Bulgaria takes EU's helm
Donald Tusk's speech drew a standing ovation during the official opening ceremony
12 January, 2018
The President of the European Council Donald Tusk chose a verse by one of Bulgaria's greatest poets, dedicated to the love for the fatherland, to start his speech during the official opening ceremony for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Tusk gave his speech in Bulgarian, which brought to their feet the Bulgarian and EU political elite in attendance during the event held on 11 January at the National Theatre in Sofia.
“As a Pole, I understand well how much work, courage and determination it cost you, Bulgarians, to achieve European success for your fatherland. No one gave you anything for free,” he said. “We would all like it if the present and future of the Balkans were less like dramatic screenplays. Stability, security, prosperity - this is what the people of the whole region deserve. And the EU's purpose is to help make this scenario a reality,” Tusk commented.
He believes that it is a good thing that the future of the Western Balkans was outlined as one of the priorities of the Bulgarian presidency. “Who, if not you - the descendants of Spartacus, the inheritors of the oldest European statehood, you, who never lost a flag in any battle - would be more suited to rise to the important and exceptionally difficult task of renewing the European perspective for the entire region,” Tusk said.
“Dobar vecher (Good evening),” the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker greeted the audience in Bulgarian. From this night on and in the next six months and beyond Bulgaria will lead Europe, President Juncker said. “Your Presidency is taking place at a crucial moment when the EU must deliver on a number of initiatives for our citizens and shape our Union's future. I can think of nobody better than my friend Boyko to carry Europe forward and act as a bridge builder in our Union and beyond. I know he will do this with force, because he is a strong and committed European,” Juncker said, adding: “You can count on us. Your place is in Europe. Your place is in Schengen. Your place is in the euro. I will work for that. The Commission will be by Bulgaria's side.”
The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani reminded the slogan of the Bulgarian presidency “United we stay strong” and noted that united “we must take on all the challenges ahead of us and make Europe fit for the future.” “Together we must continue our reflection on how to improve our union to make it more efficient, more democratic and closer to our citizens, especially to the young generations, we must listen carefully to their concerns and expectations,” Tajani said.
The partnership between the Bulgarian government and the European Commission during the country’s EU presidency was a topic of discussion at a meeting between PM Boyko Borisov and the President of the EC Jean-Claude Juncker on 12 January. The Bulgarian premier noted that over its 10-year membership in the EU the country gained experience in the solving of the various crises the bloc went through and will continue to be active in the discussion of Europe’s future. “Our responsibility in the next six months is great but we remain a reliable partner in the search for consensus on the most important topics for the EU community. We believe that it is vital that the unity of the EU is strengthened,” the Bulgarian premier stressed.
Later, the College of Commissioners and the ministers from the Bulgarian cabinet had a meeting at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. In the meantime, three cluster meetings were held on topics related to the Bulgarian presidency’s priorities and the European agenda. Commissioners and ministers discussed the following themes: 1. External relations, security and defence, migration and justice; 2. An inclusive and sustainable Europe closer to the citizens; 3. A competitive, innovative and digital Europe. The main rapporteurs in the three meetings were Vice-PM Ekaterina Zaharieva, Vice-PM Tomislav Donchev and Minister Lilyana Pavlova.