Bulgarian Foreign Minister: EU Western Balkans strategy ‘good platform’ for speeding reforms
The European Commission’s strategy for the Western Balkans provides a good platform for accelerating reforms and strengthening the European prospects of the countries in the region, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva told a conference in Sofia on February 17.
The strategy “promotes the necessary deep and sustainable reforms, thus ensuring that progress on the road to the EU is irreversible and tangible to everyone,” Zaharieva said.
She was speaking at the Interparliamentary Conference on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which opened on February 15 in the capital of Bulgaria, current holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Zaharieva told members of the Bulgarian and European parliaments that Bulgaria had made significant efforts to return the Balkans to the strategic agenda of the European Union.
“That is what we were expecting the in EC Communication on the Western Balkans. Now, after the publication of the document on February 6 2018, we can clearly state that the strategy meets our high expectations,” Zaharieva said.
She said that the stability and prosperity of this region is an indispensable element of the security of Europe, and this clearly makes it of strategic importance to the EU.
“It is important that this strategy covers all six countries. Bulgaria considers this to be the correct route,” she said.
Zaharieva said that the Bulgarian EU Presidency emphasised the connectivity of the countries in the region in all aspects – road and rail, energy, digital and business.
“The strategy is comprehensive, long-term and fair. Reforms must be carried out, for a better life for the citizens of these countries,” she said.
Announcing the strategy on February 6, the European Commission said that it clearly spells out that the EU door is open to further accessions when – and only when – the individual countries have met the criteria.
The strategy also spells out the priorities and areas of joint reinforced co-operation, addressing the specific challenges the Western Balkans face, in particular the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations.
“A credible enlargement perspective requires sustained efforts and irreversible reforms. Progress along the European path is an objective and merit-based process which depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country.”
The strategy sets out an action plan with six concrete flagship initiatives targeting specific areas of common interest: rule of law, security and migration, socio-economic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital agenda, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. Concrete actions in these areas are foreseen between 2018 and 2020.