In the first half of 2018, Bulgaria is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). The motto of the Bulgarian Presidency is “United We Stand Strong”, and the idea of the Presidency is conveyed through three Cs: Consensus; Competitiveness; Cohesion. Bulgaria has set four priorities:
The Bulgarian Presidency will work for improving the well-being of all EU citizens through promoting cohesion, which in turn crates favourable conditions for unity and solidarity. Bulgaria seeks the best solution not only for the future of the Cohesion Policy but also for the overall cohesion of the European society. Continuing the debate on the new post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework is one of the key priorities. The Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy are important for Bulgaria in this context.
The Presidency will facilitate the debate on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union, the completion of the Banking Union and the building of the Capital Markets Union.
Bulgaria will safeguard the high standards of environmental protection and the citizen’s quality of life by means of sustainable growth and a “green economy” focusing on the transition to circular economy and eco-innovative initiatives.
During the Bulgarian Presidency, culture will be regarded as one of the main drivers for the future development of the EU with an emphasis on young people and digital opportunities. A key priority will be the continuation of the work on the package on “Modernising Education – Youth Initiative”, the New Skills Agenda for Europe, and the mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ Programme.
Latvia has always emphasised the importance of socio-economic convergence among the Member States. It is vital not only in the context of the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. Convergence means a stronger Single Market, leveraging the EU’s full economic potential, sustainable development, and a higher global competitiveness of the EU.
In talks on the EU’s post-2020 Multiannual Financial Perspective it is essential to achieve a balance between the goals of EU internal development and convergence enshrined in EU treaties (including the cohesion, agriculture and growth policies) and new challenges, for instance, migration, internal and external security, and climate change.
Latvia supports the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union. Our interests lie in the economic stability of the euro area and the EU and their resilience against potential crisis. Latvia’s priority is the completion of the Banking Union.
Latvia supports transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient development. At the same time, it is vital for the transition to be cost-effective while addressing specific circumstances in the countries.
Latvia believes that education and culture are very closely linked with the strengthening of common values, mutual understanding and sense of belonging to Europe. The continuation and strengthening of an integrated Erasmus+ programme is of special importance for Latvia. Investments should target short-term mobility in the higher and vocational education alike, to the benefit of as many as possible young people and teachers.
2. European Perspective and Connectivity of the Western Balkans
A key priority for the Bulgarian Presidency will be the Enlargement Policy, which continues to be the most effective instrument for guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity in the Western Balkans. The Presidency wants to keep a tangible European perspective for these countries. Bulgaria will work towards fostering the Western Balkans’ link with the EU, especially by introducing the so-called “Connectivity Agenda” in transport, communications, energy, education and the digital sector.
Latvia, like Bulgaria, supports the integration of the Western Balkans with the EU. We expect the Commission’s Western Balkans Strategy, due to be published in February 2018, to send encouraging messages to the entire Western Balkans region. We are also looking forward to productive discussions at the Western Balkans Summit in Sofia in May 2018.
We shall call on the Bulgarian Presidency to also maintain the Eastern Partnership as an EU foreign policy priority. Following a successful Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels on 24 November 2017, work should continue to implement the 20 deliverables identified in the summit’s Joint Declaration.
3. Security and stability in a strong and united Europe
Bulgaria will work on increasing the security of EU citizens, strengthening border controls and a more effective management of migration processes. The Presidency seeks to achieve progress on the reform of the Common European Asylum System based on the principles of responsibility and true solidarity.
The Presidency will encourage the use of all possibilities for improving cooperation between law-enforcement and security services, as well as information sharing with European agencies. Bulgaria will work to restore the normal functioning of the Schengen Area. The Presidency will also address the issues of cyber security.
Bulgaria will strive to achieve a stable Energy Union and increase the potential for regional cooperation by promoting the construction of the necessary infrastructure. Bulgaria will focus on the diversification of gas supplies, the protection of the critical energy infrastructure and increasing energy efficiency.
Together with the European External Action Service, Bulgaria will work towards the implementation of the initiatives ensuing from the EU Global Strategy, deepening EU-NATO cooperation, as well as enhancing security in the Western Balkans. During its Presidency, Bulgaria will play a pro-active role in the implementation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
Latvia supports continued work in the field of internal and external security. The issue of information sharing is important for Latvia in the context of internal security, in particular, the interoperability of EU information systems that would ensure a more effective fight against terrorism and crime.
We have covered much ground in the field of external security, for instance, the Permanent Structured Partnership in defence has been launched. Latvia will be taking part in the military mobility project that is designed to aid the free movement of military personnel and transport in Europe.
It is vital to continue a comprehensive approach to migration. A solution acceptable to all Member States should be found to reform of the asylum policy. The reform should ensure balance between responsibility and solidarity, as well as resilience to future crisis. Latvia sees it as important that participation in solidarity measures is voluntary.
We support moving ahead with developing regulations for the governance of the Energy Union and the deepening of the EU internal energy market.
4. Digital economy and skills for the future
Bulgaria will work on removing barriers to cross-border trade and the reduction of unjustified and disproportionate requirements for businesses in the area of services. The Presidency will focus on the completion of the Digital Single Market, updating the regulatory framework for telecommunications, enhancing the security of personal data and the development of a European data-based economy. Bulgaria will also direct attention to the review of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and update of the regulatory framework for copyright protection.
The Presidency will address transportation issues, seek to promote compromise on the legislative proposals in the Mobility Package, the Posting of Workers Directive and the Regulations on the coordination of social security systems, and support the combating of tax evasion.
The Presidency will also work towards fostering of industrial policy to boost the development of business, digital technologies and innovation. One of the priorities is the development of skills and competencies needed in the 21st century.
Latvia welcomes the Bulgarian Presidency’s intention to go on working on competitiveness and growth. The strengthening of the EU’s Single Market should continue through removing obstacles. It is of special importance to raise the level of ambition in the work on boosting the services sector and the use of its potential by drafting regulations that promote cross-border trade.
It is important for Latvia that the provisions of the Posting of Workers Directive are clear and easily implemented and employers and employees alike are ensured an easy access to information on remuneration and employment conditions in other Member States. In the debate on the transport related proposals for the Mobility Package, it is essential for Latvia that provisions on the posting of workers are not applied to transit.
From Latvia’s perspective, an ambitious approach should be maintained to the establishment of the EU Digital Single Market and to proposals on the completion of the Digital Single Market. Latvia supports achieving an agreement with the European Parliament on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive that would provide a clear framework for combating propaganda and fake news. Latvia also sees it as important that work is continued on copyright reform in the digital environment to enable a wider choice and access to the content available online or in other Member States.
It is important for Latvia that work continues to increase the EU’s competitiveness and strengthen the European industry through facilitating the manufacturing of products with a high value added and raising productivity. For people to be able to adapt to life in the age of technologies, the labour market and the systems of training and education should be tailored to the digital age.