Sofia, February 25, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Five thematic working groups will carry out initial preparations for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2018, a government media statement said.
This was decided on February 23 at a meeting of the Council for European Affairs.
Besides Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kouneva, responsible for co-ordinating the preparation for the Presidency, the meeting was attended by ministers Bojidar Loukarsky, Vezhdi Rashidov, Veselin Vuchkov, Vladislav Goranov, Desislava Taneva, Nikolai Nenchev, and Temenuzhka Petkova, as well as deputy ministers of the remaining ministries.
The five working groups are: Administrative Capacity; Infrastructure, Logistics and Security; Communication Strategy and Cultural Program; Financing and Public Procurement; Presidency Priorities and Program. They will include representatives of different ministries and will prepare the various work programs for the Presidency.
“The Presidency is a lot of work and a national task requiring the efforts of all ministries,” Kouneva said during the meeting. She said that a decision should be taken on whether the events would be held only in Sofia, or in several other cities. “The latter option will advertise the country more and will be beneficial for tourism, but is costlier,” she said.
According to her, the different cities could themselves finance the events. The Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works informed that a large number of buildings of national importance had been refurbished and could be used for the needs of the Presidency, free of charge.
The working groups will need to prepare a proposal for whether the National Palace of Culture should undergo any repair work (and if so, clarify the type of repair work) so that it could be used for congress purposes after the Presidency.
Kouneva said that no resources would be needed to rent more spaces in Brussels, despite the two-fold staff increase at the Bulgarian Permanent Representation, which the Presidency requires.
She said that sponsorship from private companies would be sought, for example from the producers of mineral water, pointing out that this practice was widely used in other member states.
Funding opportunities through operational programs will also be sought, especially through OP Good Governance and Regions in Growth.
“There are no funds set aside for the Presidency in the state budget for this year and thus all activities, including training of administrative staff, will be covered by the Communication Strategy. The Presidency should be included in the State Budget,” Kouneva said.
Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov highlighted the need for a logo design contest. He announced that the Ministry of Culture would work on an accompanying Presidency program that advertised Bulgarian culture and history.
Administrative capacity was another major topic of discussion at the meeting today. Kouneva said that its optimization for the needs of the Presidency was the most important task of Bulgarian authorities. She urged colleagues to promptly prepare an analysis of training needs.
According to her, they should be coordinated between ministries, so that all staff was equally well trained. She urged ministries to increase the rotation of staff in Brussels so there are enough trained people, the statement said.