February 18, 2019

Priorities and challenges of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council

Main priorities and challenges of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

By H.E.  Rumen Alexandrov, Ambassador of Bulgaria in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Taking over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU is both a privilege challenge and responsibility for us. Bulgaria joined the EU 11 years ago and today it has the chance to shape the EU’s policies in key areas.

For us, the Presidency is also a chance to show our partners a different side of Bulgaria: 

  • A country in which the cohesion funds are bringing about visible change and contributing to the year-on-year economic growth of 4%.
  • A country which is protecting the EU’s external border as responsibly as any Schengen area member, without in fact being part of Schengen.
  • A country whose currency is governed under the same rules as the euro, whose macroeconomic indicators are impeccable even though it is not part of the Eurozone.
  • A country where different religions and ethnicities live together in peace. In the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, a church, a mosque and a synagogue lie less than 500 meters apart.

I hope that over the next six months many people across Europe will get to know more of these multiple faces of Bulgaria – the good student, the strong economic performer, the model for ethnic tolerance.

We approach the EU Presidency with full awareness that our citizens expect from us effective solutions to concrete problems. After the crises that Europe has faced in recent years it is time to be pragmatic and result-oriented in order to regain the confidence of our citizens. The time until the end of the current term of the European Parliament and the European Commission is running short and we need to move fast. That is why the program of our Presidency is ambitious while remaining realistic.

H.E.  Rumen Alexandrov, Ambassador of Bulgaria.

What are our strategic goals? We will work for a stable and secure Europe of solidarity.

  • Stable Europe because our citizens expect that the European Union takes care of their prosperity and well-being.
  • Secure Europe because the migration crisis and the terrorist attacks in the recent years showed how vulnerable we are.
  • Solidarity because the main challenges we face can only be resolved by common actions.

To achieve our goals, we work in four main strands:

1. Economic growth, social cohesion, and youth.

In order to boost economic growth, the Bulgarian Presidency will work towards strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). We will promote open and inclusive discussion on the EMU architecture. In the area of the Banking Union, we will focus our efforts on risk reduction measures.

We are putting great emphasis on stable EU finances and we will contribute to the discussions on the new Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU (MFF). Bulgaria will endeavor for an honest and open political debate on the future of the Cohesion Policy and maintain its important role in the budget of the European Union post-2020. The Cohesion policy has a clear added value as it fosters growth and jobs and has a direct benefit to the citizens.

Next, we believe that young people are key to the development of the European economy and society, therefore, the level of European investment in education and research is to be increased. We will put an emphasis on the mid-term review of the Erasmus + programme as well as on finalizing the legislative work on the European Solidarity Corps.

2. Security and stability for a stronger and United Europe

For the security of the Union as a whole, it is crucial to complete the reform of the Common European Asylum System, based on the principles of responsibility and genuine solidarity. The Bulgarian Presidency will work for more coordinated European measures in the field of Return policy.

Another important task for our presidency is to improve the interoperability of the EU information systems and databases.

In Justice area, we will focus our efforts on the institutionalization of the European Public Prosecutor‘s Office as well as on the Cross-border access to electronic evidence.

Within the priority for a stronger and more secure European Union, we will work towards regional cooperation, energy connectivity, protection of critical energy infrastructure and ensuring the security of gas supply through diversification of sources and routes within the framework of a stable Energy Union.

3. European perspective of the Western Balkans

There is a window of opportunity for concrete progress on the EU path of the Western Balkans’ countries in 2018 and we hope that the countries from the region will take advantage of it. As Presidency of the Council, we will fully respect the principles of individual and merit-based assessment, and the fulfillment of the established criteria.

We hope that during the Bulgarian Presidency new negotiation chapters with Serbia and Montenegro could be opened, progress could be made in view of opening negotiations with FYROM and Albania, and the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo could be further consolidated.

The EU will continue to encourage the implementation of ambitious reforms which are indispensable for the European integration of the countries in the region. We see huge potential in bringing the region closer to the Union by building missing energy, digital and transport infrastructure. A key initiative which we already started to promote is the gradual decrease in roaming prices.

On 17 May 2018, Bulgaria will host an EU-Western Balkans Summit, which is to send a positive message to all the 6 countries in the region on their European integration.

4. Digital Economy and skills of the future

The Digital Single Market is a source of growth and competitiveness and greater share of online service users and the rapid penetration of information and communication technologies across all sectors of the economy is needed.

Our efforts are aimed at providing clear, transparent and balanced transport legislation, that takes into account the national specificities of the EU Member States transport sector, with focus on advancing the legislative proposals from the so-calledRoad Package”.

We share the need for Fair and efficient taxation of corporate profits and preventing tax evasion.

As regards the social dimension of the European Union the focus of the Presidency will be on 4 major topics: The Future of Work” in the digital and shared economy; European Social Fund (ESF) support in the post 2020 programming period; the concept of early childhood development; and people with disabilities as members of society with equal rights.

By way of concluding just let me mention that the motto of the Bulgarian Presidency is “United we stand strong“.

The motto reflects our historical experience – the same words are inscribed at the entrance of our National Assembly and are at the core of our democracy. Our national history has taught us that the more united, the stronger we are.

We believe that this experience of ours is relevant for the EU in this particular moment of time. “Unity” and “integrity” are essential to respond to the common challenges and deliver for our citizens.

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