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Bulgaria Rushes To Join Eurozone To Tap Coronavirus Funds

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov says his country plans to speed up its efforts to join the eurozone and apply for membership by the end of April to help the Balkan country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The April 10 announcement comes less than two months after Borisov said he would wait until July to submit Bulgaria's application to join the eurozone's obligatory two-year "waiting room," the ERM-2 mechanism, due to a lack of consensus in the country.

The coronavirus crisis "has shown us that those who are in the eurozone and in its 'waiting room' will have billions of euros for recovery. Those who are not will have to take on debt at high interest rates," Borisov told reporters.

His comments come after eurogroup finance ministers on April 9 agreed on a coronavirus stimulus package that countries not using the common currency won't have access to.

Borisov said he had already discussed the matter with European Central Bank (ECB) chief Christine Lagarde and the European Commission.

Membership in the ERM-2 should allow Sofia access to ECB financing, he said.

Bulgaria, one of the European Union’s poorest countries, maintains tight fiscal discipline and low debt.

However, the government expects that the impact of the coronavirus on global economies will shrink Bulgaria's growth by 3 percent this year and also increase its budget deficit by 3 percent.

"It will be important for the European Union that disciplined countries can then recover faster using the enormous resources of the European Central Bank," he said. "I want to guarantee that period."

Sofia has met most of the requirements for entry into the eurozone except for for the successful recapitalization of two locally owned banks.

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service
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