Less than a week after visiting Greece, Bulgarian President Roumen Radev’s diplomatic forays took him to the country’s other European Union neighbour when he embarked on a two-day trip to Bucharest, where he met with Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis on June 28.
The two heads of state discussed a wide range of topics, from closer bilateral ties to energy and judiciary reform. At a news conference after their talks, both Radev and Iohannis pointed out that the two countries, which joined the EU together in January 2017, will hold the rotating six-month presidency of the EU just a year apart, describing this as a chance for closer cooperation within the EU.
“This is a special opportunity and we discussed the need to strengthen dialogue as regards the preparations for the presidencies. We will actively contribute to discussions regarding the future of Europe and we are committed to act alongside the member states that support the reinvigoration and consolidation of the European project. Together, we support a strong Union, close to its citizens, which ensures the internal and external security, as well as the prosperity of its citizens,” Iohannis said.
Radev said that the similar challenges faced by the two countries also offered “an enormous opportunity for the region, in that Bulgaria will hold the presidency of the EU in 2018 and Romania in 2019. We have already formulated our priorities, so that these presidencies can ensure increased stability and an additional impetus for the economic development of our region and for a stronger and more stable Europe.”
On the topic of judiciary reform, an area in which Romania has pulled ahead of Bulgaria in recent years in the annual Co-operation and Verification Mechanism reports issued by the European Commission, Radev praised the efficiency of Romania’s efforts to fight corruption.
Although Radev dismissed the prospect of a wholesale transplant of Romania’s judiciary model – a topic of considerable debate within Bulgaria in the past year – he said that some of the principles employed by Romania “can and should be adopted in order to drastically reduce the level of corruption in Bulgaria. In this respect, I have the support of president Iohannis and we will continue to exchange experience in this very important area.”
Asked about the two countries’ efforts to join the Schengen visa-free travel area, both heads of state pointed out that the two countries have met the technical requirements a long time ago.
“Bulgaria and Romania will continue to persuade European institutions and each EU member state that the only way in which European citizens can be secure is by having Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen space,” Radev said.
Iohannis said that the political efforts to persuade other EU member states was a process both countries were undertaking, pointing out that he brought up the issue during recent meetings with German chancellor Angela Merkel and newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron. “Both of them showed openness and we are optimistic that we can solve this issue within a reasonable timeframe,” he said.