Friday

23rd Jun 2017

Bulgaria wary of becoming enlargement fatigue scapegoat

Bulgarian prime minister Sergei Stanishev has expressed concern that Brussels may impose harsh sanctions against his country after EU accession only to make Bulgarian membership of the bloc "sellable" to a sceptical EU public.

The European Commission is currently drawing up a key report, due out on 26 September, which could recommend imposing tough so-called "safeguard measures" on Sofia even after it enters the EU as planned in January.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The commission could for example temporarily suspend recognition of Bulgarian court verdicts, or withhold EU fund handouts to Bulgaria, if Sofia's efforts to fight crime and corruption are deemed insufficient.

But Mr Stanishev told Brussels journalists on Wednesday (6 September) "The question is: is it more important to put in place measures and instruments which will help the development of reforms, or simply to make accession sellable to public opinion in certain European countries?"

Suggesting that his country might become a victim of the current enlargement blues in the EU, he highlighted that "public opinion is much more sceptical towards enlargement" than ahead of the EU's 2004 enlargement to take on ten new members.

"Areas such as crime and corruption are highly sensitive to public opinion," he added.

2007 likely

The Bulgarian leader stressed that his country was about to finalise "100%" of a to-do list it had received from Brussels before the summer on the so-called "red flag" areas of organised crime, high-level sleaze and the functioning of the judiciary.

"Please do not think reforms will be suspended after the 26th of September," he added.

In this month's commission report, both Bulgaria and fellow EU hopeful Romania are likely to avert the worst-case scenario of a one-year postponement of accession until January 2008.

"From the discussions I have had, joining in January 2007 now looks to be a realistic goal," Mr Stanishev told reporters after meeting commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday.

'Highly unfair'

But the commission, still unhappy with Sofia's progress in tackling corruption and crime, is likely to propose some form of post-accession scrutiny on Bulgaria.

One particularly harsh option floated by commission officials is to freeze EU regional funds payments to Bulgaria until proper financial control is guaranteed and there is a clamp down on sleaze.

Mr Stanishev said however that "no-one has officially raised the issue of an initial suspension of funds" adding that "this would be highly unfair."

Arguing that most EU states which entered the bloc in 2004 have problems spending cash from Brussels, he said "politically it would be wrong in advance to say [to Bulgaria]: you will receive less money. I don't think it would be very fair and very legal."

The commission does not have to take a final decision on the safeguard clauses in the 26 September report – it can legally impose sanctions up until three years after accession.

After the commission report, a formal decision by member states on the terms of accession is only necessary if the commission recommends a one year delay.

If Brussels proposes accession as scheduled in 2007, EU leaders are expected to politically endorse the move at an informal summit in Finland in October.

Turkey's accelerated drift from Europe

Turkey's path towards EU membership seems harder than ever in the past 54 years, after Erdogan, this week, threatened to "wave" goodbye to the bloc.

EU urges Turkey to investigate election fraud

The EU called for a transparent investigation into alleged irregularities during the referendum in Turkey, which gave sweeping powers to president Erdogan. It added that reinstating the death penalty would end the country's EU bid.

EU urges Turkey to investigate election fraud

The EU called for a transparent investigation into alleged irregularities during the referendum in Turkey, which gave sweeping powers to president Erdogan. It added that reinstating the death penalty would end the country's EU bid.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit