Bulgaria took over for the first time in its history as an EU member state the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on Monday.
Sofia chose “United We Stand Strong”, the motto of National Assembly and of the Coat of Arms of the Republic of Bulgaria, as the slogan for the presidency, 11 years since it joined the EU in 2007. Bulgaria ranks 21st in the 28 EU member state in terms of Gross Domestic Product(GDP) and is still not a member of the eurozone, while its national currency Bulgarian lev, equals to 0.51 Euro.
“Bulgaria will take charge of the EU presidency at a key moment for the union. May the slogan ‘strength in unity’ guide us,” EPP member Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wrote in a post on Facebook. “I am confident that we shall work with success on our priorities, on continuity,” he added. Borisov.
The Bulgarian presidency priorities stand in four key areas for this first six-month term: future of Europe and young people, Western Balkans, security and stability and digital economy. “The presidency will work with its partners on unity among the member states and the EU institutions to provide concrete solutions to build a stronger, more secure and solidary Europe,” the Council said.
Brexit and Migration deadlines
As Sofia took over from Tallinn, it is Bulgaria that will have to manage a strict June deadline for EU heads of state and government to agree on Migration agenda’s hot potato, an overhaul of the so-called Dublin Regulation. Dublin asylum policy regulation has grown to be of the main problems of the bloc, putting too much pressure on frontline states Greece and Italy, still, no consensus is achieved and the member states appear gravely divided on how this system should be replaced.
Refugee crisis in South – Eastern Europe, requires steps forward at EU-Turkey relations, after the failed coup attempt in 2016. Bulgaria shares a 260 km border with Turkey and could be the bloc’s chance to use Bulgaria’s diplomatic skills to warm things up with Ankara.
March will also bring challenging Brexit talks back in the game. Since the first part of talks is complete, the second part of talks will focus on the parameters and length of a post-March 2019 transition period and future trade links with London.
As for Sofia’s gains from the talks, despite the EU budget cuts, the Bulgarian government pushes for further cohesion within the bloc, while aiming to facilitate closer ties with the Western Balkan countries for the post-Brexit era.
Serbia’s EU membership
According to diplomatic sources, Serbia expects that the “deadline” for its EU entry in 2025 will be made official during the Bulgarian presidency, as Bulgaria “emphasizes clear European perspective of the Western Balkans”. A good start for Servia was made by another neighbor back in 2003’s Thessaloniki Summit, in Nothern Greece.
Sofia is expected to go public with an official announcement during the summit of the Bulgarian EU presidency in May. Marking 2025 as the enlargement year is expected to enhance the message.
It is anticipated at the moment, that such approach would be continued during the next two presidencies of Austria and Romania. On the triplet’s views, Jadranka Joksimovic, Serbian minister in charge for the EU said: “These three countries say that the enlargement is important and that it would be the part of the agenda (of the presidency); at the same time, we will be preparing ourselves (for the accession to EU) as usual or maybe even faster. The key is continuity in every moment, as well as the implementation of the reforms and clear political will.”