Bulgarian MEPs have high hopes for their country's six-month presidency of the EU Council, including improving links with the Western Balkans.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov presents the country’s plans for the Council presidency in plenary on Wednesday 17 January. Follow his statement live online from 9.00 CET.
Sofia has declared it will work to improve Europe’s competitiveness and seek consensus among member states on issues such as security and migration and strive to promote cohesion and solidarity in discussions about the EU's next long-term budget and the EU’s farming policy. The country also aims to improve the prospects for European integration for the Western Balkan countries.
Bulgarian MEPs pointed out that the country should work to find common solutions to Europe’s challenges. Andrey Kovatchev (EPP) said: “During its first-ever presidency of the Council of the EU, Bulgaria will do its utmost to preserve European unity and foster cooperation in key areas of common interest." He also stated the presidency should strive to improve links with the Western Balkans: “We hope our presidency will act as a political catalyst in the accession process of the Western Balkan countries to the EU."
Svetoslav Malinov (EPP) noted that the Bulgarian presidency takes place six months earlier than initially planned. Following the Brexit referendum, the UK decided to relinquish its presidency, scheduled for the second half of 2017. “Brexit will no doubt throw a heavy shadow over the presidency,” Malinov said. While Bulgaria’s priorities have already been set in agreement with the other countries holding the presidency before and after the country(Estonia and Austria), he said he hoped that “we will succeed with one or two political initiatives that would not have made it to the European agenda, had our country not been presiding”.
“Only tangible results on key priorities for the European citizens can rebuild their trust in the project for a unified Europe,” said Sergei Stanishev (S&D). He calls for progress on commitments made by EU countries for equal opportunities, fair working conditions and social protection. Stanishev also pointed out that the EU's next long-term budget, (coming in force from 2021, but negotiations on it are set to start) should not result in less money for policies narrowing the gap between living standards in the EU. Another challenge he mentioned was the reform of the EU's asylum system: “Member States must reach an agreement so that the calls for solidarity could become reality."
“Bulgaria’s presidency should show a responsible stance on the most important issues - migration, protection of external borders and the drastic inequality in incomes and standards of living between Eastern and Western Europe,” said Angel Dzhambazki (ECR). “I think we can integrate more countries, which would offer resistance to the policy of establishing a core and a periphery in the Union."
“A consensus has been reached in Bulgaria on the priorities for the EU Council presidency,” said Filiz Hyusmenova (ALDE). She pointed out that her political party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, had been pushing for the inclusion of the Western Balkans in the agenda of the presidency, adding: “Europe of consensus, Europe of competitiveness and Europe of cohesion are themes that meet the expectations for joint handling of common challenges and reinforcing trust in the EU."