Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, in an interview with Nova TV’s morning broadcast Hello, Bulgaria.
Host: This morning our guest is European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva. Our correspondent Iskra Urumova is with her. Good morning.
Reporter: Good morning from Varna. I hope that European Commissioner Georgieva is feeling well near the sea.
Kristalina Georgieva: I feel wonderful.
Reporter: Let us begin with a topic, which unsettled many Bulgarian politicians. I am talking about the Russian claim for EUR-1-billion compensation in connection to Belene NPP. You mentioned that Bulgaria could ask the EC for help and an expert advice?
Kristalina Georgieva: Each country has the right to determine its own energy policy. What Bulgaria decides to develop is Bulgaria’s own right. But when it comes to defending our consumers and the EU energy security, the EC is a good source for expertise. So, when a country wishes to see in its future, to take the right decision on how to form its energy policy, the energy commission is the right place to approach.
Host: How would you comment on the probability of NEC’s bankruptcy and on the probable collapse of the Bulgarian energy industry?
Kristalina Georgieva: I have no information on this being a serious risk, at the moment. Yes, media write a lot on this topic, but I cannot comment something that is not officially presented. I can only comment that it is crucial for Bulgaria to think about its future in a manner of improving its energy security. I will also say something I have said many times – it is very important for Bulgaria to focus on energy efficiency, because if we achieve results via energy efficiency – it would be good for the people as well. People would pay less and the state would have better energy security. The reserves there are enormous.
Host: Yes. But there is a possibility for Bulgaria to lose the money for energy efficiency after 2014. The EU insists on the fast decommissioning of the four units of Kozloduy NPP, and as a measure undertaken on behalf of Europe, this must be implemented quickly, otherwise after 2014, Bulgaria will no longer have the right to use compensations provided for the NPP, and money for energy efficiency, for modernising energy capacities, and for new infrastructural projects. I do not understand this sense of urgency - it is obvious that Bulgaria would not secretly turn on the units.
Kristalina Georgieva: Currently, there is enough EU funding in Bulgaria for improving our energy efficiency. The earmarked funds are more than Bulgaria’s capacity to absorb. It is too early to talk about what will happen after 2014. You are aware of the fact that talks on Europe’s budget are not finished yet. Firstly, let us see with what amount of money we dispose of, an afterwards we can talk about the funding of the country. During the talks, it is crucial for Bulgaria to firmly stay behind its standpoint that Europe requires a strong and stable European budget. This is a budget for all European citizens.
Host: The Netherlands is still against Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area, this time because of Romania. Over the last few days, Bulgarian Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affair made sharp statements against The Hague. Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel, and when?
Kristalina Georgieva: Bulgaria, as well as Romania, has implemented all requirements for Schengen accession. So, yes, this process has an end. When exactly will this end come is not decided yet. It is quite inappropriate to make comments on the Netherlands, because they just had their elections. The government is not formed yet. Let us wait and see the position of the new government. More important to Bulgaria is the notion of how much is left to be done for entering Schengen quickly. Last year, during the crisis in Libya I said - It is in our interest to make haste slowly.
Host: Another very discussed subject is the problem with Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls asked Bulgaria and Romania “why are Bulgaria and Romania not pursuing a strong integration policy, that will finally manage to integrate these people?”. What is the solution to this problem and is exulsion of Roma not a sort of discrimination?
Kristalina Georgieva: Of course, we must integrate all our citizens. We know what the Bulgarian demographic situation is, and we need all young people for overcoming the future needs of the labour market. Integration, however, is not a fast process. This means that everyone in Europe must be more patient because the Roma people are European citizens as well.
Host: After the end of the decade of the Roma inclusion, do you see any real results and what should be done in the future so that what you just said could be achieved?
Kristalina Georgieva: We do not have enough results. It is clear. We all see this. What should be done? We should invest at an early age. We already do this, so that all children can grow up together under equal conditions. This cannot be achieved easily in times of economic crisis. Let us hope that more attention will be paid to the education of all children, including Roma children. We need to invest more in the future of Bulgaria.
Host: Let us continue with another subject, which concerns your field – Pernik and the surrounding villages after the earthquake. 500 people live in tents and caravans, with no heating during the winter and no perspective for any homes. If this misfortune had happened in the Netherlands, in what way would the government of Netherlands react and do to help these people?
Kristalina Georgieva: We must take into consideration the needs of the people, who were most injured and affected by the earthquake. During the Pernik earthquake, there were fewer people, who were seriously affected, and many people, who were less affected. A solution must be found because these people cannot live on the street. We need to mention something very crucial – the care for all injured and affected by the earthquake must be divided between the people, the companies and the state. Insurance has a key role during such circumstances. We live in a world, in which the number of disasters will continue increasing and such catastrophes will be more severe.
Reporter: Let us pay attention to another calamity, if I may call it such – the situation in Syria. Is there any possibility of a refugee crisis and a refugee conflict, and will Bulgaria be affected by the situation?
Kristalina Georgieva: The refugee problems is a fact. Over the last few months, we have witnessed a wave of refugees heading to the neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and this flow is intensifying. Why? Because there are clashes in most of the territory of the country. So far, there is no direct risk for Europe. We have no idea how long this conflict will continue and in what way it will affect its neighbours. Due to this, we must be ready and prepared. EU Foreign Ministers have already made a decision for creating a programme designed for Europe, which is directed mostly towards countries closer to the conflict region. I expect that, as is most often the case with such military conflicts, most people prefer to remain close to their homes, hoping to return to their homes after the end of the conflict.
Reporter: I would like to ask you about one of your initiatives - the establishment of a Volunteer Corps. How do you see the future work of the volunteers, what activities could be included?
Kristalina Georgieva: This is a decision, included in the Lisbon Treaty. We are implementing it, and we doing it very carefully. Firstly, we made a pilot project, to see what was missing. And what was missing? We were missing well-trained personnel for humanitarian crises. We were missing the proper organisation for quick mobilisation and operation. We had to pay more attention on prevention as well. That is what I wish to solve with the Volunteer Corps [EU Aid Volunteers]. Furthermore, young Europeans are very eager to gain experience in complicated situations. The interest towards the Volunteer Corps is enormous. In the very moment we informed people about the existence of the Corps, we were flooded with questions, asked by young people. They asked us about how to enrol and the location of the Corps. Within the next few years, we will form a unit in Bulgaria, which will organise the process of recruiting volunteers. But their participation in activities will be realised via our partner organisations, via humanitarian organisations. Within the next few years, we hope for an army of 10,000 volunteers, each of them carrying the mark of the European volunteer. We want to be able to walk proudly, holding our heads up high as Europeans, who are a force for good in the world.
Reporter: I believe this is a wonderful way to end our interview. Thank you.
Host: Thank you. Thank you for your correspondence form Varna.