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Bulgaria - Romania cooperation

Date: 29.01.2006

Rousse, on the Danube, January 27 - Friday saw the start of the first meeting discussing cross-border regional cooperation between Bulgaria and Romania.

The conference seeks to boost cross-border contacts and increase information on the funding of such initiatives from the EU, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin said in his opening address.

Kalfin said that the conference is part of the 15 common tasks of the Bulgarian and Romanian foreign ministries set out in the meeting in Iasi in October 2005.

Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said that EU funds for cross-border cooperation are badly or wrongly utilized. Ungureanu expressed a hope that the Rousse forum will provide a further impetus to cross-border cooperation.

The Romanian Foreign Minister said that as few as 40 per cent of the funds made available for regional Bulgarian-Romanian twinning light projects under Phare Cross-border Cooperation have been utilized.

The deadlines for other big project, such as the second bridge over the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria, are being missed due to the incompetence of certain administrative bodies, Ungureanu said.

In his view, the EU funds for twinning light projects are not used efficiently due to the absence of knowledge and skills in the preparation of such projects and the lack of economic foresight.

Ungureanu said this state of affairs must be rectified and no longer allowed to happen.

Kalfin for his part said that half of the 10 million euros earmarked by the European Commission for Bulgarian-Romanian transborder cooperation in 2005 have remained unused and that no projects have so far been contracted for 2006.

According to Kalfin, this is due to the low initiative of the local and regional powers, the non-governmental organizations and the citizens in the border areas. He said that at the central level, management of Phare funds is good and that 90 per cent of them for 2005 have been utilized.

Ungureanu said that within a few weeks Bucharest expects a visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, while Romanian President Traian Basescu is to visit Sofia in the summer. The Romanian Prime Minister said the visits are part of the high-level Bulgarian-Romanian meetings specified by the two countries' foreign ministers at the Friday's forum in Rousse.

More top-level Bulgarian-Romanian talks will be held during the forthcoming informal meeting of NATO in Sofia and during the meeting of the Francophonie in Bucharest in the end of September.

BTA

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