Edward Oswald, vice-president of the German Bundestag: “Germany will remain by your side, because we value your efforts!”
On November 3, 2011, a meeting took place at the “East Hall” of the National Assembly with the participation of a parliamentary delegation led by Mr. Edward Oswald, vice-president of the German Bundestag, Ms. Monika Panayotova, chairwoman of the Committee for European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds (CEA/OEF), Mr. Dobroslav Dimitrov, chairman of the Foreign Policy and Defence Committee (FPDC) and other members of the respective committees.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the FPDC, Mr. Dimitrov, outlined the current political environment in Bulgaria. He pointed out that the region finds itself in an extraordinary situation, due to the continuing instability in neighboring Greece.
The charwoman of the CEA/OEF, Ms. Panayotova, for her part, underscored the principle issues that could prove somewhat burdensome for the parliamentary committees. She pointed out that the CEA/OEF is working in several mutually interwoven directions. Firstly, in accordance with the new prerogatives of the National Assembly associated with the principle of subsidiarity, and in an effort to maintain active political dialog with the European Commission, the CEA/OEF is producing a report for its activities in the context of every six-month presidency of the European Council (EC), in which it outlines the relevant topics discussed by the Bulgarian parliament.
Another major task for the CEA/OEF is to constantly maintain a two-prong democratically exercised control with respect to the oversight of European funds. This includes holding regular hearings of government representatives entrusted with the management of European funds, as well as the preparation of semi-annual and yearly reports, reflecting on the present state of the funds’ management and recommending solutions to found problematic areas.
Ms. Panayotova explained the purpose of the two-pronged approach in terms of the funds’ control, pointing out the involvement of civic organizations in all deliberations with respect to current European matters. The constant dialog with the citizenry is achieved in the context of the Council for Public Consultations with the CEA/OEF and the results of the pertinent discussions generally form the cornerstones of the parliamentary standpoints.
She also pointed out that Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area is shaping up as the most important challenge in the remaining months of the Polish presidency of the EC. In this regard, Ms. Panayotova stated that the work continues with respect to the recommendations included in the last report on the European Commission’s Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification. Priority has been given to the legislation known as Draft Act for Forfeiture of Property Acquired Through Criminal Activity.
In addition, Ms. Panayotova focused the attention on the upcoming debates for the 2012 state budget, which are anticipated to be rather challenging. She added that the parliament has a parallel participation in the discussions for the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework for 2014-2020. In this regard, Ms. Panayotova urged Mr. Oswald, in his capacity of former federal minister for regional development, to support Bulgaria with respect to the funds, which the country is due to receive for basic infrastructure in line with the cohesion policy. These funds are of primary importance for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but also for the EU as a whole, due to the fact that basic infrastructure guarantees connectivity and growth in the EU in its entirety.
Last, but not least, Ms. Panayotova placed the accent on the prospective constitutional amendments that will guarantee the implementation of legislation called The Stability and Growth Pact and pave the way for a continuous and prudent financial discipline.
The Vice-President of the Bundestag, Mr. Oswald, greeted his Bulgarian colleagues and stated his approval that such youthful politicians are entrusted to be chairpersons of key committees. He underscored that the true parliamentarism takes place through the activities of such committees, rather than within the walls of the plenary halls.
In the words of Mr. Oswald, Bulgaria has accomplished a great deal in the past 20 years, due to the fact that it is on the right track. He stressed that the road ahead is a long one, but Bulgaria will get there with the help of friends, such as Germany. Mr. Oswald praised Bulgaria’s efforts with respect to the Schengen accession, while pointing out the processes accompanying the country’s membership in the Schengen area are time consuming and will require further efforts.
In addition, Mr. Oswald expressed his admiration for Bulgaria’s sincere perception of Unified Europe as an area of peace, freedom and liberalism. He expressed his regret that, at present, the discussions at European Union level are centered entirely on the situation in Greece and the consequences for the Euro-zone. According to Mr. Oswald, the message from the EU leadership forums ought to be that problems will solved together, however, efforts are required at the level of the individual states as well.
In line with the aforementioned, the chairman of the FPDC, Mr. Dimitrov, pointed out that, at times, it proves most difficult not the actual accession to the Euro-zone, or the Schengen area, but strictly following the rules after gaining membership. According to Mr. Dimitrov, among the main challenges facing Bulgaria’s politicians in their engagements “outside plenary hall” is to convince the public of the prudence of maintaining strict fiscal discipline, which the country is upholding for a number of years. Mr. Dimitrov expressed satisfaction of Mr. Oswald’s view that Bulgaria has achieved a lot in the last 20 years and asked the vice-president of the Bundestag to elaborate on the changes that are noted through the prism of an outside observer.
In his response, Mr. Oswald stated that in Bulgaria has an established parliamentary system, as well as freedoms and democracy. He pointed out that we all need to struggle daily to preserve these achievements and to constantly set our watches in accordance with the citizenry, as they have their trust in democracy when they see the gains measured through a successful economic policy. Mr. Oswald underscored that, without a doubt, the open system is far more difficult to control, while the same goes for maintaining a free state based on the rule of law. Therefore, these values have to be constantly proclaimed and inclusive with respect to the citizenry, which is measured by their participation in the political process. In his closing remarks to the Bulgarian parliamentarians, Mr. Oswald pointed out that: “There are many viewers, as well as sufficient number of referees, but the players remain the most important!”