Mr.Alexander Boshkov was the Bulgarian representative on the round table Slovenia-Bulgaria-Romania-Croatia “Get ready for Common Europe- Experience and Practice” which took place on November 7th in the Austrian capital as a part of the Third Vienna Economic Forum. Still in the beginning of his speech he noticed that he was happy to be in such an advantageous position because there was no need now to convince the western companies to invest in Bulgaria. They had already invested in it. Time had come to speak as partners about how to make future collaboration more fruitful.
Mr.Bojkov was kind to speak to Elitsa Tsenova about the upcoming Bulgarian accession to the European Union. The conversation focused on the challenges that Bulgarian companies are going to face, the great expectations and the great disappointments, and the positive and negative sides of this step.
Mr. Bojkov, there are only two months left before the long waited accession to EU but quite a big part of Bulgarian companies are still not prepared to face the challenges of European market. How would you comment this fact?
First of all I have to say that we cannot put all companies under a common denominator. There are a lot of companies, which are not prepared and even do not clearly know what to expect after January 1 2007. But there are, of course, companies, which are well informed and aware about the European rules for making business. In the common European market every company, which succeeds to survive, will have the chance for prosperity. This result is conditioned by hard individual efforts. The country and the government are obligated to set up the base; afterwards everyone has to show flexibility and innovation and to take the initiative to cope with the new situation. This inference refers not only to the small and medium sized enterprises but also to the big companies. It turned out that companies with many years of service are not aware about the mechanisms for creating rules in EU and exercising control. Having its own representatives in the European Commission, Bulgarian business will be informed in time about the upcoming amendments in particular economic sectors, and can protect its interests.
What are the main difficulties which Bulgarian people have to overcome in the first year in EU? Do you think that we are in danger of going through the syndrome of great expectations and great disappointments?
The great expectations are caused by the great goal, under which all political forces are united – EU accession. Bulgarian people put plenty of efforts to cross the barrier and now they expect that many things are going to become better due to money coming from the EU. And everybody expects this change to materialize in a flash. Actually, during the first two years we cannot expect a high level of usage of European funds because they are granted for particular projects that we are just not ready to execute. My personal (realistically) optimistic forecast is that only in 2010 we will feel some improvements due to the accession. Until this moment certain segments will reach prosperity while others will face serious difficulties and apparently they will be disappointed.
Let us leave economic issues aside. What will Bulgaria encounter after becoming a member of EU?
Our politicians are too busy with the process of preparation and they put the main stress on the EU requirements. Therefore we know what requirements we have covered but we know almost nothing about the responsibilities coming with the accession. For instance, being a EU member Bulgaria has to vote and to take important decisions concerning European future. We have to express our attitude towards the European constitution but we have never led such a debate; people are not informed. We are not prepared for the forthcoming questions and problems, even possibilities. Such incompetence could have very negative consequences and in a certain moment politicians could see themselves isolated from society. That is why it is of paramount importance that all decisions are taken openly and honestly. People must know exactly what we give and what we receive in return.
What can we learn from the experience of other new members of the EU?
In my opinion, we can learn from the experience of the countries which have joined EU recently because they had similar background and passed through similar problems. The last events in Hungary are already examined in Bulgaria. This experience came just in time to confirm the strong position of our Minister of Finance and his refusal to undertake populist measures. We can gain significantly from the positive Polish experience in the field of agriculture. Estonia is a great example for highly developed e-commerce and e-services. The work of electronic government has resulted in the reduction of bureaucracy as well as corruption. Generally, Slovenia has also reached considerable success but they preserve a quite big governmental sector and a strong state position, which can lead to negative consequences in near future.
.Ts. So, you are an optimist for the Bulgarian future in EU, aren’t you?
Of course! If we succeed in maintaining financial discipline we will succeed in overcoming all challenges. I strongly believe that Bulgaria will be an honorable member of United Europe.
Thank you very much for this conversation.