Meglena Kuneva: Without money for education we doom ourselves to internal inner drought17 October 2010 | 17:12 | FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Mrs. Kuneva, can you tell us something more about the participants in this year’s Trilateral Commission of the US, Europe and Japan held in Bucharest, who were the participants?
Meglena Kuneva: The meeting was very interesting, chaired by Mario Monti, rector of the Bocconi University and Commissioner for internal market and competition with two terms in office. Some of the other participants include Peter Sutherland, Ischinger, the Romanian prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs, Elisabeth Guigou, Loukas Tsoukalis, Marek Belka, former Bulgarian president Petar Stoyanov, many prominent politicians, who brought some profundity of the debates. The crisis and the economy were present at the talks, too.
FOCUS: What are the basic priorities for the Balkan region according to the participants in the forum in Bucharest?
Meglena Kuneva: If I have to be brief about the conclusion drawn for our region, it is that there is not enough cooperation. This should be our first task. We should not only formulate it but to draw the road map, too. When, who, how? Which is the first field? The ability to outline priorities is art. Everything else is some polite talks. However, politics is not a matter of politeness but of the results.
This is valid even when it comes to energy - which is a topical issue in the region, the three Baltic countries are building a joint nuke plant, while here, Bulgaria and Romania are building power plants each on its territory, on the two opposite banks of the Danube River…
Another conclusion that has been drawn is that the energy connections between the neighbouring countries are late, even those which have been financed during the previous mandate of the European Commission. This was a very strong issue for me, because I remember the common efforts made with the Romanian EU Commissioner Orban. Then only Bulgaria got extra money from the European Commission because of the gas crisis and to build an interconnection with Romania, which to secure supplies in case of future risks. I hope this will happen soon. We should not only start it, we should finalize this project.
Another outcome is that we will not manage to absorb great part of the money from the European budget unless we have proper structures for cooperation. This is obvious. Where is the money for competitiveness, new technologies, social inclusion, climate changes, education.
Speaking about Greece – Bulgaria should not miss a chance to back its neighbour. I was a guest-lecturer to speak on a Balkan issue and I was glad to remind about Greece’s contribution for our accession. It was the only EU Presidency, which added Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession to its priorities. We should not forget it, especially now when Greece finds itself in some hard time. Intensive cooperation, trade, joint regional projects, cooperation in the field of education, tourism… there are many things that we can do together, to secure bigger growth in the production. The new EU budget is based on this cooperation. Cooperate or you will drop out – this is the motto of the biggest part of the policies and the money expected from them.
FOCUS: Did you go beyond the EU member states?
Meglena Kuneva: Moldova was an interesting topic, too, because of the upcoming elections and the struggle for country’s European perspective.
FOCUS: The Schengen area accession is a burning topic for both Bulgaria and Romania , was this issue examined at the forum?
Meglena Kuneva: During the panel in which I participated, Hungary has confirmed that Romania’s accession in Schengen will be among the priorities during its EU Presidency in 2011 but, of course, this is also valid for Bulgaria. The plan that has been announced is for March. This will be important for the region and a stimulus for serious work here, especially with regard to the fact that during the negotiations we secured direct budget support from Europe for the technical implementation of the Schengen rules as external borders.
However, the fees for crossing the Danube Bridge will remain despite that they are seriously cut. Speaking of this on state’s level, Romania shows some dissatisfaction, so do the Bulgarian politicians, but there is no result on the issue. This is the second conclusion I made – not only to set priorities but also the accountancy before people about how we achieve these priorities and pressure for this to happen. The fees are some inexplicable old hat. An illustration of Balkan paradox.
FOCUS: Are Bulgaria and Romania still in a catching-up position being the last two countries to join the Union and in which fields?
Meglena Kuneva: Yes, as it was expected. But that is why we joined it – to catch up with the others and we are being help by the unique partnership and solidarity in the EU.
I am afraid that we do not give enough evidence to the citizens that the changes will become a fact not only for the youngest generation but also for the adults and elder people.
I believe that the skill or inability to outline the priorities is the biggest challenge. This is the government itself.
If our budget does not support the education, which is of key importance for our competitive power, how can we ask the same thing from the European one? Even if they give it to us, how can we use it responsibly.
The decommissioning of old and unpromising capacities, new technologies, more mature relations in our own society, clear demands addressed to the politicians for the education, healthcare, qualification, and securing that there are no people off-board from social point of view – these are the goals we should agree on for the coming centuries and this is the platform on which we should build our stability.
FOCUS: What about the budget talks within the EU, with regard to what we saw at another forum in Finland?
Meglena Kuneva: According to the Finish prime minister and education and culture minister – the management of the budget for education, the active cooperation with the private sector, many investments in the science. Finland gets ready to become champion in the post-crisis period. In the new economy. Its goal is world competitiveness. I am sure that its influence over the outlining of the budget for the next five years will be big – they have read the political priorities very carefully – and have ‘translated’ them into the language of their budget. There will be a classic example of ‘who has most will have more’. We should not forget that they adopted this approach towards the education after a very severe crisis in the 90ties.
Speaking about us, I think we will miss the date with the future, if we do not give more money for education and culture. Even speaking on household level, every family is ready to make sacrifice for the education. Without money for education we doom ourselves to internal drought. We will stop inhabiting not only the global world but also the present.
The interview has been abridged
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