In Sofia, the presidents of Bulgaria and Germany have expressed hope that the United Kingdom’s June 23 referendum will see the UK remain in the EU.
Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev, speaking to reporters after talks with Joachim Gauck, said: “I am sure that everyone in the UK will take account and hopefully realise what the EU is. The EU is the only recipe for peace in Europe, and I am sure that the referendum in Britain will be successful and give a new dose of confidence to all of us, so that this unique project for peace in Europe and around the world will continue, and would continue to help every one of the nations”.
German president Gauck, who is on a three-day visit to Bulgaria until June 24, said that he did not expect the referendum in the UK to increase anti-European sentiment in Europe.
“I will not give further advice. But however we face an interesting question, whether there is an anti-European mood growing. Let’s first await the outcome of the referendum. I do not think it will become a matter of a significant growth of anti-European sentiment, on the contrary, I rather expect an increase in European consciousness”.
Separately, speaking to a group of students in a debate on Europe on June 23, Gauck said: “This is no ordinary day for a discussion on Europe.
“While we are gathered here, citizens in England and Scotland, in Wales and Northern Ireland, are voting on whether Britain should remain in the European Union. That is their sovereign decision. However, it is a decision which affects all of us in Europe. Britain stands for a long democratic tradition, for liberal principles and the transatlantic friendship. Its voice in the European Union has carried weight for more than 40 years.
“To be frank, Britain’s departure would be a loss for Europe as a whole,” Gauck said.
The best thing about the debate on Brexit was the debate itself, he said.
Gauck said that this debate had brought to light resentment about the European Union which had previously often bubbled beneath the surface.
It encouraged people to think about Europe and it provided impetus for reforms, he said.
“No matter the outcome of the referendum, we cannot simple return to business as usual.
“We should learn the lessons of this crisis and continue debating how we in Europe want to live together on the firm foundation of our shared values. In particular, we should speak with those who have a different point of view, who have adopted opinions and arguments which seem implausible to us. We should listen to each other instead of following the current fashion of only exchanging ideas with those who share our own views,” Gauck said.