The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Thursday (26 June) issued a statement, regretting that comments by Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle in an interview with EurActiv “cast a shadow” over the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU.
In an interview with EurActiv Czech Republic, Füle said that Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession in 2007 had put in question “the credibility” of the EU’s enlargement process.
Asked what changed in the field of enlargement since he took this portfolio almost five years ago, Füle replied:
“A lot of things. Both member states and candidate countries got tired by the slowly proceeding enlargement process. Above all, the last enlargement of Romania and Bulgaria brought a lot of questions about the credibility of the whole process. Because it was the first time that the EU decided to establish a special cooperation and verification mechanism on existing member states. The biggest challenge was to return the lost credibility to the enlargement process.”
The interview, originally conducted in Czech, was translated into English and submitted to review by Füle’s cabinet, which approved it.
When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007, shortcomings remained concerning judicial reform and the fight against corruption. In the case of Bulgaria, problems also remained regarding the fight against organised crime.
A Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was set up to assist both countries with judiciary matters after their EU accession. Seven years after their accession, the CVM is still in place and will continue under the next EU Commission.
For future enlargements, the Commission has decided not to make use of CVM any more. Croatia has joined the Union last year without such monitoring mechanism.
The spokesperson of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign affairs said in a statement that the Bulgarian Permanent Representative to the EU, Ambassador Dimitar Tzantchev, discussed the issue with Füle’s Chief of Cabinet, Simon Mordue.
According to information received by EurActiv, Romania too has protested the comment made by Füle.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania issued today (27 June) the following statement:
“To clarify the situation the MFA has already undertaken to contact the European official’s cabinet. Discussions so far have shown that the Commissioner Füle’s intention was to emphasize that the introduction of additional mechanisms after accession – and not the accession per se of those states to EU membership – has led to a loss of credibility for the enlargement process. It is regrettable that the quoted references to the MCV were taken out of context, especially as Commissioner Füle was one of the Commissioners who spoke repeatedly for an elimination of the Mechanism in the case of Romania and Bulgaria.
“On the other hand we feel that such ambiguities in public statements on this topic, even unintentional, are of a nature that will diminish, without cause and unfairly, the undeniable benefits of accession and of the enlargement process, for both the beneficiary States and the EU overall. Each wave of enlargement brought its own challenges but also its own substantial advantages, for the EU overall and for the countries involved in the enlargement process. Its credibility is established by the reform processes entailed by enlargement.
“In this context it appears as entirely inappropriate to make any sort of connection between Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU and the idea of a diminished credibility of the enlargement process. The enlargement policy simply followed the constant trend of adjustments that is specific to all accession processes for new Member States.
“We feel that in the current European context it is important to focus the public speech of European leaders on transmitting concrete, constructive messages that will support the process to strengthen European integration.”
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Zinaida Zlatanova stated, as quoted by the daily ’24 chasa’:
"The words of Commissioner Füle should be seen as an assessment of his own mandate as Enlargement Commissioner. It is unacceptable to talk in this way about a historical process of unification of Europe again after the forced separation during the Cold War.
This is a process that we owe to courageous European politicians - visionaries, thanks to which Central and Eastern Europe ended the totalitarian regimes and became part of the union of shared values.
To blame Bulgaria and Romania for failures in enlargement over the past five years is like to call an error the accession of the UK in 1973, just because currently there are opinions in this country about leaving the union.
It is like to blame Germany for the mistrust in the EU because the two parts have decided to restore historical justice and to unite 25 years ago.
Yes, the last European Parliament elections have shown that the confidence of citizens in the European Union is shaken. And there are objective reasons for that. Among these are unprecedented economic and financial crisis of recent years, the banking crisis that Europe experienced, and the consequences of which are still visible.
But if Europe's leaders cast doubt on this unique project, which has carried peace, freedom and democracy throughout the continent - what should people think? What should think the candidate countries which still aspire to these values?
I would like to hear what Štefan Füle has to say, but also the current and the future President of the European Commission. Because we need to know in what EU we will live in the next five years. Because when family members begin to blame each other for their problems, this is a sure sign that a solution is not imminent."
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