|Author (Person)||Banks, Martin|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.11, No.34, 29.9.05|
By Martin Banks
Next week's committee meetings of the European Parliament will provide the first opportunity for observers from Romania and Bulgaria to make their voices heard.
The 53 national parliamentarians from the two countries were officially welcomed to the Parliament during this week's plenary session in Strasbourg (26 September). They were presented with bouquets, serenaded by Romanian and Bulgarian folk singers and feted with a party thrown by the Mayor of Strasbourg.
But they will not be allowed to speak in plenary nor given a vote until their countries join the EU, which will be 1 January 2007 at the earliest.
Lidia Shuleva, a former deputy prime minister and economy minister of Bulgaria, said she was "touched" by the welcome but she had not yet made up her mind whether she wants the job on a permanent basis.
"This is my first visit here and the Parliament is an impressive place and I want to use this year to explain the work of MEPs to people. It is a great challenge but we will have to wait and see if I seek a permanent seat."
Romanian MP Tiberiu Barbuletiu, who, like Shouleva, will join the ranks of the ALDE group, said: "It is all a bit daunting, not least the Parliament's rules of procedure."
He said he wanted to use the next year to get used to how the Parliament worked and to lobby for his country's EU membership from 2007.
The former Romanian foreign minister, Adrian Severin, said he wanted to work together with MEPs to find solutions to some of the thorny issues currently facing the EU, such as the 2007-13 budget and the EU constitution.
Like Severin Gabriela Cretu is from the Social Democratic Party. But whereas he has been an MP since 1990, Cretu is a political novice. She has only been an MP since last year having previously spent most of her career teaching social sciences in a high school.
"As an MP in Romania I have plenty of direct contact with the public which I like. I am not sure that, as an MEP in Brussels and Strasbourg, I will have that to the same extent. I will have to wait and see."
MEPs are paid the same as national parliamentarians in their home countries. Because the Romanian and Bulgarian observers are already national parliamentarians, they are already receiving such a salary, which for Romanians is about €1,000 per month and for Bulgarians €450 per month. In addition, they will be paid by the EU a daily attendance allowance of €262. The observers will be required to provide proof of the travel expenses they incur - a demand which will not be made of the existing MEPs until their new statute comes into force in 2009.
Atilla Kelemen, from the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, said: "I am not here for the money but for my country."
The 57-year-old former veterinary surgeon, who has worked in the US, hopes to sit on the assembly's committee on agriculture.
Observers will not be able to benefit from interpretation into Romanian or Bulgarian during committee meetings or hearings but this is not a difficulty for Kelemen. "I speak German, Hungarian and English so I don't think it is a problem for me," he said.
Article reports on the arrival of 53 national parliamentarians from Bulgaria and Romania as observers to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 26 September 2005.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Bulgaria, Romania|