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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Bulgarian prime minister's concern over EU delay
Bulgaria's Prime Minister and former King has claimed that his country could get "cold feet" about joining the European Union if there are any more delays.

Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said Bulgaria may back out if the European Commission refused it entry as part of its expansion into central and eastern Europe in 2007.

"Unless Bulgaria is given a date, such as the one we have indicated, then maybe our population, our people would say: 'What's all these sacrifices, measures, reforms?'", he told BBC HARDtalk's Tim Sebastian.

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At the beginning of October, the European Commission approved a report judging 10 countries ready for membership to the EU in 2004. The report supported Bulgaria's attempts to join in 2007.

The final decision on expanding the union will be made by EU governments at a summit in Brussels later this month and at a further summit in Copenhagen in December.

"Second class citizens"

Bulgaria has so far experienced problems meeting 22 of the 30 criteria for membership - one of the lowest totals of all the candidate countries.

Mr Saxe-Coberg dismissed fears that Bulgaria would be treated as a second class citizen when it joined following controversy over EU proposals to reduce farming subsidies for future members.

But he stressed that the terms of entry would need to be discussed.

"I think that there is something which is called negotiation," he said.

Political exile

Mr Saxe-Coburg came to the Bulgarian throne at the age of six. He had ruled just three years when his family were sent into exile.

Figures show that more than 10% of the Bulgarian population live on less than $2 a day.
Last year, his Simeon II National Movement party won an overwhelming victory in Bulgaria's general election, and he was sworn in as Prime Minister.

His government announced a series of measures aimed at reforming the economy and raising the standard of living in the country.

These included setting up a national fund to offer interest-free loans for private enterprise and raising the minimum wage by 17%

Since the election, his popularity has plummeted and there is discontent among Bulgarians that his election promises have not effected any changes.

However Mr Saxe-Coberg denied that his economic reforms were too optimistic.

"I would have never dared say that in 800 days I would change things because if 12 years and various governments haven't achieved it, who am I to do so? " he said.

The interview can be watched in full on Tuesday 15 October on BBC World and BBC News 24 at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in BST) 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT) 0330, repeated 0830, 1130, 1530, 1830, 2330

HARDtalk with Tim Sebastian is broadcast Mon - Friday on BBC World and BBC News 24
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See also:

09 Oct 02 | Europe
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08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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