Keeping sight of European neighbourhood
In May it intends to hold an EU meeting on the Western Balkans.
The motto of Bulgaria’s Presidency, "United we stand strong", is "exactly the motto that we now need in the European Union," declared Chancellor Angela Merkel following a meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Sofia. She said that she has great hopes of Bulgaria’s Presidency, which began on 1 January 2018.
This is the first time that Bulgaria has held the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Germany is supporting it. Under the motto "United we stand strong" the focus of political action is to be on the principle of unity. Bulgaria wants to concentrate primarily on economic and social convergence, prospects for the Western Balkans, security and stability, the digital economy and skills for the future. The Presidency rotates every six months among EU member states.
Creating opportunities for encounter
Angela Merkel pointed to Bulgaria’s geographical location, which gives the country special opportunities "to bring to the EU its influence, its knowledge and its history, to take special account of relations with certain neighbouring states."
"For a peaceful Europe, we must live together harmoniously with the Western Balkan states," said the Chancellor. That is why the Western Balkan states rightly have European prospects. The accession criteria must, however, be met. And tangible progress must be made, especially in terms of "opportunities for people to come together and meet one another".
This so-called connectivity in a region presupposes, for instance, good transport connections between countries.
Informal European Council meeting in May on the Western Balkans
Angela Merkel welcomed the fact that Bulgaria is planning an informal meeting of the European Council in May to look at the Western Balkans. Bulgaria and Germany are in full agreement on this point, and the two countries will be working hand in hand, stressed Angela Merkel.
The Western Balkans are a matter very close to the Chancellor’s heart. She has initiated several conferences on the Balkans since 2014 that have brought together the heads of state and government of several EU member states and the states of the region.
The Chancellor also welcomed Boyko Borisov’s initiative to hold an EU meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The meeting, to be held in the Bulgarian city of Varna, will be attended by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, in his capacity as President of the Council of the EU, as well as the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Parliament. Angela Merkel stressed that she sees good chances "of entering into a dialogue with the Turkish President on all the questions that are of concern to us".