Sofia, September 15, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
The European Union should not be associated only with regulations and restrictions, presidents from the bloc said at a meeting in Sofia on September 15.
“The EU is a symbol of freedom and open borders. The EU should not be over-centralised but should become understandable and address people’s problems,” Bulgarian head of state President Rossen Plevneliev, host of the meeting, said.
The Sofia talks were held on the second day of a two-day meeting of the Arraiolos Group, made up of presidents of EU countries Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany and Finland.
Plevneliev, summing up discussions, said that the current numerous crises give rise to an acute need for long-term and coordinated decision-making in the European Union.
Today it was more important than ever to co-operate, because Europe cannot fall into a crisis of values and lack of solidarity
“We all want a functioning EU and everyone should contribute to restoring confidence in European institutions,” Plevneliev said.
The EU countries’ presidents called for a united EU approach in tackling the current crises, caused by the wave of migration, Brexit, low confidence of European citizens in the institutions, and many others.
“We had a frank and open debate on the problems and crises we face, and on which of the crises can be sustainably solved…the only workable solution is the EU. We said ‘yes’ to the EU, we believe in its potential. We want a functioning Europe. Problems must be identified, rather than sweeping them under the carpet and leaving them to future generations,” Plevneliev said.
The presidents agreed that there is no easy solution to the problems associated with migration pressure on the EU.
Plevneliev said that everyone agreed that security of Europeans was the overall priority. There would be strengthened control of the external borders of the EU, and uncontrolled crossing of European borders was unacceptable.
He said that there was a shared determination to work in co-ordination to improve living conditions in the countries in crisis regions, as well as being undertaking decisive efforts to stop conflicts.
The presidents underscored their support for encouraging the processes of integration and development in the Balkans, Plevneliev said.
“But there is still much work to do. The European project will not be complete without full integration of the Western Balkans,” he said.
There was full recognition of the importance of integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union – the migration crisis had proved the importance of this, Plevneliev said.
The presidents also considered that the referendum in Britain sends a worrying signal to the Western Balkan countries regarding their integration with the Union.
“Therefore efforts to accelerate the integration with the EU will send a positive signal. The EU’s doors are open and there is a prospect,” Plevneliev said.
“The times are hard and heavy, we do not look for easy solutions, but to seek the causes of the problems. Integration is not a problem, but part of the solution. The symbols of the European project are human rights and freedoms, freedom, democracy and integration. We demonstrate that we are together and do not conceal the problems. Our common task is to make progress, to show the good and work for the development of the European project of peace, democracy and human rights and freedoms,” he said.