No to the visa blacklist
Asen Agov, chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign and integration policy, said on 29 October in an interview for Bulgarian national radio that if the issue with the Schengen visa requirements for Bulgarian nationals is not resolved, Bulgaria would quit the Southeast European Stability Pact. The issue will be on the agenda of the 30 November to 1 December meeting of the EU Council of Justice and Interior Ministers.
Depending on the decision that will be taken at that meeting, Bulgaria will rethink its attitude towards the Stability Pact. "So far, Bulgaria has received nothing under the Pact. I am afraid that from what I know as regards future plans in that respect I can say that the country will not get anything in the near future either," Agov said. If the Stability Pact is viewed merely as an instrument to rescue the situation in former and present-day Yugoslavia, Bulgaria simply does not need to be rescued nor does it have the capabilities for a rescue since it has to deal with its problems by itself, he said.
If the Stability Pact is devised as a common Balkan market or as an alternative to Bulgaria's EU membership, then this is not something this country needs, he said. Agov added that he is thinking of suggesting to Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to consider not attending the December EU summit in Nice if the visa issue is not resolved positively.
After Agov's statement, Nikola Karadimov, National Stability Pact Coordinator, said there were contradictions between his position and that of the government on Stability Pact issues. In a separate report by the Bulgarian news agency (BTA), a government spokeswoman said that Karadimov's resignation would be an "unpleasant surprise," adding that no decisions had yet been taken on the issue.
Resignation of Karadimov?
She said Karadimov's resignation would be discussed at the regular meeting of the Council of Ministers on Thursday 2 November. Bulgaria's chief negotiator with the EU, Vladimir Kisyov, said Agov's statement was not an ultimatum but was made simply to defend the position Bulgaria as one of the negotiating countries.
The Southeast European Stability Pact could turn into a political alibi for changing Bulgaria's real goals and diverting the country from the direct struggle for reaching the structure of a wider Europe. This opinion was expressed by Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova in connection with the comments of Asen Agov. According to Mihailova, this is a logical theory.
The Foreign Minister also said that keeping Bulgaria's name on the negative visa list will change Bulgaria's status from a country that is part of the resolution of many problems in the region into a country with problems. Furthermore, Mihailova pointed out that no one can give a satisfactory answer regarding this discriminatory attitude towards Bulgarian citizens.
Not in the same boat
Sofia refuses to be thrown "in the same boat" with Romania during the negotiations with the EU, declared Premier Ivan Kostov, who thinks that his country has made great progress and that the association with Romania brings prejudice against Bulgaria along with it. Kostov expressed his discontent during an international meeting which discussed "The Provocation of the EU Extension towards the East," which took place on Saturday 28 October in Sofia.
The Bulgarian Premier criticized Günter Verheugen's recent declaration that, with the exception of Romania and Bulgaria, the remaining ten candidate countries could join the EU by 2005. Kostov said that this judgement is different from the one in the document inviting Bulgaria to start the membership process in December 1999.
According to the Bulgarian daily, Demokratsia the Romanians were moving at a faster pace in the race to NATO and Europe until recently. However, Germany now thinks that Bulgaria has left Romania behind and deserves to be excluded from the black visa list. On the other hand, the same pro-government daily concludes: "How will Bulgaria interpret this compliment for the incumbent cabinet? Let's hope that it is not by saying mean things about the Romanians. Nobody needs this kind of attitude."
Less bribe taking
Ivan Kostov told the Bulgarian Parliament on 27 October that there have been fewer cases of official misconduct and bribe taking in 2000 than in 1999 and that a larger number of such cases have been solved, Bulgarian News Agency reported.
Kostov also complained that the EU is treating Bulgaria unfairly, lumping it together with other countries that have not done as well as it has, AP reported. But European Commission officials noted that Bulgaria has made enormous progress and said that visa restrictions against Bulgarians must be lifted.
NATO enlargement inevitable
NATO's enlargement is necessary and inevitable; the issue is not if, but when, it will take place, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said in her address before the 46th annual meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Association. Mihailova is on a two-day official visit to Hungary at the invitation of her Hungarian counterpart, János Martonyi.
According to Mihailova, any delay of the alliance's enlargement would have a negative effect on European security and would delay the completion of transition in Central and Eastern Europe.
"The enlargement prospects should not be held hostage to narrow national interests and short-lived political considerations. The process has to be perceived as an imperative necessity for overall Euro-Atlantic security. Stability, security and peace in Europe require that countries like Bulgaria be given a tangible prospect of joining the European mainstream where they historically and culturally belong."
Heritage cooperation with the US
At a ceremony at the Embassy of Bulgaria on 2 November, representatives of the governments of the Republic of Bulgaria and the United States signed a document laying the groundwork for a comprehensive agreement to preserve cultural heritage. The document expresses the interest of both sides to cooperate in preserving and protecting sites of historical and cultural value.
Under the agreement, the United States and Bulgaria agree to work together toward setting up bilateral, expert working groups. The United States has similar programs with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Ukraine, Slovenia, Romania and Moldova.
Nadia Rozeva Green, 3 November 2000
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