EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva: Bulgaria must carry out significant reforms to unlock economy growth potential13 August 2010 | 17:50 | FOCUS News Agency
Host: Commissioner Georgieva, what are the impressions of the World Bank President Robert Zoellick after the talks and from what he saw in Bulgaria?
Kristalina Georgieva: President Zoellick left our country with good impressions by the Prime Minister and the Government and the people that he met in Bulgaria. On a personal basis he was impressed by the rich history of our country, and by the well-educated people with excellent intentions to assist in the development of the country, he managed to meet here. But also by the belief that the next three years will be crucial to the prosperity of the Bulgarian people, if we want Bulgaria to unstuck from the bottom of the EU regarding incomes per head of population.
Host: What should be done in these crucial years, did you talk to him, did you exchange ideas?
Kristalina Georgieva: What he said when he had the opportunity to communicate with the media, is that Bulgaria needs to implement many significant reforms to unlock the potential for economy growth. These are educational reforms in the judiciary. We know them, but for him it was also clear that these are the key reforms. And mostly that Bulgaria should make full use of the privilege in the EU as a state with access to the funds, to absorb these funds, not only quantitative but also qualitative, so that they to work for the country. And this focus on cooperation for the EU funds absorption was the most important result of the visit of President Zoellick. It reflected in the agreement signed with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
Host: What should be the highlights World Bank’s new strategy for partnership with Bulgaria for the term 2011-2014?
Kristalina Georgieva: These are the accents - assistance in project management so that Bulgaria to be able to absorb the EU funds, assistance in the field of education in order to use the quality of the Bulgarian people, to increase labor productivity of the Bulgarians, assistance in the field of judicial reform to enable our country to function so that people to believe in law and there to be space for ordinary people and the private sector to develop. But this is a question of talks between the government and the World Bank, which will continue. The beginning was set, the beginning is very good. I also heard positive comments from the Government for the interaction with the president of the World Bank. His personal belief is that now is the time for Bulgaria to make full use of the fact that it is a shareholder in the Bank and he will personally do everything possible for our country to get best technical capacity of the Bank and the most solid support.
Host: Is it possible to develop projects that to be financed or assisted in any way from both the World Bank and EU funds?
Kristalina Georgieva: This is possible. The Bank has done so in Poland when Poland had a similar situation as the present one in Bulgaria, with much money and few time to absorb it. Of course, there must be decided technical issues related to trading conditions, organization of financing. The World Bank regards with great respect to the role of the European Commission and is ready to find a way to serve the Bulgarian people under the overall coordination of the EU Commission, as working with other European institutions - such as the European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. But - yes, it is possible.
Host:Recently, the idea to use experts from the World Bank to better absorption of EU funds is applied. What must however be such experts? On what basis will choose them and on what criteria?
Kristalina Georgieva: This is necessary, because we have very clear and comprehensible problem - we have a lot of money but little time to absorb it. Therefore, we should bring as much expertise in the project management so as to get the money. They belong to our people. What you need to do is to make sure that the experts who come here from the Bank will better understand the situation in our region, in Bulgaria and they have a technical profile, which is necessary for our country. We know where the big money is – it is in infrastructure, environment and agriculture. The focus now is on infrastructure. I am convinced that the Bank will send teams in Bulgaria, which have the capacity to work here. I had worked with our infrastructure teams from China in Russia when I was at the World Bank, and I know that there are many talented people who have great experience that can be applied here and should be applied here in Bulgaria.
Host: Why we slowly absorb the EU funds?
Kristalina Georgieva: You know, this is a problem that we could expect as we entered the EU then with the technical assistance from the Union to absorb a lot less money. But now as EU member state that technical assistance is not available in that form as for the applicant states, it is suggested that while one state applies it builds its capacity. For us it is more difficult process, because our experience is limited, we found ourselves in a position in an equivalent EU member state but we still need a little help to absorb the EU funds. And of course whenever there are policy changes, it creates a stress everywhere, not only in Bulgaria, and everywhere in the absorption of the funds. It is important that the government recognizes how crucial it is to realize projects and not just to get money, but to absorb it so that to create a platform for growth in Bulgaria. And the fact that the Government has decided to appoint a minister to deal with these issues, very skilful man Minister Donchev, he shows that the Government is clear that there is work to be done. And the facts that it turned to partners like the World Bank to work with them. But that does not mean that we will always receive help. I am sure that if we better use the next few years, when we come into the next financial period, Bulgaria will base on strong legs and will be able alone to solve problems in absorption of funds.
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