The public debate: “Two years after the Lisbon Treaty. Europe – which way to go?” took place at the plenary hall of the National Assembly. It is the first of a series of discussions of the information and communication campaign organized at the initiative of the parliamentary Committee on European Affairs and EU Funds Monitoring under the patronage of the president of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva. In the debate took part the newly elected president of Bulgaria Mr Rosen Plevneliev, ministers, members of the Bulgarian and the European Parliament, diplomats, NGO representatives. Special guests to the event were Mr Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament and speaker of the European People’s Party and Mr Jean Dominique Giuliani, Chairman of the Foundation “Robert Schuman”.
The debate started with a minute of silence in tribute to Vatslav Havel. The National Assembly president Tsetska Tsacheva noted that the name of the former President of the Czech Republic will forever remain linked to the unification of Europe and to the values of democracy.
At the opening of the discussion the President of the National Assembly stressed that she had accepted to become patron of the initiative lead by the conviction that the Bulgarian parliament should become a place for in depth and critical debate on the most topical issues on the European agenda and Bulgaria’s membership of the European Union. "The today’s debate starts at times of insecurity in Europe, at times when many predict the end of the European Union, when peoples of Europe are unhappy", Tsetska Tsacheva said in her welcome speech.
"“Crisis” is the most repeated word lately, but how do we define the crisis in Europe – as economic, as financial, as social or such as lack of ideas? Is Europe able to go forward in the same way? What is the appearance of the traditional “left” and “right” today in the European and the national parliaments? Is populism that prevails over European policy, what is the presence of the European Union in the everyday life of the citizens? – questions waiting for answers”, Tsetska Tsacheva continued. According to her at the moment the European Union goes through serious challenges and the most important thing now is to find out the best tuning between the interests and ideals of each member country and each citizen that will allow not only the future existence of the EU but also its strengthening.
Mr Rosen Plevneliev the President elect of Bulgaria said in his address that Bulgaria will be among the most responsible and committed partners of the EU in the course of the next difficult year 2012. In his words a small country like Bulgaria can serve as example for the rest of Europe with its stability. He explained that during the years of economic growth of 4-6% most countries had overspent. Bulgaria makes an exception and thanks to the efforts of three consecutive governments had been able to create buffers. He recalled the year 2001 when the government debt of Bulgaria was 100 % of the GDP, while in 2011 it was reduced to 16%. With regard to the national priorities he said “Bulgaria 2020” programme for development is to be ready by mid 2012. He stressed that the political forces in the country should unite around several priorities that may not be postponed. He expressed confidence in the success of Europe, which in his words was the most democratic community in the world.
In the view of Jean-Dominique Giuliani – Chairman of the Robert Schuman Foundation, the current crisis in Europe is more a political crisis of credibility than economic one and what Europe needs is to speed up its development and integration. He noted the European institutions should work to regain the trust of the citizens. Mr Giuliani said the other European countries should follow the example of Bulgaria in reducing their public debts. In his words the 27 countries of the EU together were the richest in the world, with their common debt being smaller than those of the USA and Japan, but the problem is that Europe is not united enough. So the solution is in the further economic integration of the member countries.
Mr Elmar Brok, Member of the European Parliament, on his part, noted that officials have to explain more often the measures undertaken to overcome the difficulties the EU is faced with. He underscored the need of direct communications and joint efforts between the European parliaments. The financial methods could only solve the debt crisis but in addition Europe needs a specific policy to change the financial and bank markets, more rules and regulations for the citizens’ protection. There must be equality between the EU countries, he added, regardless of how small or big, rich or poor they are.
During the debate the Bulgarian Minister for Foreign Affairs Nikolay Mladenov expressed the opinion that Bulgaria looses when Europe is “Smaller” rather than “Bigger”. He added that the preference of Bulgaria was the problems to be solved within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty. He mentioned that the important political issue for Bulgaria at the moment was whether it wants to have a table in the EU, where the politicians may have a seat and partake in the important decision making on the economic policy of the EU - an opportunity that the country will miss if it is not part of the group. According to him the crisis in Europe is due to the non compliance to the rules giving as example the Schengen area. For him the only reason why Bulgaria, which is completely ready, had not been given access to it was the internal political situation in the Netherlands.
The Vice – President of the National Assembly Georgi Pirinski said the most important issue for Bulgaria is how to contribute the most to the strengthening of the EU and its institutions. He stressed that equality between the rights and obligations of the member countries has to be put in place. He pointed to the fact that Bulgaria was successful following the same rules that are currently taking shape in Europe as a result of the efforts of several governments and for this reason Bulgaria deserves to be given access to the Schengen area and to receive the same stimulus as other producers in the EU.
The Chairperson of the parliamentary Committee on European Affairs and EU Funds Monitoring Ms Monika Panayotova summarized the conclusions reached at the discussion for the future of Europe, namely more confidence, integration, discipline, stability and progress.
The public debate on “Two years after the Lisbon Treaty. Europe, which way to go now?” was broadcasted live through the Internet site of the National Assembly.