Bulgarian leader lashes out at Brussels' decision on aid
Speaking in Berlin, Stanishev claimed that Brussels had been unfair at times in dealing with Sofia.
Brussels/Berlin -- Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev hit out Tuesday at Brussels' move to block 220 million euros (283 million dollars) in aid to his country after the European Commission claimed Sofia had failed to tackle corruption and organized crime.
Speaking in Berlin, Stanishev claimed that Brussels had been unfair at times in dealing with Sofia and went on to warn that the decision to strip the new European Union state of aid could have dangerous repercussions for the nation's domestic politics.
"I don't believe that Bulgarians are euroskeptic," Stanishev said, but he added signs that the nation was "not being treated in the same way as other countries" could result in considerable political risks, especially in the run-up to next year's national elections in Bulgaria.
Stanishev expressed concern that Bulgaria was being treated differently from other EU states saying that the deficiencies in the nation including corruption were no different to other new European Union (EU) member states as well as some of the bloc's more established members.
Stanishev was in Berlin during a two-day visit to Germany, which includes talks with German business and political leaders.
German business leaders also roundly criticized the action taken by Brussels over canceling aid to Sofia and praised the economic reforms implemented by Stanishev's Socialist-led government including the introduction of a flat income tax and low corporate tax rates.
"We are winning nothing by too much finger pointing," said Klaus Mangold who heads up the influential Central and Eastern European committee of Germany industry.
Mangold said that in the talks with Stanishev there had been "a clear signal from German companies that (corruption) was not an issue as it had been year or two ago."
Echoing comments made by Bulgarian officials, Mangold called on the EU to adopt a more "constructive approach" to help Sofia overcome the problems with corruption that it faced.
Tuesday's European Commission decision in the wake of the move by Brussels in July to freeze more than 500 million euros in aid to Bulgaria after a scathing report about crime and corruption in the country.
But since July Stanishev said Sofia had "adopted a very ambitious action plan" aimed at tackling graft which was to the rolled out in the build-up to the next European Union progress report on Bulgaria due for release in the middle of year.
Bulgaria joined Romania in becoming the EU's 26th and 27th member states in January 2007. However, since signing up for the EU, Bulgaria has been plagued by allegations of corruption and claims of mafia-style contract killings.
Stanishev also saw this as reflecting the change in mood in the EU towards enlargement with Bulgaria becoming a convenient target of opponents of expanding the Brussels-based bloc with Bulgarian leader also attacking the media for misrepresenting his country.
While the Bulgarian government had set out an action plan for cleaning up its use of EU handouts, commission enlargement spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy told journalists in Brussels Tuesday "most measures are only a promise of future action, and have not yet been delivered."
"There has not been such a situation before," she said. "It is important that we protect the interests of taxpayers across Europe, including in Bulgaria."
The commission's move also comes amid signs that the world financial crisis is starting to catch up with Bulgaria.
After clocking economic growth rates in recent years of 6 percent plus, Bulgaria's economy is projected by analysts to slow to about 4 percent in 2008.