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 Full text 
Tuesday, 16 July 2019 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

Review of the Romanian Presidency of the Council (debate)

  Andrey Kovatchev, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, first of all, on behalf of the PPE Group, allow me to congratulate President Iohannis and you, Prime Minister, and your government, the people of Romania and everybody involved for making your country’s first Presidency a success. You have assumed responsibility at a challenging time for Europe, a period marked by the impending departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the ongoing discussions about the future shape of the EU project and institutional renewal, starting with the European elections.

Against this background, you have faced high expectations to deliver on legislation, but also to provide guidance on set priorities for the future. During the Romanian Presidency, the EU made good progress on several important issues such as the digital single market, the Gas Directive and the Banking Union. The Commissioner has already talked about some of them.

Together we have also achieved a strong commitment at EU level for the European enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans. We welcome the decision of the Romanian Presidency to keep this important topic on the agenda of the European Union. After a ten-year break, the Sofia summit during the Bulgarian Presidency provided a much—needed tangible roadmap for the European future of this region. We highly value the efforts of both the Austrian and the Romanian Presidency in sustaining and furthering this impetus. It is time to face reality. A weakening of enlargement momentum could easily cause setbacks for the reform agenda in the region and create openings for other third countries to gain greater influence – a situation which, to put it mildly, won’t be in the interests of the European Union. The Romanian Presidency started with the motto ‘cohesion, a common European value’. Indeed, a more cohesive Europe is a stronger Europe.

Many important files have been successfully closed. I would like especially to highlight the agreement on the regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard. Strengthening our border control capacity has been a longstanding priority for the PPE Group. The most important freedom that our citizens enjoy is free travel within the European Union. We can only guarantee this freedom if we secure our external borders to monitor who is crossing them at all times. In regard to my country, Bulgaria, we set a good example on this securing of the external border. We have ensured a high level of protection of our external border also with the help of EU solidarity, which guarantees the security of the whole of Europe. The PPE Group is in favour of a stronger European Border and Coast Guard with increased resources and capacities ready to deploy immediately whenever a country faces disproportionate migratory pressure. We support the reinforcement of Frontex with 10 000 new border guards to help national border enforcement officers.

Another key topic was the debate on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the next programming period. The PPE Group wants an ambitious Europe and we need the means to match our ambitions. We cannot expect the EU to deliver on expectations to European citizens if we do not give them the tools to be effective and adapt to the changing world. Although we would have liked the negotiations to be finalised before the European elections, we commend the Romanian Presidency for the good progress achieved in the first half of this year. It is important that we do not reduce the share of the total EU budget allocated to cohesion policy measures post—2020. The European structural and investment funds contribute to improving our infrastructure and closing socioeconomic gaps between regions, but also fight poverty and here Romania – but also all of us – need to do much more by fighting poverty in our Union.

Nevertheless, we would have also appreciated the Romanian Presidency getting better results on the external neighbourhood discussion and improvement on the Schengen enlargement talks. Unfortunately, the Council is still not willing to grant access for Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. The U-turn at the helm of the Council coincided with the negotiations for the appointment of the European Public Prosecutor. The PPE Group strongly supports the efforts to combat fraud affecting the financial interest of the European Union. But of course our Union is not only financial; it is also based on values. Let us not forget that the EU is founded on the shared values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights. The rule of law is a fundamental value that we, the members of the PPE Group, care about.

Finally, the role of the Presidency is not only to ensure the day-to-day management of the European agenda, but also to set strategic priorities for the future. Here an important success was the EU summit organised in Sibiu by President Iohannis. EU leaders signed the Sibiu Declaration and agreed upon the main steps towards a more united, stronger and democratic Union.

We have received a strong mandate from our citizens. More than 50% of citizens voted in the European elections. Now it’s time for the Finnish Presidency to continue the work and work together with us and the President of the European Commission, who we hope will be elected this afternoon, to realise the ambitious programme presented by Ms von der Leyen in the plenary this morning. Thank you very much again for all your efforts. I am looking forward to the Finnish Presidency.

Last updated: 17 July 2019Legal notice