Bulgaria attacks EU over crisis

Simeon Djankov
Image caption Mr Djankov believes Bulgaria's austerity measures stand it in good stead

Bulgaria's finance minister has hit out at European institutions which failed to prevent the eurozone crisis.

Simeon Djankov told the BBC that he had been involved in talks to build new supervisory bodies.

But he said no one had "dared to ask what happened to the current institutions".

However, Mr Djankov made it clear that Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, still wanted to join the euro.

'Not bothered'

"Once you design a new currency you need the institutions to go with it and the recent troubles showed we don't have the institutions," he told BBC World Service's Business Daily.

And he added that the current approach of setting up more supervisory bodies for banks, insurance firms and other sectors was missing the point.

"Nobody is daring to ask what happened to the current institutions," Mr Djankov said, accusing the European Commission and the European Central Bank of not being rigorous enough in monitoring the economies of eurozone countries.

He also criticised Eurostat, the official statistics body at the EU, saying: "Didn't they know about Greece's problems, the Irish problems? They seem to not have bothered doing as much analysis as they should."

"The institutions themselves need some health checks and then some changes."

Fiscal responsibility

The future of the eurozone has been questioned after the Irish Republic became the second eurozone member after Greece to seek a bail-out.

And some analysts say the debt crisis could worsen and spread to other members, putting the euro at risk.

But Mr Djankov said he believed his country would be a benefit to the eurozone, if it is allowed to join.

"After we've seen all the recent troubles of the eurozone, they may need some fiscally responsible members and Bulgaria will be one," he said.

"The more votes they have for more fiscally conservative policies, the better for the eurozone. Currently it does not sound like this is a very fiscally responsible club and it could benefit from new members."

The comments come a day after the governor of Iceland's central bank, Mar Gudmandsson, told the BBC that joining the euro could still be a "good option", despite the debt crisis.

'No pain, no gain'

Image caption Spending cuts across society have angered many Bulgarians

Bulgaria has the smallest budget deficit among the 27 members of the EU - though the recession has hit public finances and the government expects its 2010 deficit to expand to 4.6% of GDP.

It is also the second poorest nation in the bloc behind Romania - something that Mr Djankov said was partly because of its position when it entered the EU but also because of austere government.

In recent weeks there have been protests on the streets of the capital Sofia over cuts to spending on education and overhauls of the health service.

"We said we were going to be different (from other countries), and tighten our belts," Mr Djankov said.

We knew it was going to be difficult for a couple of years, but so far this path has proven to be the right path.

"No pain, no gain is a good proverb. We have gone through some pain but the belief in the government has not fallen too much and we still have a lot of support.

"People see what's happening in Europe overall, especially with some of our neighbours and certainly we want to escape that."