SOFIA, June 1 (Reuters) - Bulgaria still plans to apply for euro zone membership in the first half of the year, even though the European Central Bank and the European Commission say it’s not ready to join.
Bulgaria, which currently holds the EU presidency, was in talks with the ECB, the commission and member states of the euro zone, Minister Vladislav Goranov said on Friday.
“We are working on a road map and we will soon conclude this process,” Goranov told public BNR radio. “There is no reason to change our strategy from January to apply for such membership in the first half of the year.”
But the ECB and the commission have tried to curb Sofia’s ambitions to enter the exchange rate mechanism (ERM-2), the two-year precursor to adopting the euro. They say Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest member, does not meet all criteria .
Earlier this month, the governor of Bulgaria’s central bank, Dimitar Radev also said his country’s drive to join the euro should be encouraged and not blocked.
Bulgaria’s per capita real gross domestic product is 6,300 euros ($7,350), a fifth of the euro zone’s average, raising concerns that it may not be prepared for such a leap. It also needs to show it is serious about fighting wide-spread corruption.
Its accession is also seen as a test case for banking supervision, now handled by the ECB for the biggest lenders in the bloc, including the top three banks in each country. ($1 = 0.8570 euros) (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, editing by Larry King)