Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov symbolically handed over the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU to his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz on June 30 2018.
The ceremony was held in the Austrian ski resort of Schladming and was preceded by talks between Borissov, Chancellor Kurz and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
The three discussed Bulgaria’s EU Council priorities, the country’s achievements in this respect in the first six months of 2018 and the continuity that is expected as Austria succeeds to the role.
Borissov expressed thanks that the theme of the Western Balkans had made a genuine return to the EU agenda, and his expectations that this would be continued by Austria.
According to the Bulgarian Prime Minister, the giving of a clear horizon for the start of pre-accession talks with Albania and the Republic of Macedonia had laid the foundations for the prospects of the entire region.
Austria’s main priorities are primarily related to security, the borders and the overcoming of the migrant crisis and the future connectivity of the Western Balkan countries and their European perspective, as well as the digitization of the whole region as well as of Europe. The motto of the Austrian Presidency will be “A Europe that protects”.
Borissov said that Bulgaria’s EU Presidency motto had been “Together We Stand Stronger” and noting the Austrian motto, he said: “And we can only defend ourselves when we are united”.
He said that he was glad that during the six months of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, he had been in continuous dialogue with Kurz.
The Western Balkans summit in Sofia in May had played an important role in the process of making the region a priority for the EU, Borissov said.
While the 2018 EU Presidency was a first for Bulgaria, a member of the bloc since January 2007, this is the third time that Austria will be the holder of the EU Presidency, having done so in 1998 and 2006.