Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov presented the priorities of the first Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. As priority topics, Prime Minister Borissov highlighted the future of Europe and young people, the European perspective and connectivity of the Western Balkans, a secure and stable Europe and the digital economy. “It is important during our presidency to make progress on all these issues, to have a debate and to seek the most serious and good decisions,” the Bulgarian Prime Minister stressed.
During the presentation, Boyko Borissov pointed out that it is necessary to continue the debate on dealing with the migration flow to the continent. “I dare say that Bulgaria managed to reduce the migration pressure to zero within one year. This has been achieved with a lot of work, on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. We have shown how with European solidarity, with the efforts of the state and with the agreement we have with Turkey, the migration flow can be minimized,” the Bulgarian Prime Minister added. He told MEPs that work on this agreement should continue actively “with a lot of tact and diplomacy”. Borissov was firm in his statement that Europe must find a solution to support the overall protection of the European border.
In his speech, Prime Minister Borissov also touched on another priority for Bulgaria over the next six months - the topic of the “Western Balkans”. According to him, new countries will not be acceded to the EU in this mandate of the European Commission, but the countries from the Western Balkans should have clarity about their future European perspective. For the Bulgarian Prime Minister now is the right moment to negotiate on this issue. He pointed out the extremely good relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, which can serve as a role-model for resolving long-standing bilateral problems and not for their transposition to the international level. Borissov underlined the importance of the infrastructure projects in the region that give a chance for investment and tourism development, for the perspective for the people of the Western Balkans. “Because the stability of the Balkans is directly linked to the stability of Europe, the solution is a European perspective. They expect it, they want it,” the Bulgarian Prime Minister said.
On the subject of EU-Russia, Boyko Borissov said that during our presidency, normalization of relations will be sought in the context of a pan-European solution. As an extremely important issue, the Bulgarian Prime Minister also highlighted the European budget and the importance of the cohesion policy.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was convinced that the work on all major issues on the European agenda should continue during the Austrian Presidency in the second half of 2018. For this continuity of priorities he has already received the assurance of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave our country as an example in achieving economic growth, good social policy and progress in the fight against corruption, and expressed confidence that the Bulgarian Presidency will do its job well. “Boyko Borissov has proved he is a democrat. Bulgaria has a strong willingness for this Presidency to be a success,” Juncker said.
The speech of the Bulgarian Prime Minister, in which he presented the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency, was applauded by the MEPs in Strasbourg. Unanimous were the wishes of success made by the various parliamentary groups. “The Group of the European People's Party defined the moment as historic. “We saw the struggle of the Bulgarian people against Communism and for freedom. Bulgarians should be proud. Prime Minister, you must be proud of what you did for the people,” they said, firmly supporting the issues of border security and the topic of the Western Balkans.
The Group of the Socialists and Democrats defined the program of the Bulgarian Presidency as very well structured and highlighted the topics of social policy and our entry into Schengen.
European Reformers and Conservatives voiced their hopes that the Brexit negotiations would bring about reforms in the EU.
The ALDE Group expressed their expectations that negotiations on changes to EU migration legislation will begin as soon as possible. “The Bulgarian Presidency is in a very good position to achieve progress on the Western Balkans,” the European United Left said.
The Group of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy welcomed the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency, especially in the field of youth unemployment and revitalizing the process of integration of the Western Balkans, and called on the Bulgarian Presidency to continue its efforts to protect the EU borders and to take steps to discourage immigrants.
In response to questions posed by MEPs, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov also talked on domestic issues. He stressed that the preservation of Bulgarian nature is an important task for the Bulgarian government and ensured that it will not allow illegal construction on the territory of the Pirin Park if a second lift is built in the resort of Bansko. Regarding the fight against corruption, the Prime Minister was categorical that it continues actively and will soon deliver results. He also stressed that he would make the necessary efforts that the Istanbul Convention be ratified by the Bulgarian Parliament, although the document is rejected by the Bulgarian Left.