On January 1, 2018, a decade after its accession to the EU, Bulgaria took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time. Presidency represents a great honor, but a great responsibility too.
For six months Bulgaria will be the main driving force for the tasks on the agenda of the Union, it will perform the functions of an honest mediator, a political leader, a representative and a coordinator. Main goal is to respond to the real needs of European citizens and turn challenges into opportunities.
Priorities of Bulgarian presidency are:
Tomorrow Europe will be what we make it today. Today is the time to build a stronger, more secure and more solidary European Union. The citizens of Bulgaria and of the European Union expect to find concrete solutions to concrete issues. The Bulgarian Presidency will work in a transparent manner, open to all European partners and, above all, to all European citizens.
The future of Europe and of the young people – economic growth and social cohesion
Economic growth and social cohesion are key to the future of Europe. There is some good news for the Union in the forecasts – the European economy is speeding up, more jobs are being created, investment is growing, public finances are becoming stronger. Still, there are some challenges – high levels of debt, small increase in salaries. We shall overcome these challenges together. It is important that the member states’ economies continue to grow, it is important that all EU states participate in the debate on the reforms of the Eurozone as equals, regardless of whether they are members of the latter or not.
The future of the Union is to continue the efforts for social cohesion. The Cohesion Policy provides a real added value for EU citizens and is a proven example of a working instrument for reducing the differences between us, which guarantees the success of the European model. This is why our Presidency will work for an active and constructive debate on the Multiannual Financial Framework. We are aware that the world is changing, and overcoming the challenges requires resources. We are convinced that we have to look for a balance between the new funds and the already existing ones, between the financial instruments and the grant financing.
When talking about united Europe, we should not forget that the Western Balkans need a clear European perspective and connectivity between them and with the member states. The ambition of the Bulgarian Presidency is to achieve a clear action plan with each of the countries, without creating unrealistic expectations, but with concrete steps. This is the way to have long lasting peace, security and prosperity in the region. The goal is to provide connectivity to the Western Balkan countries – transport, air, energy, educational and digital. Bulgaria invests consequent efforts in this direction, for example by promoting the digital policies of the EU among the countries in the Western Balkans through gradual reduction of roaming charges and by increasing the possibilities for broadband internet access.
Security and Stability
Security and stability in a strong and united Europe
Security and migration policies are some of the topics on which we need consensus and joint efforts. The Bulgarian Presidency will work towards long lasting and fair solutions in the area of asylum policy, for efficient policies for return and readmission, for a balanced approach between short and long-term measures aiming at the source of migration, not only at the consequences thereof. European citizens need security and stability and without these, European values are difficult to attain. This is why great emphasis in our efforts will be given to security, whereby we will focus on strengthening the border controls, on the exchange of information between the various bodies, and on prevention. It is important to work towards efficient, fast and fair justice.
Digital economy and skills for the future
Europe’s role in the rapidly developing world is directly linked to the competitiveness of the European economy. The single digital market, the access to innovation, the link between education and the requirements of the future labor market are at the basis of technological development. It is not by chance they are a major element of the programme of the Trio of the Presidencies – Estonia-Bulgaria-Austria and a priority of the Bulgarian Presidency. Electronic communication, providing trans-boundary services particularly to the SMEs, copy rights, e-privacy and cyber security are some of the items on the agenda that need to be decided upon. Linking the education of the young people with learning “the skills for the future” is the way to achieve a competitive, flexible and successful Europe.
The focus of all our action will be young people. We are responsible to them where we are leading our Union. They are our common investment in the future; they should be given the opportunities of education and development. Fostering early childhood development, modernization of the European educational systems and curricula, strengthening social inclusion through formal and informal learning – these are some of the tasks that should not be put off. Today, in the time of information and communication technologies, more than ever before it is a conditio sine qua non for these technologies to be widely introduced at all levels of the educational system.