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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Joint press conference/Sofia
31 August 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be back in Sofia to participate in the opening of the second line of Sofia metro and meet also with my good friend Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
The impressive new metro lines we have just opened are a symbol of Bulgaria's modernisation and desire to improve the quality of life for its citizens. It shows what we can do together in the European Union and what can be achieved through the European structural and cohesion funds.
Today we have discussed how we can work together to maintain the momentum for reform to help people throughout the country. I am pleased to say that Bulgaria and Prime Minister Borissov are tackling the economic crisis and have already taken a number of important measures in terms of fiscal consolidation. That is why we have been able to remove Bulgaria from the Excessive Deficit Procedure. I understand that it must be extremely difficult in this current moment to pursue these fiscal consolidation efforts. I want to tell you that we consider they are fundamental and in the very interest of the country because Bulgaria, by keeping this line of fiscal consolidation, can keep the confidence of the financial markets, can be sure to go to the financial markets and borrow at acceptable interest rates, can finance its future. Also this is the way to attract more Foreign Direct Investment, because sound macro-economic policy is a prerequisite for confidence. Finally, for social reasons, because every euro or every lev, that is spent paying interest rates of the debt is a euro or a lev that cannot be spent in social services, cannot be addressed for productive investment. So, this is why it is very important that the line of macro-economic rigour is kept.
At the same time it is important to continue along the path of structural reforms, in line with the Commission's recommendations from June. A real push is needed on pension reform, the fight against poverty, youth unemployment and administrative capacity to improve living standards and keep the Bulgarian economy growing.
Much of our discussion today has been, and we will continue it now during our working lunch, on how we can best use the European funds still available which amounts to roughly €1,5 billion that is unallocated. I welcome the steady increase in the absorption of funds over the last year and I know the attention that personally the Prime Minister has been dedicating to this issue. So, there has been indeed progress in terms of absorption of the funds, but we have to recognise that there are still unused funds and we have discussed how unused funds can be used for other priority infrastructure projects.
We have also discussed the crucial importance of administrative capacity, including what is needed like audit capacity and a simplification of procedures and reforms in the area of public procurement.
I have also reiterated the Commission's unequivocal support for Bulgaria joining the Schengen area. Bulgaria meets the necessary conditions and we need to find a way to resolve this as quickly as possible so that Bulgarian citizens have the full benefits of EU membership.
I have also encouraged the Prime Minister to continue the reform efforts in the areas of judicial reform, the fight against corruption. Important steps have been made. To move further ahead, what we will need is a consistent political effort from the government and the Parliament, but also a real engagement from the leadership of key institutions, the judiciary, the media, all the society. Everyone needs to be pushing in the same direction.
This is why for instance the current process of choosing a new Supreme Judicial Council is so important. These are the people who will lead the judiciary over the next few years. And the same is true for the new Prosecutor General.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Each time I come to Bulgaria I am struck by the dynamic progress that is being made and the commitment of the government and the people I meet to the European project. Once again I would like to thank Prime Minister Borissov for his commitment to Europe, for the role he is playing in the European Union, for his clear understanding that it is together - Bulgaria and the European Union - that we can address so many of these issues. In fact, we have in Bulgaria probably the highest level of support and trust for the European Union.
It is very important to continue along this path, to promote the European values, the values of justice and freedom and all the features, all the elements of the truly pluralistic society.
This is indeed the commitment of the European Union and once again, Prime Minister Borissov, dear friend, thank you for the invitation and for giving me the opportunity to be today with you in what is I believe an important symbol of the commitment that we have together for the progress and the prosperity of Bulgaria.