By DAVID McHUGH and VESELIN TOSHKOV, Associated Press
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Bulgaria has hit a setback to its hopes of soon becoming a member of the euro after the European Central Bank said the EU’s poorest country needs “wide-ranging” reforms to get its economy in shape to join.
The statement came in the ECB’s report card Wednesday assessing progress toward membership among seven European Union member countries that haven’t yet joined the 19-country euro.
Bulgarian officials have said they want to enter this year the two-year procedure that leads to joining the euro. They note Bulgaria has low government budget deficits and debt, and has pegged its currency to the euro.
But the ECB expressed concern about high business debt, corruption and weak education and skills training. Bulgaria is also experiencing a high level of bad loans burdening banks.