Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said that “The Western Balkans are a main priority for the Bulgarian foreign policy, a long-term issue that goes beyond the Bulgarian EU presidency.”
During a discussion on the region in the Parliament, Minister Zaharieva explained that “enlargement was not a topical issue for the EU amid several crises and the insufficient progress of the Western Balkan countries.”
In the past few months, however, several countries stepped up efforts to overcome that trend, she added, noting that each country would alone assess how much and how quickly it would like to integrate.
She noted that a quicker integration was pointed out as a main priority in all countries of the region. The Minister also pointed out that “The greatest work is to be done by the governments of the Western Balkan countries themselves.”
“There has never been so much talk in the European Union about the Western Balkans,” Zaharieva said. “Let’s remember where we were only four to five months ago, when no one believed we could fight for this priority. It is important to ensure the connectivity of the region in all its aspects.
Prime Minister Borissov has already talked to most of our neighboring countries’ leaders, and emphasizes that we need to have a clear job-creation plan and prospects for young people.”
In attendance at the meeting were the ambassadors of Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia, the deputy head of mission at the Kosovo embassy and the charge d’affaires of the embassy of Montenegro.
Bulgaria’s capital Sofia will be the venue of a Western Balkans summit in May 2018 during the country’s presidency of the European Union.
This emerged from a government media statement after an October 10 telephone call between Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and European Council President Donald Tusk. Various Bulgarian leaders, including Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, repeatedly have emphasized that during Bulgaria’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2018, the Western Balkans will be a policy priority.