. However, Bulgaria got a sign of support for its effort to determine 2004 as the year to end negotiations with EU. Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio, who accompanied King Juan Carlos on a state visit to Bulgaria at the beginning of June, said that Madrid would back Sofia’s efforts to conclude its negotiations on joining the EU next year. « We hope that at the Thessaloniki summit we can confirm Bulgaria’s timetable for negotiations so that these can be concluded in 2004, » Palacio said. Source: Sofia Echo LINK


This OECD booklet is full of interesting details. Especially the fact that the proportion of the population working in agriculture is rising Again OECD don’t like cut and paste. I’ll put something later. LINK

The general contribution of the private sector in the gross value added is 64% as of 1998 which is a proof of the growing importance of the private initiative in the economy. In terms of the economic integration, the structural reform and the development of the private business, have created the same preconditions for refugees as for every Bulgarian citizen to develop their own private initiative. However the social cost of the transition has proved to be very high. The Bulgarian state is still unable to fulfil its social obligations and to guarantee the right to employment, education and health care, to provide equal access to job opportunities and a ent balance sheet of the transition is rather pessimistic. According to the 1999 UNDP Human Development Report for Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS, Bulgarian government expenditures on health care as of GDP fell from 4% in 1990 to 3,2% in 1996; infant mortality increased from 13,4 in 1988 to 15,6 in 1996, long term unemployment remains high -14,8%; the share of income spent on food increased from 46% in 1993 to 66% in 1997. According to the Bulgarian Centre for Economic Development, Bulgaria is rated 45-50th in the world regarding the level of socio-economic development in 1998. Due to the economic difficulties asylum seekers and recognised refugees in Bulgaria (although the latter legally are on equal terms with Bulgarian citizens) have limited access to employment and social security. Asylum seekers have no legal grounds to interact with the Labour Office and apply for jobs. That means that while the asylum seekers are undergoing the determination procedure the labour bureaus do not incur any costs serving them, nor finding jobs for them or enrolling them in training courses. LINK