Eleven years after accession to the EU, assuming the rotating Council Presidency represents a very important moment for Bulgaria. We have identified four main priorities in our programme for the presidency: economic growth, social cohesion and youth; security and stability for a stronger and united Europe; digital economy and skills of the future; European perspective of the Western Balkans.
Our focus has been on the dossiers which have added value, address the concerns of the European citizens and upon which we have reasonable chances to deliver. It is our intention to have as many dossiers as possible closed by the end of the Presidency, acting impartially, transparently and as an honest broker.
During the first four months we registered important progress in several areas.
Our presidency has prepared the debate on the post-2020 MFF through intensive discussions, aiming at greater flexibility, simplification and transparency of the EU budget. A high-level event was held on 9 March in Sofia on the reform of the own resources and the priorities of the future MFF and we will address the same issues at the June Council.
The future of cohesion policy is another important topic for the Bulgarian Presidency: cohesion is not only a traditional EU policy, but an investment policy that is truly important for the European citizens. This topic was discussed at a General Affairs Cohesion Council in April and will be on the agenda at the high-level conference in Sofia in June this year.
In the field of energy we have put a strong emphasis on regional cooperation, energy connectivity, protection of critical energy infrastructure and diversification of sources and routes. It is our goal to complete the whole Energy package by the end of our presidency.
There is no doubt – our future is digital and we all need to adapt fast to the new realities. This is why we have invested serious efforts to further the work on the Digital Single Market as a source for growth and competitiveness in Europe.
In the area of domestic security the focus of our work is on the reform of the common European asylum system – admittedly the most challenging topic. Four presidencies before us have worked on it without much progress. Our major achievement so far is the new approach to the Dublin Regulation which made it possible to agree on specific texts.
In the context of the legislative process we managed to close several important dossiers – financial regulation and CO2 emissions monitoring, among others. An agreement was reached with the European Parliament on the financing of the political parties, amendments of the electoral law and the modalities of the elections in May 2019.
The region of Western Balkans, as announced, is the special accent of our presidency. There are two main elements in our approach: confirmation of the European perspective of the countries of the region and connectivity building. The former we consider as a restatement of an EU strategic goal, the latter – as a prerequisite and facilitator of the accession. On 17 May the Informal Summit will take place in Sofia with the EU and Western Balkans leaders invited to discuss the New Strategy published earlier this year by the European Commission. This should inform the June European Council discussion on the conclusions on enlargement and association and stabilization process in the WB countries.
Another important event in our agenda, designed to find solutions to sensitive issues, was the meeting of the leaders of the EU and Turkey last March in Varna.
Until the end of the Presidency we will focus on topics that matter to all our citizen – creating more jobs, further improving the quality of life in Europe, making sure that our borders are well protected and guaranteeing that our people have the digital skills which the digital economy requires. We will continue to look for solutions that unite, no matter how challenging this may be at times, because, as our motto says, United We Stand Strong.