Photo: Nikolay Doychinov (EU2018BG)
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, called for Bulgaria to join the Schengen area and the Exchange Rate Mechanism ERM II.
President Juncker and Prime Minister Borissov met during the traditional visit of the College of Commissioners to the incoming Presidency of the Council of the EU. They discussed the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, focussing on delivering security, stability and solidarity for Europe.
Speaking to the press during the visit, President Jean-Claude Juncker stated: “The Bulgarian Presidency is taking place at a crucial moment for the future of the EU. We are in broad agreement on the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency. For the Commission, improving the connectivity in the Western Balkans is of crucial importance. I am happy to note that the Bulgarian Presidency is giving the topic of the Western Balkans the attention it deserves.
In my State of the European Union address, I made it clear that according to the Treaties, all Member States fulfilling the criteria for joining the euro area should join it. Bulgaria has achieved significant progress and should join ERM II as rapidly as possible. Ever since I became President of the Commission I have called for Bulgaria to become part of the Schengen area. We feel that Bulgaria meets all the conditions required to join, and I will not budge an inch when it comes to recalling this fact.”
Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov said: “Whatever we had to do to join ERM II, we did. We have a currency board arrangement and a large fiscal reserve. We are ready to join ERM II and I hope that quite soon this will become a reality.”
The leaders also witnessed the signing of a €100 million loan by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) for the agri-pharma business Huvepharma. The deal was signed by Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, Agriculture Minister of Bulgaria Rumen Porozhanov, European Investment Bank Vice-President Andrew McDowell and Kiril Domuschiev, Chief Executive Officer of Huvepharma. It will create over 200 jobs in rural areas and strengthen the Bulgarian agriculture sector, and is the biggest deal in Bulgaria under the Investment Plan for Europe (Juncker plan) so far.
President Juncker met Prime Minister Borissov and the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, in the morning. In parallel, the College of Commissioners held cluster meetings on three topics linked to the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency and to the European agenda: foreign affairs, security and defence, migration and justice; a Europe of cohesion and stability; and a competitive, innovative and digital Europe. The results of the discussions were presented during a joint plenary session by the College of Commissioners and the Bulgarian Government.
The meetings took place in the National Palace of Culture, the main venue of the Bulgarian Presidency in Sofia. The programme also included a meeting between President Juncker and the President of the Bulgarian National Assembly Tsveta Karayancheva and a meeting between the College of Commissioners and the Presiding Body of the National Assembly.
The College of Commissioners traditionally visits the Member State holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union at the beginning of the Presidency. The visit constitutes the first high-level event taking place in Sofia during the Bulgarian Presidency. Overall, almost 300 events will take place in Bulgaria during the Bulgarian Presidency, including a Summit of the heads of states and governments of the EU Member States and the countries of the Western Balkans, 12 informal meetings of the EU Council, and more than 20 high-level meetings.