The conference was opened by Mrs. Gergana Passy, President of PanEuropa Bulgaria, who also moderated the event. Mrs. Passy called for more Europe in collective and strategic decisions. As a focus of this call, the green deal, digital transformation, industrial autonomy and the dynamics of European security were strongly emphasized. Her remarks were that PanEurope as a non-governmental organization contributes greatly to the addition of more European values to Bulgarian civil society.
Mr. Thorsten Geißler, Head of Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Bulgaria, delivered an opening statement where he encouraged future hosts of EU presidencies to invest in green transition. Mr. Geißler emphasized the protection of the rule of law as a key priority of the French EU Presidency, as values shared by us all. We are entering a new phase of the pandemic and the current geopolitical challenges will be well met by France as a leader with long experience, according to Geisler. At the end of his speech Mr. Geißler wished France success with their Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Mr. Cvetan Kyulanov, Acting Head of European Commission’s Representation in Bulgaria, also delivered an opening statement where he pointed to the key topics that will shape the French Presidency: climate change and the Green Deal; the Covid economic recovery plan; the rule of law with the newly established European Prosecutor’s Office; the geopolitical tension outside of the EU borders. Mr. Kyulanov encouraged the ‘Alma’ initiative, which gives more opportunities to less privileged children. He suggested as the next conference, the next topic should focus on the Western Balkans and their full European integration.
The opening statements of the participants were followed by a speech delivered by the ambassador of France H.E. Florence Robine who presented the priorities of the Presidency. She first focused on the solidarity-based and unprecedented Economic Recovery Plan, which she believes is the necessary mechanism to transform the economy in time of such risks and challenges, especially in regards to the current climate problems. Ambassador Robine is another vocal speaker on the worrisome geopolitical tension between Ukraine and Russia. Her Excellency also mentioned that the priorities are explained via presidency’s own moto: recovery – for a more competitive and social European Union; strength – aiming for a more sovereign Europe that controls its borders and acts for the security and prosperity of its neighbors; a sense of belonging – to build a Europe that promotes its humanist values, which is underpinned by the model that built the EU. The focus of the French Presidency on a EU level will be divided into the following categories with their perspective legislative texts and measures: Climate – Fit for 55 and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism; Healthcare – European Health Union; Social affairs – adequate minimum wage and pay transparency; Borders – reform of the Schengen area and the Pact of Asylum and migration; Defence – European Strategic Compass; Partnership – Africa, Western Balkans and Indo-Pacific. Ambassador Robine also highlighted crucial various events within Bulgarian territory during the French Presidency, such as the One Ocean Summit, EU-Africa Summit, the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, the New EU model of growth and investment and last but not least, the Conference for Western Balkans.
On the Bulgarian side, the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Teodora Genchovska shared Bulgaria’s vision on the European issues for the next six months. Mrs. Genchovska stressed on the historically well-established good practices of EU Presidencies hosted by France. She also expressed gratitude towards non-governmental organizations and is looking forwards towards more cooperation between the Council of Ministers and NGO’s. Mrs. Genchovska also demanded that Europe’s economic and social recovery should be a key-priority for the EU Presidency. Last but not least, Mrs. Genchovska expressed willingness to work at all levels for the realization of a more constructive European society.
The presentation was followed by a discussion consisting of a short Q&A session where the topics of the recovery plan, the pandemic, and the Green Deal were further discussed.
A full recording of the conference can be found here.