Friday 9 March 2007 on Europe by Satellite

Interview with two new European Commissioners from Romania and Bulgaria

Exclusive interviews with

Leonard Orban, Romanian Commissioner in charge of Multilinguism

Meglena Kuneva, Bulgarian Commissioner in charge of Consumer Affairs

00 :00 Family photo of the new Commission

00:47Cutaways of Commissioner Leonard Orban in his office

01:00  Interview with Leonard Orban, commissioner for Multilinguism

Will the western Balkans become a “victim” of the enlargement after Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU?

There is now an environment which is not very favourable to the accession of new member states but this environment is not a new one, in fact it started really in two thousand and five, immediately after the failure of the ratification of the European Constitution. Also we and Bulgariapassed through very difficult moments. I think that in the process standards became higher and higher. So this is not a question of whether the Western Balkans are victims of the accession of Romaniaand Bulgaria. Not at all. But I would also like to say something. With Romaniaand Bulgariait was one logic, with ten plus two, so the ten who became members first of May 2004 plus Romaniaand Bulgaria, and the others. And this is why when Romania and Bulgaria became members of the EU, the official conclusion was that the 5th wave of enlargement are concluded, it was part of the 5th wave of enlargement not only, let’s say, as a rhetoric but also in terms of very concrete things. The logic of the accession negotiations but also the process, the whole process was the same, more or less.

In your case, it will be, due to the lessons learned, the approach will be a little bit different. I will give you an example: in the accession n negotiations with us and with the other 11 former candidate countries, the most difficult chapters were dealt with at the end of the process. In the Croatian and the Turkish case, these very difficult chapters are dealt with since the beginning, so these are important changes in the approach of conducting the accession negotiations process.

03:15 Romaniais famous for its fight against high level corruption, what about petty corruption?

The authorities have to fight with both types of corruption – high level corruption and small level corruption – petty corruption. Of course what is the most important is the fight against high level corruption. And from this point of view, Romaniatook a lot of measures, very tough measures in order to fight corruption. Not only that Romaniacreated very important, very tough, very performing, very efficient institutions to fight against corruption. Not only national department for Anti Corruption, it is a team which is specialised only in cases of high level corruption but also other institutions involved in this process, also at the level of the Ministry of Interior, there is a special department responsible of all the units on internal affairs, there is a clear system of institutions with very well prepared people able to fight and investigate such kind of cases.

Also there were other measures taken by the Romanians. For example there were the statements on health and interest. The assets, so the statements are probably the most difficult to be filled in for all the member states of the Union. Practically, one has to include in his statement everything, as assets, it is a very detailed document. This was a very important document and now in the Parliament there is draft law concerning the creation of a new agency – Agency for Integrity, which will be responsible of monitoring of the development of the assets of the different members of the Parliament, of the government, secretary of state, civil servants…

06:09 Are the new member states obliged to introduce visas for the neighbouring countries? If yes, why aren’t they free of charge?

In the Romanian case it was a very complicated situation because we, the Romanians, were obliged to introduce visas for the citizens from the republicof Moldova, so this created big problems, not only in Romaniabut also in Moldova, but finally, because these were the requirements of the acquis, the Romanians followed strictly the requirements.

Concerning the cost of the visas this is a different story and is a subject of discussion between the member states and hopefully an acceptable solution will be found.

06:58 How important is political dialogue in a country applying for membership in the EU?

What is very important is to ensure continuity from one government to another. Without continuity and without starting from the zero point, you will not have success, you will not reach the membership, so this dialogue is absolutely vital for the continuation of the efforts because you can succeed not only during one mandate but during many mandates and this is why it is vital to have dialogue to ensure the continuity of the efforts towards the accession.

07:36 Cutaways EC building: welcome panel for BG and RO

07:40 Cutaways of Commissioner Meglena Kuneva in charge of consumers’ protection.

07:43 Working session of the Commission with new commissioners

07:57 is consumers’ protection a kind of a precondition for the countries of the Western Balkans on their path to EU membership?

It is very important, I will not exactly place as a prerequisite or kind of a consequence of the aspiration for membership which is the most important as a motor for improving the agenda of the society but if you see through the experience of countries like Bulgaria and Romania at the beginning of nineties and not only, the UN Development programme started with a study on Consumers’ protection and Consumers’ activities in eastern countries including Romaniaand Bulgaria, so this is one of the very important channels through which we can expand the meaning of European integration, in respect of market and in respect of civil rights. I’m very serious about this that this is maturity of the society and also of the citizens.

09:09 How did Bulgaria succeed to become a member?

This is a matter of fairness to be part of the EU and kind of self assertive result of our efforts. Many things happened through the process of European integration and I believe that Bulgarian citizens understand that it was part of the reforms that the country very much needed. Through the guidance of the EC this one became much more easier and much more faster.

09:53 What kind of support can the Western Balkans expect from a Bulgarian commissioner?

I think you can expect the same attitude not only from a Bulgarian commissioner but from the EC because this is not a matter of favour of one or another, of course as coming from the region I’m very well aware of what we passed but the policy of enlargement is a policy of the Commission. And this one should be very well understood fromp the Western Balkans

10:30 Do you support the statement of president Barroso, who, in a letter expressed the fact that even though minority rights are not a competence of the European Commission, every member state has to comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The Court asked Bulgaria to register the Macedonian party OMO Ilinden Pirin and respect the rights of all the minorities including the Macedonian.

No, Bulgaria always respects very much minority rights but I have to refer to your question, the best one is to ask the national government because this is not exactly the portfolio of a commissioner, I have to congratulate you that you got an interview with the President Barroso, and we should stop this interview[1].

[1]SEETV did not get an interview with president Barroso, the question was referring to the answer from the president Barroso concerning Bulgaria’s refusal to comply with the decision of the European Courtfor Human Rights, who condemned Sofiafor non registering the party of the Macedonians in Bulgaria– OMO Ilinden-Pirin. Commissioner Kuneva was not aware that such a letter was sent by her President to the European Free Alliance and thus did not understand the question and asked our journalist to stop the interview.