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Final statement of the 22nd meeting of the EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee held in Brussels
EU-BULGARIA Joint Parliamentary Committee
22nd Meeting, 13-14 September 2006


The Joint Parliamentary Committee EU-Bulgaria held its 22nd meeting in Brussels on 13 and 14 September 2006 under the joint Chairmanship of Ms Catherine GUY-QUINT (PES, France) and Mr Atanas PAPARIZOV (Coalition for Bulgaria, Bulgaria). At this meeting, the Committee held an exchange of views with Mr Ivaylo KALFIN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ms Meglena KUNEVA, Minister of European Affairs, representing the Bulgarian Government, Mr D. CHAKAROV, Minister of Environment, Mr Rumen PETKOV, Minister of Interior, Mr Nihat KABIL, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Ms Sabrie SAPUNDZHIEVA, Deputy Minister of Justice, Ms Ivanka HRISTOVA, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Mr Kare HALONEN, Director General of European Affairs in the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representing the Finnish President-in-Office of the Council of the European Union, Mr Michael LEIGH, Director-General of DG Enlargement, representing the European Commission, and Mr Geoffrey VAN ORDEN, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on Bulgaria's accession to the EU.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee addressed the following issues:
- Bulgaria’s progress towards accession to the EU,
- Progress made by Bulgaria in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, fight against organised crime, fraud, corruption and money laundering,
- Other aspects of the political criteria for accession, inter alia integration of minority groups and child protection,
- Progress in the area of Agriculture in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy,
- Bulgaria’s role for promoting European values in the Balkans.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee, in accordance with Rule 3 of its Rules of Procedure and Art. 113 of the EU-Bulgaria Association Agreement addressed the following statement to the Association Council, the institutions of Bulgaria and of the European Union:
- having regard to the Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, signed on 25 April in Luxembourg,
- having regard to the European Commission’s 2006 Comprehensive Monitoring Report (COM(2006) 214)
- having regard to the European Parliament resolution of the 14 June 2006 on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania P6_TA-PROV(2006)0262 as well as to all its previous resolutions on Bulgaria's accession to the Union,
- having regard to the previous recommendations of the JPC EU-Bulgaria
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on its 22nd meeting welcomes the fulfilment of the recommendations of the previous JPC meeting and in particular

On the accession of Bulgaria to the EU

1. Reiterates its strong support for the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007.

2. Notes with satisfaction that substantial progress has been achieved by the Bulgarian authorities in taking measures to implement the recommendations of the European Parliament as well as those of the European Commission in its last Comprehensive Monitoring Report of 16 May 2006.

3. Believes that the energetic actions of the Bulgarian authorities in the recent months towards meeting the requirements for achieving full EU membership will be fully reflected in the next Commission Monitoring Report, which is expected to be issued on 26 September 2006; calls on the European Commission to continue its assessment of Bulgaria's readiness for membership, according to the criteria of the current Fifth enlargement of the Union, of which Bulgaria and Romania are an integral part.

4. Welcomes the ratification of the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU by 21 Member States and urges the remaining Member States that have not yet ratified it to do so without further delay.

5. Takes note of the declaration adopted on 14 June 2006 by National Assembly on the successful conclusion of the process of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007, in which the Bulgarian parliament undertook to continue with an accelerated pace its work on the fulfilment of all commitments in the sphere of legislation, related to the Accession treaty and the recommendations of the monitoring reports, as well as to exercise control over the activities of the government and other Bulgarian institutions in implementing the Action plan for successful completion of Bulgaria's accession to the EU; underlines that the 40th National Assembly since July 2005 has adopted more than 120 laws related to the accession of Bulgaria to the EU.

6. Recognises that Bulgaria continues to fulfil the political criteria for EU membership; welcomes the significant developments in all areas, including child protection and international adoptions, improvement of conditions in the institutions for disabled and in the mental healthcare system, the fight against trafficking of human beings, as well as the protection and integration of the minorities, in particular the Roma; welcomes the determination of the Bulgarian authorities to continue by paying serious attention to working on further improvement of these issues after accession.

7. Takes note of the progress made in closing down specialized institutions for children and people with mental and physical disabilities and in opening new centres for community-based social services; takes note of the secondary legislation adopted in the recent months which aims to facilitate the process of deinstitutionalization; stresses the need for giving high priority to disability in all government policies and programmes.

8. Welcomes the progress made in strengthening the administrative capacity of the central and regional administration working in the sphere of anti-discrimination; takes note of the measures for integration of Roma, in particular the adoption of several Action Plans aimed at the equal integration of Roma in the Bulgarian society and the improvement of Roma housing conditions; urges Bulgaria to further strengthen the timely implementation of these measures, in collaboration with the Roma civil society organisations.

9. Welcomes the adoption of the Law on amendment to the Labour Code which has completed the transposition into the Bulgarian legislation of the Directives regarding redundancies, transfer of undertakings, part-time work, fixed-term relationships, working time, protection of young people at work and the Directive 2002/14/EC on the information and consultation of employees.

10. Expresses satisfaction with the adoption on 20 July 2006 of the National programme on the fight against the trafficking of human beings, which provides for the establishment of commissions, centres and shelters, as well as the establishment of register on analysis and reporting of statistical data in this area.

11. Commends Bulgaria on fulfilling the economic criteria for EU accession and for consolidating its economic performance; notes that Bulgaria is a functioning market economy able to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces within the Union; welcomes the notable progress made in implementing its structural reforms and in maintaining macroeconomic stability with high economic growth, falling unemployment, low inflation and rapid growth of foreign direct investment; notes that efforts are still needed for improvement of the composition and balance of Bulgaria’s foreign trade.

12. Notes Bulgaria's progress in creating an efficient state administration and underlines the need to continue to strengthen Bulgaria's administrative capacity to implement the acquis; notes with satisfaction that measures have been taken to ensure the capacity for carrying out financial management and control over EU funds both at central and local levels and stresses the importance of this process; welcomes the adoption of Strategy for decentralisation (2006-2015) and Programme for its implementation.

Progress made by Bulgaria in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, fight against organised crime, fraud, corruption and money laundering

13. Welcomes the continuing efforts of the Bulgarian government to fulfil the commitments made in the area of Justice and Home Affairs and the steps taken to combat organised crime and corruption and to complete the reform of the judiciary; expects those measures to be implemented vigorously and to produce tangible and visible results.

14. Welcomes the findings from the recent peer review missions that Bulgaria has achieved significant progress in meeting its commitments in the area of reforming judiciary and of combating organised crime, corruption and money laundering; expects to see clear guarantees from Bulgaria for the implementation as from 1 January 2007 of all the European standards in the area of freedom, security and justice.

15. Welcomes the political will expressed by the Bulgarian parliament to adopt further Constitutional amendments and a new Judicial System Act as an important step towards consolidating the independence of the judiciary and improving its efficiency, transparency and accountability.

16. Welcomes the adoption by the Bulgarian parliament on the 23rd of August 2006 amendments to the Law on Publicity of the Property Owned by Persons, Occupying High State Positions, which provides for verification of the presented information and a mechanism for ensuring its comprehensiveness.

17. Takes note of the entry in force on 29 April 2006 of the new Penal Procedure Code, the results achieved so far for fast and efficient procedures and of the progress accomplished in the area of legal aid and witness protection; expects the changes introduced to ensure efficiency of the investigation and to make the system in general more efficient and transparent by eliminating overlapping of functions.

18. Takes note that an intensive specialized training on the implementation of the new Penal Procedure Code is underway; welcomes the Plan on the training of magistrates concerning the implementation of the new Code and underlines the importance of monitoring and assessment of its effectiveness.

19. Welcomes the adoption of the new Administrative Procedure Code by the National Assembly and its entry into force on 12 July 2006; expects the system of administrative courts to be established and to become operational on schedule.

20. Welcomes the improved organisation and management of the police and of the other major sectors of internal affairs, made with the adoption of the new Law on the Ministry of the Interior and the respective implementing regulation; welcomes the adoption of other key measures in recent months, such as amendments to the Law on the Judiciary, regulating the appointments and career development for magistrates as well as the steps taken by the Supreme council of the Judiciary to introduce in full the system for a random distribution of cases; takes note of the adoption of amendments to the Law on Political Parties and to the Law on Protection of Personal Data.

21. Welcomes the measures undertaken in improving the efficiency of fighting corruption; also welcomes the decision to create a specialized department for fight against corruption and organised crime in the Prosecution Office, as well as the creation of specialised departments at the Ministry of Interior to fight corruption within the Ministry and within the Judiciary; notes examples of visible results of the fight against high-level corruption, such as revoking the immunity of certain Members of Parliament.

22. Takes note that Bulgaria has achieved a serious mobilisation to fight organised crime and has improved interagency cooperation in this area, welcomes in particular the fact that there are already concrete results, evidenced by accusations brought recently against key figures of the criminal world and a great number of organised criminal groups.

23. Welcomes the fact that fight against money laundering has become a priority, with the adoption by the National Assembly of the amendments to the Law on Measures Against Money Laundering, amendments to the Penal Code and the new Law on Credit Institutions; takes note that a number of indictments were submitted to the courts on charges of money laundering; expects this process to continue and to bring further concrete results.

Progress in the area of Agriculture in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy

24. Takes note with satisfaction that the establishment of the Integrated Administration and Control System is drawing to a close and the establishment of the Land Parcel Identification System is progressing fast.

25. Notes that Bulgaria is also progressing with the procedures for the construction of a new rendering plant and the building of the 7 permanent Veterinary Border Inspection Posts, including the one at Sofia airport; expects Bulgaria to be able to apply the Common agricultural policy and the requirements of the internal market efficiently from the day of its accession.

Bulgaria's role in promoting European values in the Balkans

26.Welcomes Bulgaria’s continuing role in promoting regional security and stability in South-East Europe, as well as its readiness to share with its neighbours its experience in the field of European integration and welcomes the bilateral agreements singed to that effect.
27. Recalls its previous statements on the imprisonment in Libya of the five Bulgarian medical workers and the Palestinian doctor and strongly reiterates its call for their immediate release.
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