For the first time since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgaria has officially taken over the six month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Presidency; with the chosen slogan being “United We Stand Strong” “Bulgaria will take charge of the EU presidency at a key moment for the union. May the slogan ‘strength in unity’ guide us,” said EPP member Prime Minister Boyko Borisov “I am confident that we shall work with success on our priorities, on continuity,” he added.
The main priorities have been set out for this six month term, and are the future of Europe for young people, security and stability, making advances in the digital economy and the Western Balkans. “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.
As Sofia takes over the presidency for the next six months, one of the items at the top of the agenda is the management of the strict June deadline for the overhaul of the Dublin Regulation. The policy on asylum has put massive pressure on the bloc, especially in Southern European countries like Greece and Italy. Member states still remains divided on whether the system should be removed, replaced or amended. The current refugee crisis requires immediate action from the EU, and relations with Turkey have never been so important.
Next on the agenda for Bulgaria’s presidency is the EU membership of Serbia. According to diplomats, it’s expected the deadline for the its entry to the bloc of 2025 will be made official in the next few months, as Bulgaria “emphasizes clear European perspective of the Western Balkans”. It’s anticipated that the announcement will be made during the EU summit in May.
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.”
Brexit is another important issue on the table for the EU in the coming months. Since the first stages of negotiations have now been completed, the second part of talks will continue throughout the next six months as the UK leaves the union in March 2019. Details of the future trade deal and transition period are still to be confirmed, as are the plans for improving ties with the Western Balkan nations post Brexit.
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