Bulgaria's semester focuses on refugee crisis and Western Balkans
Bulgaria's presidency of the European Union, in addition to advancing in the concretization of the 'Brexit', puts on the table particularly sensitive issues for Central and Eastern Europe, such as the migratory routes that enter Europe through the southeast of the continent and the advisability of the future integration of the states born of the former Yugoslavia, of which so far only Croatia has joined the EU.
▲European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov [Nikolay Doychinov-Bulgarian Presidency].
article / Paula Ulibarrena García
During this first semester of 2018, for the first time, Bulgaria holds the rotating presidency of the committee of the European Union (EU). The Bulgarian presidency has as its main challenges the management of the migration crisis and the 'Brexit' negotiations. As a special goal has been marked to put the focus on the Western Balkans. During the semester, Bulgaria hopes to take the final steps towards the euro and to join the Schengen area.
Under the slogan "Unity is strength", Bulgaria - the poorest country in the EU - has set itself an ambitious diary until June. The Bulgarian government, formed by the conservative populist GERB party and the ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front, has set out to help make the European bloc stronger, more stable and more united.
To this end, Sofia wants to foster consensus, cohesion and competitiveness, with the specific challenge of overcoming existing differences in the handling of the refugee crisis. Given the rejection by several partners of quotas for the relocation of asylum seekers, Bulgaria will seek "a sustainable system for managing immigration," with "common rules that are enforced," the Bulgarian presidency program highlights.
Dialogue with third countries to facilitate the return of migrants without the right to asylum and the strengthening of external border control are some of the measures planned by the executive led by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, the conservative populist Boiko Borisov.
Bulgaria's position on the Syrian refugee crisis is that the adoption of a mechanism to relocate refugees is only a solution provisional. The government in Sofia believes that a lasting and solid solution must be found under which to limit the pressure on the external borders of the EU and the secondary migration resulting from it. It proposes that the EU should work as a matter of priority and urgency together with its EU partners with a view to stabilizing the countries of origin and helping the transit countries. Bulgaria, which has Turkey as a neighbor, considers Turkey to be core topic for the resolution of the problem and proposes that the EU should forge urgent measures to strengthen Turkey's capacity to receive refugees. Bulgaria has always been keen for the agreements to provide for Turkey to admit the refugees that the EU can refund from Greece.
For Sofia, it is necessary to clarify the distinction between economic migrants and refugees and to move towards "solidarity mechanisms" that are acceptable to all member states, recalling in this regard the failure of the mandatory quota system for the relocation of refugees in Italy and Greece.
Another priority of the Bulgarian presidency is to place the countries of the Western Balkans in the sights of an EU, which for the time being is not considering any further enlargement. Some countries in the region, such as Serbia and Montenegro, are actively negotiating their entrance, which they hope will take place within the next five years. Meanwhile, Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo are still waiting to formally start negotiations.
Among the nearly 300 meetings planned during the Bulgarian EU presidency, a special summit on May 17-18 between EU leaders and these six aspirants stands out.
"The European project will not be complete without the integration of the Balkans", warned the Minister manager of the Bulgarian Presidency, Lilyana Pavlova. Bulgaria insists on the convenience of helping a European region still marked by the political instability of the new and small states that emerged after the Yugoslav war.
After Croatia's integration into the European Union on July 1, 2013, it is logical that other countries of the former Yugoslavia intend to follow. Montenegro (which even has a bilateral agreement with Bulgaria of technical-political attendance on topic) and Albania are already official candidates, and there will probably soon be an invitation for Serbia and Macedonia.
The Economics, stability of institutions and democratic transparency have always been and will always be decisive factors in the integration process. For this reason, today, the question of the development of the Balkans and the region of southeastern Europe is very present in the European diary since the big donors of the European budgets do not forget the problems caused by the integration of countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria itself. In fact, four countries in the area are subject to the economic policy of the Union: Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.
Excluded from this possible integration for the time being are Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is still under European protectorate, and Kosovo, without official recognition by several governments, including two members of the committee Security Council (China and Russia) and five EU members (Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Cyprus and Romania). In addition, the level of unemployment in the Western Balkans is quite high compared to Bulgaria and Romania, with a combined average of the four candidates at around 25%.
On the other hand, with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the war in the Balkans, the socioeconomic systems collapsed and the transition period resulted not only in growing inequalities, but also in the absence of legality and effective government. The consequence of all this has been in many countries of the area the important role played by black money in the Economics. Bulgaria leads this sad record, with an informal sector accounting for 31% of the Economics, closely followed by Romania and Croatia, whose underground Economics accounts for 28%, and Greece, with 24%. The problem lies in the question of the extent to which the underground Economics and illegal trafficking channels in southeastern Europe can pose a danger to the security of the other countries of the Union. For this reason, the efforts of the candidate countries to improve democratic Structures , governance, transparency and control of capital flows will be an important factor to be taken into account in the negotiations.
Brexit, Schengen and corruption
The decisive phase of negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU is expected to begin under the Bulgarian presidency, following the progress noted in early December by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Sofia wants to become a "neutralcoordinator " in this process, according to Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.
The progress in the digital Economics of the continent after the impulse given to this topic by the outgoing Estonian presidency, as well as in the banking union, are other points core topic of the Bulgarian diary . The Balkan country will also defend the cohesion policy and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which will be affected by the loss of funds due to the 'brexit'.
At the same time, Bulgaria aspires to enter during its EU presidency in the "anteroom" of the euro zone and join the Schengen area, of free community circulation, a step blocked until now by the lack of progress of Bulgaria in the fight against corruption and organized crime. The Balkan country, considered the most corrupt in the EU, took eleven years in approve its first anti-corruption law, adopted last December 20, less than two weeks before assuming its presidency of the EU. Unlike what happened in neighboring Romania, so far the Bulgarian justice system has not investigated or convicted any politician for corruption cases.
association The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for a renewed policy approach to strengthen Europe's aviation competitiveness at the Bulgarian presidency of the EU. There is an urgent need to strategically plan for the capacity required to meet the growing demand for global connectivity, environmental improvements and regulation of infrastructure costs.
IATA forecasts a 6 percent expansion of air travel demand in Europe in 2018. "Operating an airline in Europe is challenging. There are high costs and regulatory burdens. Infrastructure capacity is often not sufficient and charges for using airports have doubled across Europe in the last decade. The Bulgarian government has put competitiveness and connectivity at the center of the diary of its EU Presidency. This will drive greater competitiveness and prosperity for European economies, but only if individual EU member states follow through by adopting policies that promote air connectivity," said Rafael Schvartzman, regional vice president of IATA Europe, at the IATA Bulgaria Aviation Day in Sofia.
Bulgaria occupies a strategically important position as the entrance gateway from Europe to Turkey and beyond to Asia. It is also a fast-growing market in its own right, with passenger issue set to double in the next 20 years. This is a challenge for the country's air traffic management , and the Bulgarian air navigation services provider BULATSA.