Bulgarian PM in high-level talks in Brussels

Bulgarian PM in high-level talks in Brussels

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

On his first visit to Brussels as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in Bulgaria’s caretaker government and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marin Raykov held talks on March 27 with European Council President Herman van Rompuy and Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, briefing them on the political situation in Bulgaria, a government statement said.

“Bulgaria is passing through this political, parliamentary and social crisis in a democratic and dignified way. To prevent the economic crisis from deepening, we need support,” Raykov said at his meeting with Van Rompuy.

At the meeting with Van Rompuy, the issue of youth unemployment was raised. The EU initiative on youth unemployment divides 16 billion euro among eight countries, of which 12 billion euro goes to Italy. Raykov emphasised the need for EU attention to the problem of youth unemployment in Bulgaria, calling for negotiations on the inclusion of the country as a beneficiary of the EU programme.

At the talks with the European Council President, also discussed were the terms of payment for EU programmes and funds to Bulgaria. “We think that we can seek a solution by which payments would be made in shorter timeframes,” the Bulgarian Prime Minister said.

“Europe places an extremely high value on the conviction and commitment of the Prime Minister to safeguarding financial stability in Bulgaria and ensuring fair elections,” the European Council President said at the meeting.

The question was raised with Van Rompuy of a thorough review of the energy issues on the part of the specialist bodies of the European Commission, the Energy Directorate-General and the Competition Directorate-General.

Energy issues are the focus of the meetings being held by Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and Minister Assen Vassilev during the visit by the Bulgarian government delegation to Brussels.

In his talks with Rasmussen, Raykov briefed him on the objectives and tasks of the caretaker government and emphasised the continuity in Bulgaria’s foreign policy in the European and Euro-Atlantic context.

As a member of Nato, Bulgaria confirms its commitment at policy and operational levels. Bulgaria will continue to be a constructive participant in the policy debate and will maintain its approach and contribution to Nato operations.

“Regardless of the political changes in the country, we confirm the consistency and continuity in Bulgaria’s foreign policy,” Raykov said.

Raykov and Rasmussen discussed the issue of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the countries of the Balkans and in particular the Republic of Macedonia. The Prime Minister expressed the position that Bulgaria stands firmly behind the candidacy of Macedonia for accession to the Euro-Atlantic family, given that the two countries share a common historical memory. “We always have worked for the accession of the Republic of Macedonia, but it is also essential for political will on its part to be shown along with goodwill towards its neighbours”.

During the talks, Rasmussen expressed thanks for Bulgaria’s active role in the Balkan region. The country’s participation in the mission in Afghanistan was discussed, as well as the possibility of Bulgaria continuing to participate in training missions after the end of 2014. Raykov expressed readiness, that it would be possible in the framework of about 100 expert personnel.

The Bulgarian government delegation is on a working visit to Brussels, where meetings were held with representatives of the European Council, European Commission and NATO. The focus of the talks is the situation in Bulgaria, the absorption of EU funds and the liberalisation of the Bulgarian energy market.