Sofia strives to meet EU norms

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria should keep up the pace of reforms and bring its farm sector up to EU standards to join the bloc next year as planned, the EU’s health and consumer protection commissioner said yesterday. Markos Kyprianou said the Balkan country had made good progress in areas of concern on food safety and veterinary control ahead of a crucial September report that should recommend whether it can join in 2007 or be delayed by a year. «Since last October there has been tremendous progress in the areas of concern, but still a lot work needs to be done,» he told reporters in Sofia. «I believe if Bulgaria maintains the same pace of work, it is feasible to meet the areas of concern before accession,» Kyprianou said. The EU’s executive body postponed a decision in May on Bulgaria’s readiness to join the bloc, saying it should show more tangible results in cracking down on organized crime, high-level graft and improving the standards on animal health and disease control. In May Bulgaria received «red flags» on its progress for control of animal by-products and diseases and building a payment agency to hand out the EU’s generous agriculture subsidies to the farmers. Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Nihat Kabil said his ministry will work hard during the summer to make the most of the time left before the European Union’s September report. “September is a very crucial month… This will be a very hot summer, a summer full of work,» he said.