Monika Panayotova, Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency and responsible for relations with the European Parliament, participated as a representative of the Council of the European Union in the plenary session of the European Parliament (EP) held in Strasbourg from 16 to 19 April.
The Bulgarian Presidency was invited to participate in a debate on the discharge to the European Commission for the implementation of the European budget for 2016. In her statement Ms Panayotova underlined that good financial management is of utmost importance as the efficient use of EU funds sends a clear signal to Europe’s citizens that every single euro is spent in a responsible manner.
Ms Panayotova participated also in a debate on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. She emphasized the fact that social networks and digital platforms need to be transparent and to guarantee the protection of personal data and privacy. These important issues will be discussed by EU leaders on 16 May during the two-day summit in Sofia.
The Presidency also noted that the case poses other fundamental questions related to the protection of rule of law and democracy in times of massive digital disinformation. Ms Panayotova underlined the fact that we should not forget the important role of education and the need to develop democratic resilience, media literacy, tolerance and critical thinking because these efforts have become key to fighting off propaganda and manipulation through fake news. An important step in this regard is the initiative of the Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to set up a High Level Expert Group to counter fake news and the spread of disinformation online.
On behalf of the Council of the EU Ms Panayotova presented a position on disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches. She informed the MEPs that reaching an agreement on this topic requires time and effort, as there are still unresolved issues. The Bulgarian Presidency is currently pursuing consultations with the Member States with a view to advancing the file.
The Council of the EU was also invited to participate in the important debate on vaccine hesitancy in Europe. Ms Panayotova pointed out that the drop in the use of vaccines against preventable diseases such as measles, tetanus, rubella is a worrying phenomenon that could cause serious health problems for European citizens. She noted that, in order to increase vaccination coverage, we need to tackle other important issues, such as preventing vaccine shortages and developing new vaccines. The Presidency looks forward to the European Commission's proposal for a Council Recommendation on Strengthening Cooperation against Vaccine Preventable Diseases.
In the framework of the plenary session, on behalf of High Representative Federica Mogherini, Ms Panayotova made a statement during the debate on “Peace prospects for the Korean peninsula in the light of recent developments”. In the statement on behalf of the High Representative, Ms Panayotova underlined that the common interest in achieving the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means, is an important priority. The EU stands ready to continue its support with all diplomatic means, including with the means of parliamentary diplomacy, in order to contribute to building constructive dialogue on the Korean peninsula.
During the plenary session, a debate on the future of Europe took place with the participation of the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron. This was the fourth of a series of debates with heads of state and government of the EU Member States and the Members of the European Parliament upon the initiative of EP President Antonio Tajani. In his speech, the French President underlined the importance of the European sovereignty, emphasizing the need for the revival of Europe, led by the spirit of its nations, able to carry on beyond the divisions and to find the correct solutions to the challenges of the global transformation. He remarked on the need for conducting a true European debate on the eve of the elections for a new European Parliament.
In Strasbourg, Deputy Minister Panayotova also participated in tripartite political negotiations on the mandatory Transparency Register for the three main EU institutions – the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission. As a representative of the Council of the EU, she discussed the new proposal together with the EP negotiators Danuta Huebner, chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and Sylvie Guillaume, vice-president of the European Parliament and the representative of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the Commission.
During the meeting, Ms Panayotova clearly confirmed on behalf of the Council the political will and political commitment for more transparency in interactions with interest representatives. She underlined that practical, pragmatic and legally sound solutions are needed, in order to establish a mandatory Transparency Register with the participation of the three institutions.