Bulgaria received large support for the priorities of its presidency of the Council of the EU, especially with regard to giving a clear EU prospect for the Western Balkan states, said Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds Kristian Vigenin, who recapped the results from the COSAC Chairpersons’ meeting on 22 January 2018 in Sofia.
In a number of statements, it has been pointed out that security in the Western Balkan region also meant stability for the whole EU, said Kristian Vigenin. In his words, the discussion among representatives of national parliaments has shown there are high expectations of the Bulgarian Presidency. The unification of Europe will not be complete until the Western Balkan region becomes part of the EU, said the Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds.
Also related to the future of Europe and the EU is the drafting of the Union’s budget for the period 2020 – 2027, said Kristian Vigenin. He emphasised that the numerous challenges to the EU call for a balance between maintain traditional policies and funding new common policies such as security, migration and European defence. For us, as a country catching up in its social and economic development, it will be especially important to maintain the long-term investment nature of the cohesion policy and this has been one of highlights in the statements by both Bulgarian representatives and representatives of Central and Eastern Europe, said Kristian Vigenin.
The Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds pointed out that inter-institutional cooperation was a key instrument for upholding the interests of EU citizens. Kristian Vigenin said that the active exchange between the European Parliament, national parliaments, the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions is a platform for feedback from the citizens. This is the idea behind the setting up of a working group chaired by First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans. It will review the policies and decide what can be achieved more efficiently on the European, national, regional or local level, he added.
It is planned that the working group will include three representatives from national parliaments, three from the Committee of the Regions, and three from the European Parliament, said Kristian Vigenin. It has been decided to set up a working group as part of COSAC, which will be composed of two representatives from each member state and discuss what national parliaments can do on subsidiarity and proportionality on the national level.
Europe needs unity to be strong, prosperous and to achieve the development we all need, said Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU Lilyana Pavlova to the participants of the COSAC Chairpersons’ meeting. This meeting is the first event within the Parliamentary Dimension of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Minister Pavlova emphasised that the slogan of the Bulgarian Presidency, United We Stand Strong, was the message that Bulgaria wanted to send to all EU member states. In her words, it has been endorsed across Europe and acknowledged by EU leaders in the fast few days.
In a short video, the Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU presented the priorities of the presidency, which was launched only a few days ago. They are four and we will be actively working on them in the next months, said Lilyana Pavlova. In her words, these priorities allow flexibility, call for a high-quality debate, balance, compromise, consensus, and some of them are quite challenging.
An important part of the debate will be on the future of Europe and young people because in May we are expecting the draft of the multi-annual financial framework, emphasised Minister Pavlova. The second priority during the Bulgarian Presidency is security and stability in Europe. This topic is important because we need to work out how to ensure more efficient control at the external borders and make security systems work more effectively, she said. One of the most difficult debates will take place at the JHA Council meeting in Sofia, but we hope that the time has come for EU leaders to reach a consensus, added the Minister.
Lilyana Pavlova also mentioned the other two priorities: the EU prospect for the Western Balkan states, and digital economy and skills and the digital market.
The priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency were supported by over 20 parliamentarians from EU member states and applicant countries, which participated in the discussion. There were questions to Minister Lilyana Pavlova, who emphasised that working to implement the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency, it would be important to keep the balance and protect the interests of all countries.
The role of European macro-regional strategies to achieve sustainable development, security and stability was discussed by Raul Mälk, Estonian Foreign Ministry Ambassador of the Baltic Sea region and Chair of the National Coordination Group on the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea region, Denitsa Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works and National Coordinator for the EU Strategy on the Danube region, and Adrone Percauscine, Head of Regional Cooperation and Security Organisation in Europe Department at the European Foreign Office.