Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Bulgaria assumes EU presidency for first time

BRUSSELS: Bulgaria has assumed to the rotating EU presidency for next six months. There will be four priorities during the time of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU, said the country’s EU ambassador Dimiter Tzantchev. The four presidency priorities are: the future of Europe and the young people; European perspective and “connectivity” of the Western Balkans; security and stability in a “strong and united” Europe and, lastly, the digital economy.

The six-month presidency will take place under the motto “United We Stand Strong”, he said. Bulgaria took over the rotating presidency on January 1, a decade after its accession to the EU. It is the first time it has held the position.

Tzantchev, addressing the packed meeting at the city’s Residence Palace, admitted that he “could not hide that I’m pleased so many journalists are to hear about our aims and priorities.” The diplomat added, “There is a lot of work ahead of us. We’ll follow on from the good job done by the previous presidency.”

He told journalists that “we know the expectations for the presidency are high but we’ll do our utmost to respond to them in the best possible way. Our teams have been preparing for a long time for this task, the first of such magnitude for our experts since accession to the EU.”.

“For our country it is a great honour, but a great responsibility too.” One of the priorities will be to work on “presenting a tangible European perspective for all countries from the Western Balkans.”

The deepening of regional cooperation and the development of good neighbourly relations will be of particular importance for the presidency.

“We definitely see the Western Balkans as part of Europe.The hopes for a European future in that part of the continent unfortunately receded in the last years and there is a risk of a gap being left by the EU,” he cautioned.

Turning to the timetable for Western Balkan accession to the EU, Tzantchev said this would depend on member states and on the progress made by the six countries concerned: Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The European Commission is due to publish its ‘enhanced’ Western Balkans strategy next month which is expected to contain some indicative dates for the enlargement process.

For six months Bulgaria will be the main driving force for the tasks on the agenda of the EU. He said, “We are prepared for this, we realise it will not be easy, but we know what we want to achieve and we can do it. Our goal is to respond to the real needs of European citizens and turn challenges into opportunities.”

“The key to attaining the presidency goals is unity. It is not by chance that we chose “United We Stand Strong” for our slogan.” Bulgaria will work for unity between the member states, as well as between the European institutions, he noted. There will be a total of 299 events during the presidency, which will take place mainly in Sofia, but also in Varna, Burgas, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo and Ruse.

Bulgaria will host one summit of the heads of states and governments of the EU member states and the countries of the Western Balkans. This will take place in the second half of May.=Diplomatic News Agency (DNA)