BRUSSELS —-Bulgaria took over Monday the rotating six-month European Union Council presidency from Estonia .
The country, which will chairs EU Council of ministers meetings, will have to work hard to keep the bloc united amid a looming Brexit and unresolved migration issues.
Bulgaria will also focus on the prospect of western Balkan states joining the bloc, will strive to ensure safety and security amid the ongoing refugee and migration situation, seek a united defense policy, economic growth and devote attention to the EU’s single digital market.
The Bulgarian presidency’s slogan is “United we stand strong”. Unity will indeed be a key aim as the EU seeks to maintain a common stance on Brexit and to tackle threats to rule of law and democracy emanating from Hungary, Poland and increasingly Romania, too.
On a recent visit to Sofia, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that during the next six months “we must take four important steps on Brexit, which is why we strongly rely on you to keep up the common European position in the negotiations”.
He said these steps involve drawing up directives for talks on the transition period, preparing a draft treaty on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, mandating the European Commission to negotiate with London on the transition period and reaching a common position on future relations between the EU and Britain.
Bulgaria wxill also have to coordinate a common position on refugee and migration matters and prepare for the new EU budget from 2020 onward.
Bulgaria’s minister for the EU presidency, Lilyana Pavlova, said that a successful presidency will require reaching political consensus, engaging in dialogue and reaching mutual understanding.
The country will endeavor to maintain the unity and stability of the bloc, Pavlova said. But her country has additional objectives, too. Pavlova said that her country wants to ensure young people have a bright future something that is inextricably tied to the EU’s new budget as well as to Brexit.
Regarding the EU’s foreign policy, Bulgaria is generally considered as a very friendly country towards Israel. However, the country voted in favor of a recent United Nations General Assembly resolution opposing the decision of the United States to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Sofia followed the position of most EU member states. Only Hungary, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Romania abstained during the vote.
On July 18,2012, five Israelis were killed when terrorists blew up a tour bus in the seaside resort of Burgas.
According to the Bulgarian government and US and EU authorities, three Hezbollah operatives backed by Iran were responsible for the bombing.
In order to demonstrate unity following the terrorist attack, the Israeli and Bulgarian governments met in Jerusalem in September 2012. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, along with 12 out of 16 ministers, visited Israel for a joint meeting between the two governments. In addition, Borissov held one-on-one meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Around 7,500 Jews live today in the country.